Interview with Alma Fullerton

October 12th, 2012

A.Fullerton-2014Alma Fullerton is the award-winning author of Burn, Libertad, Walking on Glass, and In the Garage. On October 15, 2012 she will be marking the publication of her first picture book, A Good Trade. Illustrated by Karen Patkau, A Good Trade tells the story of Kato, a young boy growing up in a Ugandan village. His daily routine includes chores and a dawn walk to the borehole for water, but one day the routine is disrupted: an aid worker brings a life-changing gift of shoes for all the village children, and Kato feels compelled to give her something precious is return.

You are known for your free verse novels. Did you always want to write picture books as well, or was A Good Trade a new development for you?

I wrote picture books before novels but it took me a long time to get it right. I’m at awe by some of my friends who do it well—all the time.

How did you find the process of writing a picture book compared to writing a novel? Did anything surprise you?

With novel writing you have to paint a picture with words, but with picture books you have to leave room for the illustrator to do it in pictures. It wasn’t until I got into visual art myself that I was able to ‘see’ where I needed to leave things to the illustrator. What surprised me was the fact that I had more editorial edits on A Good Trade, going through every word, than I did with all my novels. After the process I swore I’d never write another picture book. Of course, that statement didn’t last long.

What inspired you to write Kato’s story?

The inspiration came from a picture of an African child I found on the Internet while looking for art references. So many of my stories come from pictures, or true stories I hear about.

One of the remarkable things about A Good Trade is that, using very few words, it manages to acknowledge the hardships of civil war and poverty in Uganda without lessening the joy and spirit of the story. Did you find this challenging? How did you approach it?

It was challenging and went through a lot of drafts to get it right. The text was always stark, but I have a fantastic critique group and a great editor who would tell me, “This verse doesn’t quite work.”

What was your favourite part of working on this book?

Finishing it? Honestly, I loved seeing Karen Patkau bring Kato to life with her fabulous illustrations. She was able to add the things the text didn’t say perfectly.

For more information about Alma Fullerton, visit her website at 

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