I’m starting a new series called Five Questions in which I’ll be interviewing a different author or illustrator every week. The first interview of the series is with the lovely and very thoughtful Deborah Marcero, author/illustrator of Ursa’s Light. I hope you all enjoy getting to know the person behind the book and the "story behind the story" as much as I have.
What five words do you think best describe your work?
Graphic, Modern, Emotive, Whimsical, Quiet
What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading “The River” by Alessandro Sanna, “Cloth Lullaby, The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois” by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, and “Komodo!” by Peter Sis.
What were some of your favorite books as a kid?
My favorite stories were the ones that my dad would tell us before bedtime. He would make up these wonderful stories on the spot; I still vividly remember the characters he painted in my imagination. I also remember loving "Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile" and "Curious George". I grew into an avid reader, and in Elementary School my favorites were "Where The Red Fern Grows", "The Hundred Dresses" and "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry". Those books still live inside my heart today.
I read that you were a lead literacy teacher in the Chicago public schools. What were some of the most important lessons you learned as a teacher?
I learned so many lessons as a teacher in CPS. I learned kids have a difficult time learning and engaging when they don’t feel safe. And they so often didn’t feel safe.
I learned that teaching fiction writing was probably my favorite unit. When we would write stories together as a class, everyone lit up. There was such joy and enthusiasm for the whole process. What astonished me even more was that the next year, they would say, “Ms. M. remember when we wrote that story together about Jerome?” And they would retell it to me, down to every last detail.
I learned that a good story has the power to teach and connect all of us.
Finally, when I led the Young Authors enrichment after-school program, I built a curriculum to lead students through the process of writing and illustrating their own stories. In creating and teaching this curriculum to students, I realized that writing and illustrating books was what I wanted to do. I could feel the work in me, like a sleeping dragon that wanted to wake up and set fire to the world.
If you could live in any city in the world for a year, where would it be?
I absolutely love to travel, explore and discover new places. I am also a photographer and outdoor enthusiast, so I am drawn to places where I can enjoy a vibrant city pulse AND take advantage of the landscapes around it (ideally: water and mountains). I love to hike, kayak, swim, ski and simply walk in nature. “Walden” was one of my favorite texts in college, if that says anything. Connecting to the natural world connects me to myself – this simple deliberate act inspires, recharges and slows down time all at once.
Based on these initial criteria, right now I’d have to say it’s a tie between Vancouver, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand. Guess I’ll just have to go for two years.
It has been wonderful getting to know you, Deborah, and it's been inspiring to hear about your impactful work as a teacher. We are big Ursa fans and can't wait for Rosie and Crayon!