Usma's Writing Process
Usma sat down and wrote this story one summer while living in Washington, D.C. The character came from her imagination and one of her many nicknames, Madame Yoo. The story of friendship, hobbies and creativity sparked from her life as a federal employee who was looking for more than just a career to make her happy. Horatio, the marmot, was inspired by the bathtub scene in the movie The Big Lebowski, one of her household's favorite movies at the time. After moving home to California, she re-worked the story in a children's book writing class in San Francisco, finalized it and sent it out to publishers. Good thing she has thick skin and a solid sense of humor, because it was all rejections and no responses from there. Usma let it collect e-dust in her computer for several years before liberating it from the depths of her files to read to it to her then 4 year-old daughter, Aziza. Aziza was less than interested, particularly because there were no illustrations. The thought of illustrating the book on her own was daunting, and she knew it would never become a reality if she had to try and create images to go along with the story. But Usma had the bright idea to approach Lee and luckily Lee took it on with zeal and passion!
Lee's Illustration Process
Lee has always enjoyed working in many mediums. She has developed a unique process to create her illustrations which involve a fun photo shoot and both traditional art and computer processes. First she imagines the character and then thinks what friend or colleague might be persuaded to play dress up. Then it is closet surfing or thrift store hunting to find costumes and props. Lee is often surprised with the photo shoot results and gets inspiration from her models. Lee has been painting in acrylic paints since she can remember. She has become more familiar with computer software in the last 5 years and uses Photoshop, GIMP and Illustrator to scale, arrange, add backgrounds as well as text.