Children’s author shares insight to her success at MLK Elementary

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KATHY CHANG/STAFF
Children’s author and illustrator Rosemary Wells meets Martin Luther King Elementary Principal Diane Wilton. Wells, whose career spans 45 years and has published 120 books for children, shared her story with the students on March 19.

EDISON — Students at Martin Luther King Elementary School learned even an established children’s author and illustrator such as Rosemary Wells has to “practice, practice, practice” to perfect her craft.

“Every morning for 10 minutes I turn on Navajo flute music, and with a sharp eye and stable hand, I fill in lines just like a coloring book,” she said. “The music centers me and helps me concentrate. Just like a piano and violin player does, I practice, practice, practice. I make myself do it perfectly. It starts my day.”

Wells, who visited the elementary school on March 19, said she found the love of art at a young age.

“I drew animals,” she said. “That’s what I am good at, that’s what I love to draw. Animals are wonderful, great and expressive to draw.”

Wells’ career spans 45 years during which she has published 120 books for children.

“I published my first book when I was 23,” she said.

Wells was born in New York City and raised in Red Bank. She is well known for her “Max & Ruby” series about two curious bunnies and Yoko, the cat, series. The “Max & Ruby” series became an animated children’s television series.

In her books, Wells said the pattern of sand, brown rice and Cheerios can be seen in her artwork. She said she makes the patterns into stamps through a printer.

“The stamp saves hours and hours of my time,” she said, adding she also uses origami paper in her drawings. “It would take me forever if I had to do the patterns by hand.”

Wells shared a video of her studio, which she said she keeps neat and clean. The studio is filled with a variety of colored pencils, paint brushes and minerals she mixes to make colors.

“I mix my own colors because we have to pay for our own things,” she said.

Wells told the students her books start with a dummy book, which is sent to her publisher for revisions.

“One drawing took nine revisions and 72 hours of work,” she explained.

Wells said publishing books is a business of making decisions.

“There is rejection … everyone in the business gets rejection,” she said.

Wells said it is important for writers to write for their readers, and for students to turn a “B” into an “A,” she encouraged students to read their work out loud.

“This way you can catch speedbumps (mistakes),” she said. “Don’t give readers speed bumps.”

After Wells shared her story, the students, led by the school’s Blue Lion mascot, gave her a thunderous “Roar, Roar, Roar.”

Contact Kathy Chang at [email protected].