Saturday, June 15, 2019

An Interview with Ohio Author Cristina Sicard

Illustrator Katie Drakulich and Author Cristina Sicard at Monday Creek Publishing

An Interview with Ohio Author Cristina Sicard

From Ohio USA, meet children’s literature author Cristina Sicard! I first met Cristina when she was a student at Ohio University. Now, pursuing her Masters degree away from home, she continues to inspire and motivate! Her first children’s literature, Harmony, was released in December 2019. Harmony is the story of an Ohio llama who thinks about his relatives in Peru. A cute story that has become a favorite of many, Harmony continues to be enjoyed by children around the world!

Welcome, Cristina!

GM: Your new children's book Harmony is adorable! How did you come up with the idea?
CS: Realizing writing gave me the power to share stories, I dreamed of writing a children’s book from the time I could talk. Entering Ohio University as a journalism major, I told myself I would try my hardest to find a way into the publishing world. As part of my News and Information Capstone, I interviewed a llama owner, Donna Moore, for Southeast Ohio magazine. That day, I brought my good friend from high school, Katie Drakulich (Harmony’s illustrator), because I had a feeling this was it. From little Harmony’s fluff and friendliness to Donna’s commitment and charisma, I wanted to tell their story with a touch of my own. I was fascinated with all these lovable llamas, thinking how in the world did they end up here? This was a question I asked myself many times growing up away from family. Harmony gave me the chance combine real-life components with a message of appreciation and love.

GM: Writers are always writing, coming up with new ideas. How do you maintain thoughts and ideas for storylines?
CS: There is nothing better than all of this! It has felt unreal sharing Harmony and interacting with the next generation of leaders. I get emotional when kids share stories of their own with me. From reading to the child I tutored to whole classrooms, I have adored and am thankful for every event. If I had to choose, I’d say it’s a tie between reading to my grade school St. Paul and my hometown library in North Canton, Ohio. They were full circle moments in which I saw teachers and adults from my childhood—unbelievably special. I never imagined having the opportunity to revisit my stomping grounds with a book to call my own. Everyone was so supportive, and we had fun crafting all things llama. With summer now here, I am open to any events in Ohio or Georgia!  

Writing doesn’t always have to be physical. I am constantly thinking what children’s story to write about next. I keep a “inspiration notebook” with me where I jot down people, places, things, or interactions that catch my attention (that notebook journeyed with me to the llama farm). I also type what catches my eye in my notes on my phone whenever I misplace the inspo notebook. I keep ideas alive by listening to children and teachers in classrooms, especially during recess and lunch. I listen to what they are talking about—what matters to them. I try to identify their needs and what stories aren’t being told and need heard. I also grab ideas from looking at old pictures of when I was a child, recalling what stories could have represented my community or me. I believe every day can be turned into a grand story!

GM: What are you currently writing?
CS: I just finished writing what I hope is my second children’s book, Sábana the Sloth! Sábana hangs in a tree practically on the ground in Peru worrying about it all. Just like me, Sábana has high anxiety that seems to get in the way of him living. The little girl he meets, Lula (which means famous warrior), is the complete opposite. Like Harmony, this story has touches of personal pieces mixed with humor and hope. With anxiety leading mental health issues among children in this nation, we need to end the stigma about mental health. Sábana the Sloth has actually been really hard to write because I’ve had to open myself up. Above all else though, it’s resulted rewarding. Just thinking about its impact on children exhilarates me. The story includes Spanish words too. I simply can’t wait to share it with you!

GM: Who is your favorite author?
CS: My favorite author regularly changes depending on what’s going on in my life. However, Eric Carle and Gail Gibbons have stayed with me since forever. I admire how they both write and illustrate so beautifully (they make it all look easy). I didn’t necessarily have to read to enjoy Eric Carle’s stories. But once I could—I couldn’t stop rereading his style. And Gail Gibbon’s books made me feel like the smartest kid in town. Both these authors motivated me to craft my own picture books as a child.

GM: Do you have advice for novice writers?
CS: START. Start somewhere with your writing and have fun. Do not look back and do not compare yourself to others (I struggle with this daily, but I know a strong mentality takes people far). Envision your story as a television show or movie (this helps with my character and plot development). Team up with your friends or family to create a story (it could be turned into a play or more). As terrifying as it may feel at times, share your work. Find people who will constructively criticize your work. Keep a notebook with you or use your phone to jot down ideas for storylines. And lastly, read your story out loud to check for rhythm. What sounds okay in our heads oftentimes needs polished once we share it aloud.

GM: List 10 things your fans may not know about you…
CS: 1) Two videos of mine have made it on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. One was a Mother’s Day video about my mom being the best and the other was one of Ellen’s crazy challenges where I went “koalaing” or jumping on strangers like a koala.

2) Running and I have an on and off relationship at times, but I mostly love it. Joining track my senior year of high school was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I had the chance to travel with the team to the state championship. Since then, I’ve ran two half-marathons, woo!

3) I LIVE for warm weather and sunshine. My family is from the Dominican Republic, so it may be the tropical blood in me that makes me feel so dependent on the sun. I absolutely love being outside (ideally a beach). Most of my writing happens outdoors (when the sun is out of course).

4) The summer following my freshman year at Ohio University, I lived in New York City interning at a start-up media company. One of my greatest memories was walking the entirety of Central Park with my favorite Aunt Julie. I dream of going back to the Big Apple one day.

5) The travel bug bites me often. I have traveled to Costa Rica, China, Italy, Greece, and Kenya. One of my dearest trips was traveling to Cambodia with my incredibly talented Ohio University Global Leadership Center (GLC) classmates to work as consultants for real world projects. I already can’t wait for our GLC reunion!

6) I journeyed from Athens, Ohio to Athens, Georgia. I just completed my first year of graduate school at the University of Georgia. I am getting my masters in teaching preK-5. My hope is to become an elementary-school teacher and help as many children as possible. Hopefully, I’ll get to use my fluent Spanish in the classroom and continue writing stories inspired by the children.

7) I LOVE Enrique Iglesias, Michael Bublé, One Direction, and Camila Cabello. These beauties bring out all my emotions! I convinced my Dominican family to take me to an Enrique Iglesias concert—there are no words to describe his presence.

8) I prefer experiences over tangible things. So, I don’t watch a lot of
television, but I did finally finish The Office (started this sophomore year of college). The Office is my everything.

9) Dancing is the best. I prefer it over talking. I dance in front of the mirror anytime I have a big project, exam, interview, or just about anything! I love making up dances with friends or family because it’s hilarious and good for the soul.

10) I luckily call mi Mami my best friend. She thinks I’m the funniest person and supports me in everything. We are quite the duo. Love you Mami.  

Connect with Cristina...

The "real" Harmony at home in Ohio.

Illustrator Katie Drakulich and the Author with Harmony at home in Ohio.

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