Friday, October 5, 2012

Friendspiration Friday: Tracey Berglund

Remember Pop Up Video on VH1?  I loved that show.  And you know what?  I know the talented woman who designed all of those little icons that would pop up along with the facts!  How fun!

The first day that Tracey attended our Critique Group, I knew she was ultra cool and I wanted to know her better.  With the soul of an artist, the whimsy of a child and the guts of a rockstar I now know that she is cooler than cool!

Tracey is the only artist/illustrator in our group and I absolutely love being able to "see" her characters, as well as read about them.  Needless to say, I am quite taken with her style.  The images here do not do her justice.  Please take the time to visit her website to see more. 

I am honored to introduce Tracey to The Write Routine today. 
What do you do in real life?
At the moment I work with mobile apps and technology in Dumbo, Brooklyn with some really talented people.

In the past I’ve been a creative director, branding and strategy consultant, and even a T-shirt designer. When I was younger I taught english as a second language to foreigners. I’ve also been an art teacher.
In real, real life I’m an illustrator and a single mother of two wonderful sons.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I never planned to be a writer. But I’ve always written and illustrated.

I’ve kept journals with personal writing and sketches of my physical and mental travels for decades now.
Three years ago, on a whim, I started creating picture books and have seven now. Two of them, Pearl the Porcupine, and The Three Little Warthogs are on up e-book platforms, U-tales and Wonderville.

I’ve always collected beautiful picture books, even when I am in foreign countries and don’t understand the language they are written in. I have some beautiful ones written in Chinese and Arabic and love to read the French and Spanish ones I have, albeit very slowly.
How often to do you write? Where? What time of day?

I am most lucid in the mornings between 7:03 -10:31am. (Really!)
As soon as I wake up I write down as many snippets of my dreams as I can remember. Then I make coffee, breakfast and lunch for school and then when my son leaves, I perch on a stepstool by my back window that overlooks my neighbors’ gardens, and watch the birds fly around.

That’s when I start to write and paint.
At weekends and on Fridays I like to sit in bed as I write.

I used to think that ‘real writers’ had expensive desks and smoked cigarettes and incessantly drank coffee.
Then I read that Marcel Proust wrote in bed, Toni Morrison wrote in a motel room and Ben Franklin wrote in the bathtub.

I guess the main thing is to be comfortable.
What was your favorite story/book as a child? and why?

‘GREEN EGGS AND HAM’ by Dr. Seuss.
“Why? I love it’s rhythm and absurdity. And of course, the illustrations are sublime!”

My kids and l adored all of William Steig’s stories and illustrations especially DR.DESOTO, AMOS & BORIS, PETE”S A PIZZA and SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE.
I’ve read that Steig would ask his kids and grandkids questions like:

“Would you rather be a pimple or a wart?” Why?”
Then they’d have to explain and their answers were so hysterical and opened up such silly creativity. I love that. Personally I’d rather be a pimple, because it rhymes with so many other good words like “dimple, simple, and periwinkle--well,almost!”

What kind of stories do you like to write? Where do you get your inspiration?  You can add if there is anything you have had published and can highlight.

My approach to writing is not very glamorous.  I seem to ‘release’ stories that are welling up inside of me.
It’s actually more like vomiting. It’s the same with sketching- I draw what captures my own imagination and then follow wherever it leads.

I would love to work with a great editor more than anything else.
My most recent story is called “SOUP-A-FLY” about a fly that loves soup and mischievously seasons a French Chef’s soup ‘on the fly’, so to speak.

I am also sending out “BIRDS OF A FEATHER” about a pigeon, peacock, and Rasta parrot  who befriend one another in New York City.
Lots of my illustration has been published over the years and is on tv, in magazines, on the web, on clothing, for corporations, etc.

My boyfriend, a musician, is presently creating an animated iPad app of PEARL THE PORCUPINE, my first and perhaps favorite story. It’s about the special friendship between Ralph, the Turtle, Pearl the Porcupine and Cyril the Centipede.  I truly appreciate the extra dimensions of sound and animation that he brings to it.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a modern dancer artist explorer thinker who designed record covers for Led Zeppelin.

And I wanted to marry a rock star.
If you could go back in time and tell your 8 year old self one thing, what would it be?

I’d want to tell her a thousand things.
But in a nutshell, (must watch Mike Meyers skit ‘in a nutshell’… (really!)

I’d say “Tracey, Be Bold. Your life won’t be easy, but it will be filled with adventure.
You’ll often find yourself swimming against the current, but struggling will come to define you better than anything else could. Stay far away from the maddening crowd.”

I’d also tell my 8 year old self to keep wearing polka dots, stripes and glitter.
What is the greatest piece of writing advice you have ever received?

“Use less words and say it in pictures.”
I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve received some advice on my stories from Frances Foster, the publisher of FSG books for Young Readers. She and her assistant editor, Susan Dobinick have been inspirational and encouraged me to let my illustration tell a lot more of the story.

Later thought: but where?
I believe that when talent catches up with perseverance anything can happen.

Marcie, thanks so much for allowing me to participate in your inspirational blog!

Do you have a Friendspiration that you would like to introduce on a future Friday?  Email to sign up!


  1. I am so excited that your boyfriend is turning PEARL THE PORCUPINE into an iPad app!

    I write very well in bed in the early morning with a coffee, too!

    I want to see that fly in print soon. I love your work!

    1. awww Joanna, thanks! I think we can round up a fly, and a catch-up in Brooklyn soon, I hope so! (and share pearls of wisdom) -groan!

  2. Your stories sound like a lot of fun. Soup-a fly! Yes!

  3. Great interview Marcie and Tracey. It is wonderful to have an illustrator/author perspective in our group. I love her illustrations and stories. I am a "closet" illustrator who has been inspired by her art.

  4. great to see your illustrations and pic books here. GO Tracey!

  5. Ohhh...what a wonderful way to kick start the weekend or perhaps linger in my bed, as I invite my muse, a muse, any muse, and write (although I prefer a bubbly bath). Corny as it sounds, I feel privileged to be part of such a talented crit group, that includes you Tracey:)

  6. Loved this! So entertaining and interesting. "I am most lucid in the mornings between 7:03 -10:31am. (Really!)"....that is great! Hilarious-the 10:31!

  7. My favorite answer here is about never deciding to be an author illustrator, but just drawing and writing forever. Oh man! Talk about meant-to-be. THAT'S meant to be!

  8. Tracey is awesomely authentic! So it follows that her writings and illustrations are totally engaging! Her work reflects her spirit. Her stories are always clever, imaginative and memorable with no excess. She is a talented artist in every sense of the word. It was great learning more about you, Tracey. You are a fiercely cool and superwoman! xo