Michele Wood is an award-winning artist, educator, and visual historian. She has been honored with the prestigious American Book Award for her first book, Going Back Home (Children’s Book Press), and is a 1999 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award recipient for her beautifully illustrated book I See The Rhythm (Zonderkidz).
Michele’s most recent book, I Lay My Stitches Down (Eerdmans), has received many awards, including a Parents’ Choice Honor Award; a Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year, and the list goes on.
Michele Wood in her words:
In April 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected to presidency while I was in Nigeria. I was stranded in Oshodi for two weeks. It was a poor section of town in Lagos, Nigeria. While there in Oshodi, I made friends and they played a great song titled “Sacrifice” by Elton John in a tin shack while we discussed South Africa’s election and Nigeria’s freedom. I was to be on a pilgrimage at the University of Ife for one year and to work with my mentor master sculptor Lamidi Olanade Fakeye. Lamidi had once given me objectivity by saying,” You have the ability to paint but not the subject matter”. My stay was cut short due to the fuel shortage that was in Nigeria and under the leadership of former President General Sani Abacha.
After being back, I received great news. First, my work had been selected for the cover of American Vision magazine. My gallery representative at the time had submitted my painting prior to my surprise. On the cover was the work that my mentor had finally commented that I found my subject matter. Days later and living in Jonesboro, Georgia, I got a call from a woman with a beautiful low voice inquiring about more paintings. She had seen my work on the cover of American Vision magazine. After talking, I discovered she was the award-winning publisher of multicultural books Harriet Rohmer. Wow! I scrambled and said sure I have more works of art. They were from a series of paintings I had begun in the 1991-1994 about my family and my journey through the south. Well, those paintings became my first book titled Going Back Home: an artist return to the south. It won the American Book Award.
Her Back Story
I Lay My stitches Down is the 2013 Gold Nautilus award winning book. I was contacted by my agent in regard to the manuscript. The art director at Eerdman Publishing remembered me from my first book and thought my style would be a great match with the first time author Cynthia Grady. After reviewing the manuscript she was right, I fell in love with her writing and it was a great match.
I work in two ways. It depends upon whether the initial concept for the book is mine, or if I receive a manuscript written by someone else. When it is my concept for the book and the illustrations come first, I get visions for the idea and start to do drawings from that vision. Then I proceed to do research to incorporate patterns and detail for that subject. I try not to work to close to the outline. I do not go in order. I jump around a lot. I have to be ready to attack a page. Books where the concept came from the artist and paintings came first is Going Back Home, I see the Rhythm, I see the rhythm of Gospel.
The second way is to receive a manuscript. I try to capture the essence first and then I do research on the subject, time period, clothing, colors, buildings and settings of that time period. I mainly work in my head more than paper. I don’t do a lot of sketches over and over again unless I am stuck or requested by the art director.
I work from my home/ office. I usually lay out my sketches so that I may see them in order. I do not do a detailed sketch because is locks me into that sketch. I like it flow more and let the unexpected happen when I paint.
The Buzz (I Lay My Stitches Down)
PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing, Shortlist (2013)
Parents’ Choice Award: Poetry category, Silver Honor (2013)
New York Public Library, Children’s Books 2012: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
Bank Street College, Best Children’s Books of the Year, Starred for outstanding merit (2013)
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Big Picture Review (2012)
Capitol Choices, Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens (2013)
Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), Choices (2013)
International Reading Association (IRA) & Children’s Book Council (CBC), Children’s Choices (2013)
IRA Childrens Literature and Reading Special Interest Group, Notable Books for a Global Society list (2013)
The State of the Industry
Under the Radar: Cynthia Grady is an author and rising star. Her work is brilliant and distinctive due to her multi-layered use of language. She weaves patterns in her writings that is detailed and has hidden meaning. I had the pleasure of working with this amazing talent. I admire her work of art…(her poetry)