Friday, March 15, 2024

Q&A with Elise Matich



Elise Matich is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book Sew Sister: The Untold Story of Jean Wright and NASA's Seamstresses. Also an educator, she lives in Alexandria, Virginia.


Q: What inspired you to create Sew Sister and why did you focus on Jean Wright’s story? 


A: I met Jean Wright on a family trip to the Kennedy Space Center. At the time, Jean was a docent at the Atlantis exhibit, where she discussed her work as a seamstress for the space shuttle program.


I had no idea that the shuttles were covered in fabric, and was so captivated by her story that I contacted her afterwards to ask if she would be willing to let me tell it in picture book form. 


Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?


A: Interviews with Jean comprised the bulk of my research. One of my favorite surprises from our conversations was the revelation that some of the shuttle blankets were created using an antique Singer sewing machine from 1914, which was originally used for making saddles! 


Q: Did you focus first on the text or on the illustrations--or both simultaneously?


A: I focused on the text first. I was not sure initially that I would illustrate the book, but decided to give it a try once the text was finished. I was pleased with the results, so decided to go the author-illustrator route.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?


A: I hope that kids reading Sew Sister will be inspired to look at their own abilities and interests in a new way. Instead of concentrating on distant goals, I would encourage kids to be open to unexpected opportunities.


Just as Jean was able to combine her seemingly unrelated talent for sewing with her passion for space, I hope that kids will embrace their gifts and seize unlooked for chances to nurture and employ them.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My current project is a book on evolution and prehistoric life. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: That's it!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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