Creator Corner: Author and Illustrator Meghan Marentette


Welcome to Creator Corner, a blog series where we interview the creators of our recent books. For this post, we interviewed Rumie Goes Rafting author and illustrator Meghan Marentette, whose book is publishing April 15, 2024!

Owlkids Books: How did you begin writing and illustrating children’s books?

Meghan Marentette: After many years working as a costumer for live action TV shows, some of which were set in fantasy worlds, I found myself wanting to create worlds of my own again. As a child, I had spent my time absorbed in free play, scavenging for things I could use to make houses for my mouse toys, and I felt an urge to get back to that vision.

I started by writing a children’s novel called The Stowaways, about a young mouse who goes on a journey in the human world to unravel a family secret. I was thrilled when it was published, but as I was writing the sequel, I felt something missing―I wanted to create my vision in the physical sense as well as imagined. I just didn’t know how yet!

I set off to the forest to seek inspiration with my camera and a little toy mouse I had, and while experimenting with photography, two new characters came to me called Rumie and Uncle Hawthorne. Having worked in stop-motion animation before, an art form I love, I decided to create them as wire-frame puppets and capture their stories in a picture book, with photographs taken outside in nature and inside hollow-tree sets I would make with found objects. It was an unusual illustration technique, but I hoped Rumie Goes Rafting would find the right publisher.

OKB: What was the inspiration for this book?

MM: When I went to the forest to find inspiration, I was drawn to this idyllic stream that was the right scale for a mouse-sized adventure. While practicing photography there for many months, I eventually realized that the stream itself was a physical manifestation of creative flow: it had sparked the creation of a new character and world I wanted to write about! When I wrote Rumie Goes Rafting, I centred it around the stream and what its existence meant to Rumie. I understood how a soul would be drawn to its beauty, and want to play and explore with it, learning about themselves along the way.

OKB: What was the most enjoyable part of writing this book? What was the most challenging part of the process?

MM: I loved creating in nature. It is awe-inspiring to arrive by this stream, surrounded by trees and dappled light, and feel it take me away on a journey of imagination. I take images with my camera through the eyes of Rumie, because it’s how I can best express our deep connection with nature as living beings. I wouldn’t be able to capture it as well on my own at a desk in a drawing; nature is my collaborator.

The most challenging part is taking photos that match the scenes I envision in my mind. When I arrive in the forest to take an image, I have to let go of myself and let nature show me the perfect location. I crouch down low and slowly observe my surroundings from the perspective of a tiny animal, looking for a background framed by the right mix of vegetation, motion and light. When I find a good spot, I set up my puppets and props, and shoot from many angles until I find the emotion Rumie is feeling. It’s a humbling practice with many failures but when you create in nature, you have to accept what is. It can take a few sessions on different days or years to complete one scene, since the weather and forest constantly change. Rumie Goes Rafting took three spring seasons to gather enough days with the right level of water in the stream. I’m now working on a second book, set in winter. I’m hoping for lots of snow!

OKB: Which spread did you enjoy illustrating the most, and why? Which was the most challenging to illustrate, and why?

MM: I loved creating every image because it’s a thrill to look through a lens at a whole other world, where Rumie and Uncle Hawthorne appear to be real. But the image at the dock, where Uncle ties on Rumie’s life vest, was my favorite moment. On my last try at shooting that scene, a beautiful green frog poked its head out of the water in a perfectly placed spot. It stayed absolutely still, watching Uncle and Rumie, for 15 minutes. Maybe it was deciding if they were real or not? It was a fantasy moment where mother nature, my silent collaborator, seemed to be saying ‘I am here, I see you’. I actually cried tears of joy! (The frog is in the background, near Uncle’s tail in the photo).

The most challenging photos to get were the ones where Rumie is on the raft in the stream. I had to tie the back corners of the raft to the banks with string (so the raft didn’t sail away!) and then pin Rumie invisibly on deck, keeping the puppet dry. To shoot the images, I sat in the water in hip waders or balanced on rocks, careful not to drop the camera, or I laid in a cloud of mosquitos on the bank. Sometimes the vibrations of water under the raft would cause Rumie to fall over so I had to suddenly leap to the rescue. Every day I came home with bruises, soaked feet and bug bites, but I was so engaged in the process, I was quite unaware. Perhaps too unaware. My worst experience was when a dog ran toward me out of nowhere and stomped on the raft, nearly missing the mast! Since then, if I’m shooting near a trail, my husband comes along to look out for dogs. He’s not so keen on the bug bites!

OKB: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

MM: I hope young readers feel inspired to look at the world from a new perspective, perhaps a tiny one, and create their own characters and adventures with the objects and locations available to them. Or maybe they’ll feel curious about nature through Rumie’s story, and want to take care of the forests.

Most of all, my goal is to give readers a tiny escape into an idyllic world of peace and creativity, where we’re accepted for who we are, supported by nature and family.

OKB: What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?

MM: I was confused about what to do after high school, and went to university for seven years! I started in engineering and architecture, switched to English literature, then studied costume making for theatre. It makes me laugh that decades later, I’ve finally found a way to use it all―constructing a house, writing stories and sewing bodies for little Rumie. It all makes sense now!


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