0nce, when I was reading one of my books to Jason, who was just learning words, I asked him, "What is my name?" He said, "Byaliki." I laughed. But in many ways I am a bi-Aliki. Greek and American. Bilingual. Author and illustrator. Writer of fiction and nonfiction-books that come from inside out (feeling books), and outside in (research books).
I had no thought of becoming a writer until it happened. But early on, I developed a lifelong habit of writing down my feelings. I realized it helped me understand my hurt, anger, bewilderment, or happiness. Words flowed out into poetry, letters, and journals. It was practice for later on.
I wrote The Two of Them when my father died. I wrote We Are Best friends when we moved from New York to London. I wrote about my childhood seaside vacations in Those Summers. In fact, it was on one such family vacation that I was born unexpectedly (in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey-but we never lived there)!
Marianthe's Story, two books in one volume, is very much my own. In one of its two parts-Painted Words-Mari is lucky to have such an understanding teacher and the ability to express herself through pictures (as was 1). In Spoken Memories, the villagers are composites of family and friends, and the voice is often my grandmother's. She cared passionately about education and passed it on to us.
All by Myself! -- snapped after watching my nephew Peter, who was just learning to dress himself We can take nothing for granted. All skills-from the simplest to the most complicated-are learned. They take patience, perseverance, and determination. With some, a little talent helps. Life is one big challenge. I'm still trying to learn to swim.
My research books come from a fascination with a subject I know only a glimmer about. It can take three years to read, delve, dig, write, and repeat the process for the illustrations. It can be torture, because Virgos dont like to make mistakes.
To write My Visit to the Aquarium, I visited eleven aquariums-the most fun research ever. But then I had to get the right fish into the right tank. My Visit to the Zoo was even harder. Nine zoos, hundreds of books, magazines, and related matter. And with all due respect to the author, the illustrator has twice the work. I call it hard fun.
All books-read or made-change lives. None more than William Shakespeare & the Globe. I was challenged by wanting to compress 40.0 years into 38 pages, to tell (in words and pictures) a story that comes full circle. It didn't help that we- know very little about Shakespeare the man. But I was enveloped by his words -- which brought him to life. When I finally finished, the pain of loss-which lasted months-was like parting from a beloved friend.