I was born in Texas, and grew up in southern Maryland, in a small town called Shady Side by the Chesapeake Bay. My parents encouraged their children to read, draw, and make their own toys. At the age of six, I won first prize in a county-wide contest for a painting of a bowl of fruit, and have been an artist ever since (my sister, Ann Munro Wood, is also a professional artist). I studied at the University of Maryland, the Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore), earned a BFA in Painting from the University of Hawaii, attended graduate school at Ohio University (Athens), and received a Yaddo Fellowship in painting. For a while I freelanced in Washington DC as a television courtroom artist. It was great training for life drawing, concentration under pressure, and making deadlines (and quite entertaining - attended some fascinating trials). Clients included CBS, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press. I started taking the train up to NYC to get work, and when The New Yorker magazine bought the first cover (of fourteen in all), I moved up to the city and have lived here ever since. I’m married to the Swedish writer/photographer, Bo Zaunders, with whom I’ve collaborated on four children’s books.
Tell us about the genre of your work.
Most of my books are nonfiction (architecture, cities and countries, biographies, science) and concept, interactive books (real life mazes, finding/counting, lift-the-flap books).
Why did you choose this genre?
I have always loved science (have a minor in chemistry), and architecture… am curious about a lot of things. I try to make nonfiction come alive for children. Truth is stranger than fiction; real life is fascinating.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
I’ve written/illustrated more than 35 books, including Mazescapes; Amazement Park; The Inside-Outside Books of New York City [New York Times Best Illustrated Award], Washington DC, Texas, London, Paris, and Libraries; Feathers, Flaps & Flops; Doors; Gargoyles, Girders & Glass Houses; Ranch; Wild West Trail Ride Maze; Circus; Mazeways: A to Z; Rodeo; Go!Go!Go!; Inside-Outside Dinosaurs; EcoMazes: 12 Earth Adventures; Desert Days, Desert Nights; and Hatch!
What ages do you direct your books?
From PreK (maybe 3-4 years old) to probably the 8th grade (the biographies).
They can be found on amazon and in bookstores.
Hatch! Published by Marshal Cavendish, 2011. Busy Builders (also Cavendish) will be out spring 2012.
Do your books have a teaching objective? If so, what is it?
Yes, as mentioned, some are about places (New York City, Washington DC, Texas, Paris, London, libraries across the US, ranches). Some are about nature and science (Inside-Outside Dinosaurs; Hatch!; Desert Days, Desert Nights; EcoMazes: 12 Earth Adventures). I’ve done five maze books (Mazescapes; Mazeways: A to Z; Amazement Park; Wild West Trail Ride Maze; EcoMazes: 12 Earth Adventures) - not the paperback activity books, but based upon the multitude of mazes we run into and work through in real life. Mazes help children learn decision-making and critical thinking skills. They make them think ahead and plan steps in advance. Mazes teach alternative ways to solve problems and judge spatial relationships. For younger children, mazes help develop fine motor skills; for older children, maneuvering through mazes helps improve handwriting. Researchers have proven that mazes are particularly suited for boys and reluctant readers. And they're fun! The books also have finding/counting /naming and ABC elements. And I do lift-the-flap paper-engineered books (Doors; Rodeo; Circus; Go! Go! Go!), which all of which have educational uses involving vocabulary, counting, and so forth.
What is your favorite thing about your book/
How much fun children have finding and noticing all the hidden details…
Is your book illustrated? If so, would you tell us by whom, and if you worked with an illustrator, can you discuss that experience?
I illustrate all my own books (I’ve illustrated a few for others).
Are there any problems in getting children’s’ books published?
There’s a big debate going on now about picture books - are they over (No!) and also where in the children’s publishing world e-books and apps fit in. I’ve done one interactive animated app for the iPad (“Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure”) with another one out shortly (“Doors”).
Why and when did you begin writing?
I have always been an artist. Started writing my picture books in 1985, so I’ve been a writer for a long time too.
What is your writing schedule?
I go to my studio 6 days a week…work from 9ish to 6 or so (except Saturdays, when I come in a bit later).
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I am increasingly interested in apps - many of my picture books (the seek-and-find, lift-the-flap, and maze books) are considered interactive. It seems the next step to make them interactive apps.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published?
Refine your style - be individualistic, original, find your own voice. Work very hard. Don’t give up. Join SCBWI and research the business side of publishing also.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Travel and read.
Anything else you would like to add?
The world of children’s books is a wonderful involvement. The authors and illustrators are generous and sharing with each other; librarians, reviewers and teachers are informed and enthusiastic.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
A couple. Six weeks after starting my first college art class, I did a series of really good figure drawings. I was stunned that I could really draw - I remember taping them up to my dorm room wall and staring all night at them. I vowed that night if the world would “let” me be an artist, I would devote my life to it. And I have.
Another moment: Being in the art editor’s office at The New Yorker” when he told me they bought the first magazine cover. Changed my life. I walked out, bought a paper, got on the train to return to my apartment in Washington DC, and by the time I arrived had found an ad for a place in NYC. Moved up within a couple months.
Learn more about Roxie and her work on these sites: