Sometime in the last couple of years, I got a Facebook friend request from fellow illustrator Nicole LaRue. I knew of Nicole’s amazing work and also learned she was living with her partner Naomi in Japan. Since then, we’ve became friends, and I’ve learned we have lots in common — including our love for making art, hand lettering and creating books. Recently Nicole and Naomi published their first ever book, Write Here Write Now, which came out just this week through Chronicle Books. It’s a fantastic book for young writers designed to get their creative juices flowing — a place to write down all of their passions, dreams and ideas. A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Nicole and Naomi about their book, the process of making it, and their creative collaboration.
Without further ado, I present to you Nicole LaRue and Naomi Davis Lee, this week’s Interviews with People I Admire!
Lisa: Tell us about Write Here Write Now. What’s the idea behind it and who’s it for?
N&N: Write Here Write Now, published by Chronicle Books, is a guided activity journal for older kids and trendy teens that encourages young writers to ponder, wonder, challenge, quiz themselves and their friends and, above all, to create. The journal is 144 pages packed with witty and unique prompts to inspire creative genius. The young reader becomes the author, the artist, the collector, the maker, the musician, and the explorer.
With this book, they create short stories, poems, and rhymes. They doodle, color, and draw. They decorate postcards, explore their handwriting, and collect found objects for show and tell. They ask deep questions, wonder about their younger selves, and write letters to their future selves. They play games, help friends, explore their superhero powers, and become outright daydreamers. It is the best book they’ve ever written!
Lisa: How long did it take you to create the book? How did you collaborate with each other?
N&N: Write Here Write Now was our first big collaboration. For months, we brainstormed activities for the journal on long walks together. We had kitchen-table meetings to talk about the structure and style. We’d sit on the couch to explore crazy word combinations for activity titles until our efforts turned into a laugh fest or dissolved into tears. Naomi was consigned to writing duty, and Nicole was entrusted with the illustration and design.
Lisa: What do you hope kids and teens who use this book take away from it or gain from it?
N&N: Our hope is that young writers will get lost in creating their own adventure. We keep our fingers crossed that they’ll gain confidence in their own creative process and will be thrilled with the outcome.
Lisa: Nicole, you are an illustrator. What else are you working on right now? What is your favorite kind of work, product or thing to create and why?
Nicole: My favorite projects are gigantic in scope. They give me the chance to be involved in all the little details and aspects—anything from books and journals, full product lines, to stationery programs. I have heaps of projects in the works all the time. I’m currently working on a travel program called Away We Go, an adult coloring book filled with quotes, and a graphic novel about mental illness called Food Fight.
Lisa: Interesting fact: You are both American, but you’ve lived in Japan for a few years. How did that happen and what’s it like?
N&N: We’re grand adventurers at heart. About four years ago, we decided we wanted a change of scenery, so we pulled out a map and put a finger down. We packed our bags and headed east! Naomi took a teaching job at a university in South Korea, and Nicole uprooted her laptop and drawing pens and went along. A year later, another opportunity led us to western Japan, and we’ve been here for three years. So much in the cultural landscape has inspired us—even minutia that we never expected. At first, a profound language barrier had us wandering around in grocery stores for untold hours examining unfamiliar products. We were forced to slow down and see things from a new perspective, to digest the world in another way.
But life here is not all about aimlessly wandering up and down aisles for hours. Efficiency is an integral part of city life, and it’s interesting to contemplate on crowded station platforms. Overworked people rush here and there, run for trains, crowd into packed train cars, vie for the next open seat if they’re lucky enough to spot one. Exhausted bodies press against one another. Sleepy heads bob about and come dangerously close to resting on your shoulder. Yet, the manners folks maintain are impeccable. No one seems to notice the chaos of this so-called normal life. Oh, but the stories we have to tell! In a country as densely populated as Japan, the rawness of humanity makes a scene that we can’t ignore.
Lisa: Where can people find Write Here Write Now?
N&N: Write Here Write Now has been released internationally. It’s being sold on the Chronicle Books website and is widely available online and from booksellers large and small.
Lisa: Just search for Write Here Write Now in your browser! And thank you Nicole and Naomi for taking the time to share your book and your experience with us!
Have a great Thursday, everyone!