We had the good fortune of connecting with Simona Ciraolo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Simona, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
It wasn’t so much that I had an idea for a business and subsequently decided to pursue it: I would rather say that I found myself in the business of making picturebooks as a contingent result of becoming a picturebook maker.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I write and illustrate picturebooks. I have been writing and drawing ever since I was very small: these always were the forms of expression that came more naturally to me. I had – and still have – many other strong interests, but I suppose the call to develop my artistic creativity was louder than the others, so I decided to go down that route. Getting to where I am wasn’t easy, in the sense that I have always worked hard and asked a lot of my self, but I feel I have been very lucky that the right doors opened just as I was ready to go through them. I think what sets my books apart is that they celebrate those parts of us that are truly special, but often overlooked. I’m fond of the characters that inhabit them and I feel very proud when I receive a message from a reader, or a drawing that a child has made: knowing that someone, somewhere in the world, has felt touched by my story, reminds me why I write and gives me a reason to carry on and do better. Right now I am very excited that my new book, Shy Ones, has just been released. The main character is a little flapjack octopus called Maurice and the story is a celebration of friendship, of embracing ourselves as we are and of being curious about getting to know others just as they are, too. I hope it will give joy to all, but particularly to those kids that feel bit more shy and introverted.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
For me LA is all about the architecture, the weather and the food, so a week in LA would involve at the very least a tour of all the houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I would spend one or two days hiking in the Malibu Creek State Park or the Fish Canyon Falls trail, and a couple of morning on the beach, before getting lost in the city and being surprised by a sight a recognise from a movie. Finally, I would take advantage of some of the best authentic Mexican food the city has to offer.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wouldn’t be where I am without the encouragement of my teachers and mentors, among them Prof Martin Salisbury, Pam Smy, Alexis Deacon and Marta Altes: gods in the field of illustration who taught me lessons that go way beyond the academic realm. And who knows where I’d be without the support of my close friends? My friend Gayle Martin springs to mind: an entrepreneur, animation producer and a brilliant woman with a great attitude to life who always finds time to be there for her friends. And my friend Angela Smaldone, a talented and driven artist, as well as a brilliant and generous woman, who has seen me through some pretty rough patches. My list could carry on to include so many more people, but before I forget someone – or run out of space – I am simply going to say that I have incredible friends.