Author Spotlight: Emma Virján
Emma Virján is a wonderful author who writes wonderful books and has a wonderful personality to match (not to mention a wonderfully red, big wig). Around the middle of March, 2016 she took some time to talk to me about her character named Pig as well as herself. Here’s what I learned:
Born in San Antonio, Emma currently lives in Austin with her partner and her dog, Bella. Her studio is in her home – which means her commute to work consists of a trip down the stairs. All of the artwork for her books is done in her studio, where she keeps her curtains open to the world by never covering the windows. She writes there and elsewhere.
Emma had a great childhood. She would play outside all day, leaving in the morning and returning at night, having adventures and playing all sorts of games; they would have bike races and tree climbing contests, make mud pies and build forts. They would also regale each other with stories. Her brother had a penchant for ghost stories, but scary just wasn’t her style. Whimsy was her wheel house.
As a child she loved books – some of her favorite books were: Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, Ten Apples Up On Top, Where the Wild Things Are. She enjoyed books that were about extraordinary things like crocodiles in the city and ordinary things like counting apples. Even though she loved Wild Things, she says that she was scared of the monster pictures in the book. She and her father creatively confronted this fear: he would bring her home tracing paper, and she would trace the monsters and adorn them with pearl necklaces, high heels, skirts, and clothing that her parents would wear. If something scares you, make it your own!
She learned to draw by tracing pictures – and just drawing. Emma loved pictures so much and believed so strongly in their ability to convey meaning and tell stories that she gave up talking and decided to communicate with pictures alone. (This, she says, lasted until she got mad at her brother – which didn’t take very long.) In fact, her writing process is rooted in images – she often invents the pictures for her books before the words.
Easy is hard – at least when it comes to books. It might seem like writing a book with only 50 or so words would be easy, but it is very time intensive and involves a lot of editing, re-writing, and just plain old work. One of the interesting things about Emma’s writing process is that to help her evaluate her work, she often listens to someone else reading her book. Perhaps this is why her books are so much fun to read aloud!
Emma is the author of the board book Nacho the Party Puppy and the Pig in a Wig series. The third book in the series, What This Story Needs Is a Munch and a Crunch, is scheduled to be published in May, 2016. There are plans for two more books after that, making at least five books in the set. These books are great for beginning readers, not just because the words are easy and few, but also because the books are a lot of fun to read. They have a rhythm and rhyme scheme that propels the reader along. With funny, simple illustrations and goofy story-lines, the Pig in a Wig books are highly readable and especially great for reading with others.
Emma wanted to be an artist and writer for a long time, but she also had other dreams too. Once upon a time, she wanted to be a catcher for either the Cubs or the Yankees – but when she realized that her throwing ability wasn’t up to par she had to move on. She also wanted to be a librarian. In a way she has become both: she is a big league booksmith.
At the end of our conversation, she added,
“A final word from Pig:
Pig would like you to know that
Her name is Pig.
She wears a wig.
It’s red and on her head!”