Linda Hendry - Author/Illustrator

Linda Hendry

Linda Hendry has been drawing for as long as she can remember. Some of her earliest works can be found on the underside of her mom and dad's kitchen table --- the same table that she and her little sister sat at for hours and hours, drawing make-believe families and filling up endless stacks of pink and green Doodle Pads.

After high school (of course she doodled in her notebooks!) Linda studied Visual Communications at the Alberta College of Art in Calgary. When she graduated, she moved to Toronto and began doing freelance illustrations for magazines, which eventually led to an offer to illustrate her first children's book. This book was shortlisted for the Governor General's Illustration award. Now there's nothing quite like an award to get your career rolling, and 23 years, and over 60 books later, Linda is still drawing for children.

She lives near Eden Mills, Ontario, with her partner Leszek, their twin daughters and a creamy colored, super fuzzy cat who loves to sit on laps --- especially if you are wearing black.

Linda's studio is a lovely old cottage that is across the yard from her house and down by the river. It is a cozy space with shelves full of books, tacky souvenirs and toys that she played with when she was a child. There's a woodstove to keep things warm in the winter, a big wooden drafting table, a swively chair to sit on, trunks full of artwork, and a big radio and a small television to keep her company while she works. And, of course, there are stacks and stacks of paper pads to doodle on.

When did you start writing and illustrating?
I wrote and illustrated my first book when I was in Grade Four, but nobody ever saw that one.

What is the thing you like the most about creating books for kids?
Sometimes the things that I draw will make me laugh, and I hope that my illustrations will make the people who read my books smile, too.

What was your favorite book?
Any of the Adrian Mole books by Sue Townsend.

Do you have any pets?
Two cats. Gus is very furry and well-behaved ... Elbie is not.

What are your favorite things to do?
Oil painting, collecting strange lamps, gardening, baking cookies and eating them.

What was your schooling?
I studied Visual Communications for four years at the Alberta College of Art in Calgary.

How did you get involved with children's books?
After I graduated from the Art College in 1983 I moved to Toronto and began doing illustrations for magazines. One fateful day I made an appointment to see the art director of a children's magazine called Crackers, published by Scholastic Canada. The art director liked my work, and six months later she called and asked me if I would like to try and illustrate a children's book called The Queen Who Stole the Sky. Those illustrations were nominated for The Canada Council Award and that really helped to get my name noticed. I have been illustrating at least two books a year ever since. Pretty lucky, I would say.

Where do you work?
I work in a lovely old cottage that sits beside the Eramosa River, across the yard from our house. The cottage is full of all the things that I have collected over the years. I have shelves full of books, old toys, games, photographs and of course ... those strange lamps I like so much.

What is your favorite thing about writing and illustrating books for children?
Besides wearing my pajamas to work? Hmm, let's see. I really like it if my drawings make me laugh. Hopefully, they will make the people who read the books smile, too.

How do you create your stories?
The first picture book that I wrote was Mrs. Mortifee's Mouse. I was extremely inspired to write that sorry after a mouse jumped out of my tea kettle one morning! I wrote that story on foolscap, but now I have a computer.

Do you have any special secrets or insights about one of your books or characters?
Hilda Crumm's Hats is a picture book I wrote about a woman who is in the habit of collecting one or two too many things. Some people say that Hilda is autobiographical. I say it is just a coincidence tha she looks like me, and has a lot of strange lamps in her apartment ...

Do you have any tips for young creators?
Try not to get discouraged. I remember thinking I would never be a good artist when I was young. I was pretty good at drawing, but I could not paint a picture to save my life! But I kept on trying, and now I'm not half bad!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I loved animals, so I thought I might like to be a veterinarian. But when I was a teenager, my dog had an accident and when my mom suggested I help the vet in the operating room, I fainted in the sink! I pretty much knew that that career wasn't the one for me!

What is your favorite childhood memory?
One summer my little sister, my favorite cousin and I discovered the perfect fort amongst the roots of a pile of bulldozed trees. The trees had once surrounded a long abandoned farmyard. There were no buildings, but the junk piles were still there. We found rusted old frying pans and tractor parts, bottles and treasures galore, and hauled the best bits back to our wonderful fort. The highlight of the summer was finding a batch of kittens waiting for us there one morning!

What is the weirdest or most interesting job you have ever had?
Painting pig pens.