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Conversations with the Inspiring Sandy Ferguson Fuller

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sandy Ferguson Fuller.

Sandy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As an undergraduate in the first class of women at Yale (1969), I had the amazing opportunity to study with children’s book author/illustrator, Maurice Sendak (WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, et. al). Maurice tuned into my love of color, drawing, and passion for literary/lyrical expression. To support both habits after graduation, I worked in children’s book publishing, both in the U.S. and abroad. I continue to publish a variety of picture books. In 1990, I founded Alp Arts Co, a literary agency specializing in picture books. At peak, we represented about 50 authors, including John Denver, Carmela LaVigna Coyle, Anthony Fredericks, Deborah Bruss, and so many talents.

I’ve taught children’s publishing workshops at the University of Colorado/Boulder, University of Northern Colorado/Greeley, “I Arvada Center for Arts and Humanities, Colorado Institute of Art, Colorado Mountain College, as well as private seminars and workshops. I’m a member of SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (includes the Rocky Mountain Chapter).

My international work introduced me to foreign publishers and the incredible variety of artistic styles and expression showcased in the global picture book genre. I still represent North American rights for a few European publishers, selling their titles into the English-language market. I also work part-time at our local independent bookstore in the Vail Valley, The BookWorm of Edwards. As I approach retirement, I am returning to creating more of my own books.

The sustaining inspiration for my work is perhaps best expressed in a quote by author/illustrator Robert Lawson: “It is difficult, if not impossible, to know which of the myriad of children’s books will penetrate a given child’s own magic circle of existence and strike the clarion note of pure truth. No one can possibly tell what tiny detail of a drawing or what seemingly trivial phrase in a story will be the spark that sets of a great flash in the mind of some child, a flash that will glow there through life.”

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
A very rewarding, yet financially difficult road! As a single mother of two, I often struggled with making ends meet. Still do. I often mused, “Should have been a lawyer like my dad!” Children’s publishing is not inherently lucrative unless, of course, you’re J.K. Rowling or even Maurice Sendak! In teaching others re a career in writing/illustration, I always counseled “don’t quit your day job.” That said, it’s vital to carve out regular space in a busy daily schedule to devote to your writing and/or your artwork. Perseverance is key to success in the publishing business… also a strong, subjective belief in your work. Others might not/probably won’t share it! Of course, currently, self-publishing is much more viable than previously… it’s easier to launch your books out into the marketplace. That doesn’t equate to immediate sales or financial success… but the odds are better and the rewards more accessible. At least you can distribute your own published book at a family reunion! (Just kidding.)

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into ALP ARTS CO. story. Tell us more about it.
I am most proud of some of the projects successfully launched by Alp Arts Co. These includes the
John Denver picture books series including SUNSHINE ON MY SHOULDERS, TAKE ME HOME COUNTRY ROADS, GRANDMA’S FEATHER BED and more. We launched the DO PRINCESSES WEAR HIKING BOOTS? series by Carmela LaVigna Coyle. Several of our picture books have earned prestigious awards like the Ben Franklin (TALL TALL TREE by Anthony D. Fredericks). More than anything, I enjoy turning young kids onto new stories and characters and quality illustrations, especially from foreign countries. ELEPHANTASTIC! by Joelle Tournalais is a primo example, also her new book debuting from Two Lions/Amazon in the U.S. on September 2019, A TIGER LIKE ME. Alp Arts Co. is best known for our specialization in picture books.

Looking back on your childhood, what experiences do you feel played an important role in shaping the person you grew up to be?
My learning experiences at Cheley Colorado Camps (Estes Park, CO) gave me personal strength which has always stayed with me. At Cheley, I learned to test my limits and to overcome my fears in activities such as strenuous backpacking, mountain climbing, horseback riding, and more. I am a mountain goat, not a city slicker, primarily due to my ten-plus years as a camper and counselor there. As I approach 70, I still love to climb mountains, tackle strenuous road bike routes, camp, fish, ski, snowshoe, and revere nature. I’ve even
picked up water-skiing, but I haven’t yet overcome my fear and frustration with that most difficult sport!

I was very active in student government in high school. I learned how to lead, but ironically, I steered
away from politics as a career in college because it’s so difficult to maintain personal integrity in that hemisphere.

I attribute my love of art and music to several mentors while growing up, mostly my piano teacher
of twelve years and my elementary music teacher who taught me to play guitar.

Although my family wasn’t wealthy, I enjoyed ample privileges and never suffered from physical or financial hardship. I was able to enjoy my childhood, albeit a sheltered and naive upbringing. It wasn’t until I left home that I truly began to experience the realities of life, the highs and lows, the triumphs and the tragedies. Finally, I was able to reflect on my upbringing, gain a perspective, and grow into the person who I am today.

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Image Credit:
Photos by Kim Fuller

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