Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Behind the Scenes of Luis and Tabitha with Author Stephanie Campisi and Editor Brooke Jordan

I love Stephanie Campisi's debut picture book, THE UGLY DUMPLING. And LUIS and TABITHA, illustrated by Hollie Mengert was equalling enthralling.  It's an engaging story about star crossed lovers--an ally cat and a sophisticated at home cat.  The bold and whimsical illustrations enhance the text to create a funny, yet heartwarming story.  I'm thrilled to welcome Stephanie to ReFoReMo as well as her editor, Brooke Jordan.  

Kirsti Call: What inspired your story? Your book reminds me of Romeo and Juliette and Lady and the Tramp--two of my favorite stories of all time!  Were they part of your inspiration?  

Stephanie Campisi: I can definitely see how those two stories may come to mind! Romeo and Juliet was certainly an influence, and Hollie's gorgeous illustrations definitely evoke certain iconic scenes - the spread with Tabitha on her balcony, for example. I didn't even think of the Lady and the Tramp aspect until we were deep into edits, but it's become a handy elevator pitch since then! 

The book itself was actually inspired by watching my own cat stare mournfully and at length out the window of the apartment I lived in at the time. I couldn't help but wonder what (or who) might be waiting for him on the other side of that glass! He was originally a stray I adopted as a kitten, so the possibilities of his past informed that part of Luis' character. 

KC: Did you use mentor texts, and if so, what were they?

SC: I didn't - not intentionally at least, although everything I read filters through in some way or another! 

KC: What was your most memorable take away from this project collaboration?

SC: I'm always reminded just how much of a collaboration a picture book is! There's a lot of trust involved as an author - that the vision, mood and more concrete details like characters and settings will be communicated in a way that matches your original intent. It's really tempting to lean heavily on the text or simply explain what's going on in the pictures. 

That said, it's also easy to veer too far the other way and make your readers do some narrative detective work that they might not yet be ready for (or that detracts from the story). My editor (Brooke Jorden) was great about helping find that balance by adjusting text that became redundant after the illustrations came in or by pointing out areas where the inferences were challenging - say where you turn the page and there's a change of scene that's not telegraphed in the text. 

It's also been incredible working with an artist as talented as Hollie. She has a knack for imbuing her characters with so much personality, and I love how she so perfectly captures cat expressions - Luis' eyebrows can tell the story all by themselves! There are also little visual motifs and mini plots that appear throughout her illustrations, like the "backstory" photo frames and Luis' mouse friend. They're a great reminder of the richness and complementarity an illustrator brings to the table. Basically, Luis and Tabitha wouldn't be the book it is without Brooke and Hollie!

KC: Thanks Stephanie!  Now I have some questions for your editor, Brooke.  As an editor, what drew you to this project?

Brooke Jordan: From an editorial standpoint, Stephanie’s writing style is so unique. Her phrasing is succinct and interesting and engaging; there’s almost a cadence to it. From a personal standpoint, I love cats, so I was instantly intrigued by the characters she created.

KC: What was your most memorable take away from this project collaboration?

BJ: My biggest takeaway from the project was the focus on small details. We wanted to convey a lot (emotions, backstory, conflict, etc.) with very few words. Stephanie is very good at that. I remember going back and forth with her over one word in one stanza, both of us pitching ideas until we found the perfect one. The process was always so positive and collaborative; she was fantastic to work with.

KC:  Thank you Stephanie and Brooke!  On NBC's Clear the Shelters Day 40% of proceeds of all L&T presales made through the Familius website will be donated to the Oregon Humane Society. So grab your copies now! 

Stephanie Campisi is an Australian-born, Washington-based picture book writer. She is the author of The Ugly Dumpling (Mighty Media Press 2016) and the forthcoming Luis and Tabitha (Familius 2018). Her folktale The Five Sisters will be published by Familius in 2019; her picture book Very Lulu (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky) will follow. You can visit her online at @stephcampisi or www.stephaniecampisi.com

Brooke Jorden earned a BA in English and editing from Brigham Young University. The author of If It Fits, I Sits: The Ultimate Cat Quotebook and the Lit for Little Hands series, Brooke is also the managing editor at Familius. The oldest of seven children and a believer in the importance of family, Brooke is proud to be a part of the Familius family and a proponent of its mission. Brooke, her husband, their three children, and their cat live in Pleasant Grove, Utah.


  1. Congratulations, Stephanie. I can think of several cat lovers in my life who will be thrilled with your new book!!

  2. Fun! Congratulations! I love cats, so this is definitely on my to read list!

    1. Thanks so much, Angie! It's definitely a book for cat lovers! :)