Maya Gonzalez on Feeling What You Feel When You Feel It
Maya Christina Gonzalez is a fine artist, educator, and the illustrator of more than twenty picture books, several of which she also wrote. Her award-winning titles include Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems, Nana’s Big Surprise, andPrietita and the Ghost Woman. Her book My Colors, My Worldwon the prestigious Pura Belpré Award Honor from the American Library Association.
Her most recent picture book, Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol, was released in November 2014 from the Children’s Book Press imprint of Lee & Low Books.
When not in the studio, Maya works with children and educators to stress the importance of creativity as personal empowerment in the classroom. She has developed several lines of curriculum and training which can be found on her website. In 2009, Maya co-founded Reflection Press, an independent press that publishes radical and revolutionary children’s books, and she later co-created an online learning environment called School of the Free Mind that offers e-courses on creating children’s books and fostering creativity.
Maya Christina Gonzalez lives in San Francisco with her husband, two children, and two rescue guinea pigs.
When people ask what you do, you tell them…
I tell them that I’m a children’s book author and artist. I don’t mention the educator, publisher part. People act surprised enough by the first part. I often imagine folks think I work at Rainbow or a tattoo parlor. Two awesome jobs! But not mine.
What’s your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?
I don’t believe in struggle really, just learning through.
If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?
Tons and tons of people say this to me, which is partially why I started my own online school and teach THE HEART OF IT/creating children’s books that matter. Now I point them there!
Do you consider yourself successful?? Why?
I consider myself mondosuccessful because I no longer have any bullies in my life!!!! I am freee! I love freee!
When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what youtube video makes you feel better?
I don’t focus on feeling better. I just feel what I feel when I feel it. When it passes through I find my happy lasts longer!
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is her/her story?
At the moment I’m using my grandmother, Maria Dolores Morales, as a window into experience in the 1800s in both the US and Mexico. I’ll let you know once it’s written!
Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?
When I was 10 I wanted to be an artist! I adored Michelangelo and proudly carried the agony and the ecstasy around with me everywhere. At 13 I decided I had to walk away from art so I could write! I had fallen deeply in love with Emily Dickinson ☺
Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn’t have to be ideal.
I love the wilderness and used to live in a yurt on the edge of thousands of acres of trees in Oregon! I loved the trees and thought of them as friends until I too considered myself a tree. Must be why I made my latest children’s book, Call Me Tree!
What are you working on right now?
I have 10 books that all landed in my imagination during this last chunk of time. One doesn’t have words and is totally fantastical, one has big pictures and small words, one is a small series in response to Ferguson and Michael Brown, and a whole bunch are connected to these new voices that are rising in me from deepdeep!!! A ghost from the river, a storyteller half Mexican/half German like me, a housemother for challenged children in a house that only exists at night, and on and on… I’m working as fast as I can!!!