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Monday, September 2, 2013

From the fields of Iowa, to the halls of the Florida Supreme Court, to the aisles of children's literature. Phil's journey.

On this blog dated August 14, 2013,  I reviewed a children's book by an author new to the world of writing for children. His picture book, Feathers in a Flap, is a great favorite. (See my review of August 14). Today I thought you might like to get to know this author better and learn why he choose to enter the wonderful world of children's literature. So meet Phillip M. Pollock, a rural  Iowa  boy who now daily walks the halls of the Florida Supreme Court as Web Administrator for the Office of the State Courts Administrator. Writing is a large part of his daily routine, but not writing for children. He graciously granted me this interview.
Phillip, as a new author, it must have been very exciting to finally hold the published book in your hands. Can you tell us what that felt like?                                                                                                    Even thought I have been involved in published work before, it was only in bits and pieces. In Feathers in a Flap I wrote the story, designed the page layouts and did all of the illustrating. It was an extremely satisfying moment to see it for the first time.
For those who have not read your book, give us a one sentence summary.
This is a story of a relationship a man has with the birds in his back yard and how the relationship evolves from one of mistrust (based on a single misperception) to trust and cohabitation.

What was the inspiration for your book, or where did the idea originate?                                                   I’ve always been a great lover of birds, so the basic idea of writing a book about birds was easy. One of the key aspects of the story was based on a collection of bird feathers I have found over time. I have them all arranged beautifully in a frame with a green felt backing.
I understand the story was first written about 6 years ago. Why did it take you so long to publish it?
Yes, that’s about right. I have always been somewhat of an exacting watercolorist of birds, so the idea of making a bird drawing look, essentially, like a cartoon, for children, seemed very difficult to me. I had to really switch art gears to make them look simple and like they still had some personality.

What was the biggest challenge in creating your book?                                                                              Perhaps it was the above. But, in addition, it was getting rid of some "darlings", both in writing and the illustrations. Some text didn’t work with the art and vice versa. I hate to back-track, so I had to stop being wedded to everything I did and know that I was going to have to re-work some things if I was going to be truly happy with the finished book.
How did you come up with the title?
There is a bird in the story who is pretty agitated—he’s got has feathers in a flap. “Flap” is a somewhat dated synonym, but I liked the way it sounded.
When you started writing the story, did you know what the ending or outcome would be?
Yes! Once I came up with the idea of using the collection of feathers, I knew exactly how the story would play out.

Are you writing another children’s picture book?                                                                                             I think I will start another, similar sort of children’s story over the coming winter months.
Do you do other types of writing?                                                                                                                    I’ve always been a writer—it has been woven into almost all the professional work I’ve done. Years ago, I was assistant editor of a beautiful, full-color magazine called Florida Heritage (historical site-based) and then a year later held the same position for FSU Law Magazine. Go figure!
What were some of your favorite books as a child? Did your parents read to you often? When did you learn to read?
My parents did not read to me often. I grew up in Iowa, which boasted a very high literacy rate, so I learned to read and was a good reader early on, but I didn’t start to read for fun until later down the road—maybe ten or twelve years of age. I was a Hardy Boys fan, all the way. I loved the stories, but was even more taken by the colorful dust sleeves wrapped around the hard copy. That was adventure!
The illustrations are an important part of this story. When did you learn to paint and why did you choose watercolor as your medium?
I started painting in grade school. I won “fire prevention” and other poster contests all the time. I was a good letterer and a professional draftsman (I drew toy tractor models for a company). But, back to paints . . . I love the way colors flow with water as the conduit. You lay a pure water wash down on your paper, then fill a brush with paint, and with one smooth stroke, you see the color migrate from dark to light. It’s like magic.
Which illustration is your favorite?
I think I have two. One is where the bird knocks himself out by hitting the window and the second is the bird bath scene on the back cover. The latter was an afterthought, and necessary. but because it was so mentally spontaneous, I finished it in about 20 minutes.
Do you consider yourself an author first and then an illustrator or the other way around?
Neither. I feel lucky to have both skills. If I have written something that needs an illustration, well then . . . If it happens in the reverse, then I am a writer.
Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do to relax?
I swim. I can sometimes conceive ideas and write when I do that. I also read a lot, both to relax and to be a better writer. Ask Steven King about that. You can’t be a writer unless you’re a reader.
 Again, check out Phil's Feathers in a Flap  at

Thanks, Phil....

1 comment:

  1. What a nice interview, Faye. It is interesting to note how many children's authors--and authors period--have day jobs. Instead of being a hindrance I think it makes a writer more focused and determined and it brings in new ideas, even when the job seems to be unrelated to the story being told. Writers are good at using whatever comes their way.