- September 17, 2014

Q&A with Children’s Author Divya Srinivasan


Wondering what to do this weekend? Here’s a good idea: Head over to BookPeople on Saturday at 3 PM to help author and Austinite Divya Srinivasan celebrate the release of Little Owl’s Day, her latest from Viking Children’s. Her first two books for children, Little Owl’s Night and Octopus Alone, were released in 2011 and 2013, respectively. The sequel to Little Owl’s Night, Little Owl’s Day follows the little owl’s adventures as he learns all about the forest by day, when he is normally asleep.

Along with being an author, Divya is also an artist, animator, illustrator and app creator, and she both writes and illustrates her books. The images she creates — the owls, foxes, raccoons, squirrels, all kinds of fish and sea animals, and the landscapes where these characters live — are simultaneously simple and vivid, childlike yet sophisticated, and gorgeous.

Children’s book author
Divya Srinivasan

Her book trailers are really fun to watch with kids, too. She has partnered with local experimental pop band The Octopus Project in creating trailers for Little Owl’s Night, Octopus Alone, and Little Owl’s Day. Each trailer features fun, animated vignettes from the books, with the band’s “joyous party music” grooving and effervescing throughout. The music in the Little Owl’s Night trailer really elicits the quiet sense of wonder you get from being outside under the nighttime sky, and the Octopus Alone music actually gives you a sense of being underwater, with reeds swishing in the current and bubbles popping around you. (Divya’s Vimeo page is full of lots of other cool videos to explore, too.)

Divya has posted some fun coloring pages from Little Owl’s Day that you can download for your kids. She also has coloring pages, wallpapers and mini-posters from Octopus Alone and wallpapers from Little Owl’s Night available for download.

Recently, I had the pleasure of emailing with Divya about her latest book and her career as a writer and artist. Our Q&A follows, below, but first, here is information about her BookPeople event:

Book Release Party and Signing for Little Owl’s Day:
603 N. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78703
Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, 3:00 PM
Ph. 512-472-5050

*NOTE: Little Owl’s Day will be available at the event for $16.99 (hardcover); you can order your copy ahead of time, online or in the store, and it will be waiting for you at the register on the day of the event. Divya will be doing a quick drawing demonstration before signing books. There will be cupcakes, Divya’s mom’s baklava, and buttons, and BookPeople will provide a craft for the kids.

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Q&A with Divya Srinivasan

How did you get into writing children’s books? What did you do before becoming a children’s book author/illustrator? Were you a writer or an artist first, or both?
I’ve been a freelance illustrator and animator since 1999. I was an animator on Richard Linklater’s movie Waking Life, and I was doing illustration for New Yorker magazine from 2003 until a couple years ago. I’ve been fortunate to work with some really great clients, including Weird Al Yankovic, This American Life, They Might Be Giants, Sufjan Stevens, and Sundance Channel. I did a music video for Austin band The Octopus Project in 2008, and they’ve become great friends whose music I have been able to use for my picture book trailers. As for writing, I’ve always kept a journal, but before Little Owl’s Night, I hadn’t tried to get any of my writing published.
At the end of 2009, I was frustrated at not having enough freelance work, and decided to try writing and illustrating a picture book. First I thought of a setting that seemed pretty, a little mysterious. In about two months, I had a version of Little Owl’s Night that I sent to some people who knew my work and were interested in seeing picture book ideas I might have. A couple of friends who had been published were also kind enough to forward my book to their editors to see if they knew picture book editors who might be interested. And that’s how I found my current editor.
How do you get into the mind of a child to know how to make your books so fun and readable for kids?
I have a post-it note on the wall in front of my desk that reads, “Make something I love and some place Ramya wants to live.” Ramya is my sister. I find myself trying to make things that we would have been excited about when we were kids and that we’d be excited about now, for that matter. Pretty much, if I’m having fun with what I’m working on, I feel I’m on the right track. I’m so glad you find my books fun and readable for kids! One of my favorite things is playing with the words, editing down, and seeing what sounds nice to say aloud.
What age of children are your books intended for?
I didn’t think about specific ages for the books, but the publishers have marked Little Owl’s Night and Octopus Alone to be for children ages 3–5. But I’ve heard from a lot of people who read the books to their infants, and I’ve done school visits with first- and second-graders. That the books can appeal to babies and schoolchildren makes me really happy. Octopus Alone has a slightly longer story than the Little Owl books, but I hoped that even very young children would be able to enjoy the illustrations.
Tell me about any honors, awards or accolades you’ve received. (I saw Little Owl’s Night prominently featured in a books catalog sent home from my daughter’s school!)

I’m not sure of any honors or awards I’ve collected lately, but I’ve had some good reviews in the New York Times and Boston Globe. You can see my reviews collected on the book websites:

Thank you so much, Divya!
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If you’re interested in other upcoming children’s events at BookPeople, here are just a few:

Check the bookstore’s events calendar for more information about these and other upcoming events.

Catherine A. Morris is a writer as well as a once-and-future teacher, musician, jogger and triathlete living in southwest Austin, Texas. Yes, many of her former passions and pastimes have given way, at least for now, to her current, main passion and pastime: caring for her two toddlers, Pearl and Zephyr. Pearl and Zeph make Catherine and her husband laugh (and cry) on a daily basis, and give Catherine plenty of good reasons to seek out free, fun activities to keep everyone alive, engaged and happy from one moment to the next.