Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hazel Mitchell Interview and Contest

I'd like to welcome Hazel Mitchell to my blog today.

To celebrate her visit, I'll be holding a book-give-away. Just comment on this post to have a chance at winning a copy of Hidden New Jersey.

Drawing and horses were Hazel Mitchell’s great escapes growing up in Yorkshire, UK. She attended art college, but left to run away to sea. She says the Royal Navy taught her to be a graphic designer. Now she lives in Maine doing her dream job—writing and illustrating children’s books.

She wrote and illustrated the e-book, ‘The Ugly Duckling’, winner of Classic Tale. Her latest illustration projects include a four book chapter book series ‘All Star Cheerleaders’ by Anastasia Suen and ‘How to Talk to an Autistic Kid’ by Daniel Stefanski, which is a ‘Books for a Better Life’ Finalist 2012. She’s here today to talk about her latest release, ‘Hidden New Jersey’ by Linda Barth, and published by Charlesbridge imprint Mackinac Island Press.

Welcome to my blog, Hazel!

Thanks, glad to be here!

1. Folks always love to hear about all that led to a contract and that exciting phone call or email. Could you tell us a little about how you were chosen to be the illustrator for Hidden New Jersey? – Sure. Yes, this one was quite exciting, because it came from all places, Facebook. The developer for the book saw some of the work I had posted on my fan page and thought I would be a perfect fit for the book. So she sent me an email and we went from there.This is the third book in the series, Michigan and Ohio have already been published.

2. Your characters are so expressive. Could you tell us a bit about the technique and materials you used for your illustrations? Working on this book was like doing a jigsaw puzzle. Each page is different, dealing with a specific area of the state, (although there are some themes that run through the illustrations … children canoeing and the little bumblebee who is the ‘mascot’ of the book – as well as the hidden objects throughout). My first task was to read through the research for each page, find out about them and sketch out a design for each page incorporating all the different facts. The rough sketches went for approval and then I worked up a final drawing about 150% larger than the final page. I scanned each drawing at high resolution and then used photoshop to add the final colouring. I also had to decide which objects would be hidden on each page and where I would hide them.

3. Did you do a lot of research and field trips to the places mentioned in the book? Do you have any interesting stories to tell us about that? All my research was done online, unfortunately. I live in Maine and the book was completed in about 4 months so there wasn’t a lot of time for field trips. Luckily my husband is from New Jersey so he was able to help me a lot! I really enjoyed finding out more about the state … it is so much more diverse and historic than I imagined. Linda Barth, the author, lives in Somerville New Jersey, and is an historian, so her fabulous research really helped me.

4. Which of the illustrations was the most challenging and why? I think one of the most challenging illustrations was ‘The Gateway’ that looks at the proximity of New York City and involved bridges, the Statue of Liberty, the Colgate Clock, a horse, the skyline, ferries. There was a lot of detail to incorporate and I wanted to make the design quite dramatic.

5. Did illustrating this book open any new avenues for you? This was my first real non-fiction book and I really enjoyed doing it, so I hope I will do more. Who knows, I might even get to do another state!

6. Do you have any new projects in the works? I will be working on the final book in the first series of ‘All Star Cheerleaders’, a four book series by Anastasia Suen, published by Kane Miller. I am also working on writing and illustrating my own picture books so hope that in the near future one of those will be in a bookstore near you!

To find out more about Hazel Mitchell and her books, and to see a trailer of Hidden New Jersey, visit her website at


Joyce Johnson said...

Great blog interview. I LOVE Hazel! And I grew on the New Jersey/New York state line.

Laurie Smith Murphy said...

Great interview! My family is from New Jersey so I would love to read this book. My fifth graders would enjoy it, too. Who knew a job could come from Facebook?Interesting! Good for you, Hazel!

Unknown said...

Great stuff! I am a former "Joisey Boy" (Somerset County) and this would be a great addition to my children's book collection :)

ChatRabbit said...

Great to see a little behind-the-scenes on this one... NJ is special to me, as it is where I had my first post-college staff designer job. Good people, and there are many beautiful parts!

pat thomas said...

What fun meeting you, Hazel! We have two connections...I lived in Maine (near the Canadian border)...and I lived at the Jersey shore (where I well and truly got "sand in my shoes" forever). You book would be a great way help my grandkids get acquainted with New Jersey, (Jersey DEvil stories have long been campfire favorites!) Congratulations on your book!

Michelle Henninger said...

Three cheers for Hazel! Hip, hip, hurray! :) And yay for Linda Barth for showing that there's more to Jersey than Jersey Shore.

Joyce Ray said...

Thanks for this closer look at Hazel Mitchell,the artist. I look forward to the publication of the book she is working on someday soon. Hazel, I'm from Maine and have lived in NJ. This sounds like a great series. I hope you are tagged to illustrate more of these books.

Cheryl Kirk Noll said...

So many folks with Jersey connections... I went to Wildwood every summer of my life until I was in my 50's!
Just drove through it tonight, actually. Quite a diverse state. I'll look forward to reading the book!

Linda Crotta Brennan said...

Thanks to all who stopped by!

Congratulations to our give-away winner, Cheryl Kirk Noll!

Cheryl Kirk Noll said...

Wahoo! I never win anything! Guess I broke my losing streak. : )

Lynda Mullaly Hunt said...

Yeah, congrat's to Cheryl who won this book! Wanted to leave a comment, as I, too, love Hazel! She signed my arm with a Sharpie in Fitchburg. Haven't washed it since!

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