Daria Peoples-Riley is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book This Is It. A former teacher, she lives in Las Vegas.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for This Is It?
A: I wrote This Is It after my family’s first trip to New York City. My daughter is an aspiring classical ballerina, and after we visited Juilliard with her, I was inspired to write her a poem to give to her on the day of her first audition.
After I enrolled in an online picture book class, I was asked to illustrate a manuscript. I didn’t have a manuscript, so I pulled out the poem to illustrate, and it became a picture book. I was able to read it to my daughter about a year after I wrote it when she auditioned for admittance into a pre-professional ballet program.
And, though I thought I was writing a poem for my daughter, it continues to deliver me from some of my biggest fears. And yes, she was accepted into the program!
Q: Do you tend to work on your illustrations first or the text first, or did you work on them simultaneously?
A: Once This Is It was acquired, my editor and I settled on the text first, and then I revised the illustrations. As far as new projects, illustrations and text come simultaneously. I will illustrate some spreads first, and then only write text for other spreads. Eventually, as I continue the revision process, I add text or illustrations where they are missing in the dummy.
Q: What do you hope young readers take away from the book?
A: I hope young readers are encouraged to learn how to speak life into their thoughts, and empower themselves through positive affirmations. It’s important that others believe in us, but it’s most important that we are brave enough to believe in ourselves.
Q: Who are some children’s book authors and illustrators that have inspired you?
A: Gosh. There are so many, but most recently, I’ve been inspired by the work of Ashley Bryan. His work is rich, deeply rooted in the African Diaspora, authentic, simply profound, hopeful, and important for all generations of readers. I hope to grow into an artist who invokes his freedom of expression in both my art and in my life.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am finishing the art for Gloria Takes a Stand (Bloomsbury, 2019) written by debut author Jessica M. Rinker, and I am also working on my second picture book due to be released during the summer of 2019.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Doing this work is a dream come true for me. Before this happened, I’m not sure I believed dreams came true. Now, I can tell the children I meet, dreams can and will come true. With a lot of hard work, determination to never give up, and a little faith tucked deep down in their heart, dreams definitely come true.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb