Q&A with Juana Medina

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In order for you to become acquainted with the authors of this year’s Virginia Festival of the Book, we will be providing a series of author profiles to help you get to know each author and what they’ll be doing during the Festival through a series of five questions.

The second author profile is Juana Medina, author of One Big Salad and Juana & Lucas, who was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. She studied and taught at the Rhode Island School of Design and now teaches at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University. Here are her answers to five questions about herself and her work…

What author or book inspires you most, now and/or at any time in your career?

There have been many books, authors, and illustrators that have inspired me throughout my career. Some of my favorites are Quino, with his fabulous Mafalda collection and editorial cartoons (and his majestic illustrations); Quentin Blake, who has so playfully given shape and form to so many stories (many of Roald Dahl’s classics, for example), and Marit Törnqvist, who through compelling narrative and striking illustrations, has never been afraid to touch on sadness, melancholia, or pain, conveying with the right dose of tenderness and honesty, extremely complex and moving stories.

What is your favorite part of participating in book festivals?

It’s always a humbling experience–book festivals offer a chance to meet many authors and readers, which ensures interesting conversations.

When did you realize you wanted to write this book?

The first time I shared this story was in a short-short fiction writing course at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). I had a deadline and I chose to share this personal story, I thought that would be it! Ellie Schaffzin, who was teaching this course, encouraged me to keep on working on it. The story seemed to resonate with many people, often eliciting laughter. It took many forms before it became a children’s book, but I’m glad that’s the shape it took.

Which part of the book are you most proud of?

It was a long journey, I’m proud of being resilient and staying true to my vision for the book. This took good years of work, as a team, with a wonderful agent and a fantastic publishing house.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on Juana & Lucas 2; as well as on The Adventures of Catalina Neon, a bilingual collaboration with the Poet Laureate and 2nd and 3rd graders across the country! There are also some deliciously food related books in the works.

Juana Medina will be participating in this year’s festival at the Drawing and Writing Libros: A Conversation about Children’s Publishing program along with Lulu Delacre (Olinguito, de la A a la Z!) and Angela Dominguez (Marta! Big & Small) on March 25. To learn more about Juana Medina, join these authors as they discuss their Latino roots and the behind-the-scenes aspects of producing award-winning and critically-acclaimed works for children.