Thursday, June 6, 2013

2013 Interview with Ana Isabel Ordonez

Internationally known biologist
and writer Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez is constantly embarking on new projects. Educated in Europe and a self-taught Victorian patchwork maker since the early 90s, Ordonez has presented her work in France and Luxembourg. As a scientist she holds Masters and PhDs in Genetics, Forestry and Animal Biology and has lectured extensively throughout Europe, Africa, Japan, China, New Zealand and South America on insect-plant pathology and biological control research. She has also written several articles on the value of nature. Ordonez, however, has not confined her interests to the world of science. A true Renaissance woman, she is also a reputed jazz editor, independent filmmaker, music/art promoter and producer. In 2012 she contributed tirelessly to the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial tribute with Christopher Kennedy Lawford, because she believes in her heart that true valuable art of any kind must never be forgotten. Five years earlier, in 2005 with trumpeter Herb Robertson she had founded Ruby Flower Records with the plan to produce avant-garde music, exclusively for connoisseurs and purist audiophiles with the slogan "Creatively speaking...Where the talents blossom". Only recently she decided to expand the company's offerings to also include poetry and literature for children. In our conversation she talks about her organization, how and why she is adapting it and manifests an amazing sensitivity and sense of humor on just about every aspect. Her beautifully poetic expression fills me with wonder.

Part I :
Ruby Flower Records Opens Its Doors to Ruby Flower  Publications
Tell me first off is Ruby Flower Records as prominent in the United States as it is elsewhere?
Oh, yes. It's an Indie label on two continents, America in NYC and Europe, that we established about eight years ago to promote contemporary and avant-garde music with CD and DVD recordings, CD sales of world famous jazz-players, as well as films with actors and actresses from the worlds of film and theatre, including dance projects. I feel the need to open up the company to include literature as my last endeavors have concentrated on children's stories with my own illustrations. The books are The Extraordinary Love Story of Aye Aye and Fedor and How Aye Aye Met Roibeard the Giraffe. These will be available in three languages soon on

What specifically triggered the inclusion of literature into the company's repertoire?
 I read a lot, all the time. I read names of streets, names of stores and shops. I like to stand in Times Square and read every word that pops up on the screens… a confetti word carnival!  When I’m away in countries like Japan or Israel, I try to understand.  I like to know the meaning of writings. I love the graffiti in Johannesburg and Cape Town; they are absolutely inspiring.  I like to close my eyes and listen to the brouhaha of the city but what I like the most is to listen to the sound of silence. Words are sounds, poetry…. Books have been part of my life, a long time before I established a music company. I come to illustrate my words in children's stories at a turning point in my journey. There were  a mixture  of events  that touched  me deeply  and compelled me to write the books . I needed a spark. In Latin that sparks means "to breathe into"; people call it inspiration. Besides, literature is an amazing channel  to connect  with creativity.

Why children's literature as opposed to adult?
Children's literature is mainly written by adults. If it needs to be published it has to appeal to 
adults as well. It requires, however, the use of simple sentences. Adults and children are alike, the difference  are the toys. Besides, there is an inner child inside every one of us. It just needs to be nurtured; you  don’t need to suck your thumb for that! Children are delicate, fragile, innocent , wise and amazingly help adults to improve  themselves! When children's literature touches adults, the gap is a tiny line  and it can be magical….who doesn’t like Peter Pan ,The Little Prince, Oliver Twist….?

You seem to have the mind of a poet. It is difficult for me to see a scientist's mind there. When you did the science articles you wrote about nature and insects, did you have images forming in your mind of animals interacting? 

Oh yes!. I have been passionate with Entomology since I was a child. I accomplished several degrees in the areas of the sciences I love. How blessed I am! It took many years as a scientist to discover that between art and science there is not a big difference. Insects are very inspiring creatures! I've been designing since I was in the UK. I created my first drawings and cartoon humor in 1995. I never published it. However, I published many articles in different areas and two books. My science stuff sounds boring apart from the fact that for my first Doctorate I  specialized in the sexual communications of cockroaches.  There are naughty cucaracha stories in my head…!  (hahaha!) The animals interact in my mind. Thank the Lord, I'm the person I still don't know fully.  I try to fill this gap in what I do. I pass through the illustration which  represents who I am. Though I’m a tough cookie, tender and crystalline fashion is my cup of tea.  I rediscovered the beauty of innocence and wisdom when I was 26 years old, reading the fables of La Fontaine . Interestingly enough I never read children's books when I was a child. My first book and companion for on and off periods was Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf which I discovered when I was 13 years old.

Interesting! What did your childhood consist of? What were your aspirations?

When I was a child I wanted to become a professional dancer or clown. I practiced classical dance for years. Instead I became first a scientist, then luckily a clown when I learned how to mock myself.

We all need to laugh in life especially at ourselves. Can't be too serious! Describe the process for your illustrations. Scientists usually are confined, but you seem totally open ... to people and events

I create my illustrations surrounding myself with interesting people. Those are more inspiring to readers. When I find my muse characters I dig into their soul. I love exaggerated shapes and shades. When drawing, if a character is good, I make him better; if the character is mean, I make him meaner; if rude, I make him aggressive. If he`s funny, I make him funnier and so forth. Children and adults laugh at exaggerations. There is a kind of evolution on the illustrations though. It’s the external work. Sometimes I can laugh about an illustration. I go to bed laughing. The next day I cry! It happened three times…  Disaster happens. (Haha!) That being said, it was in the UK where I knew people liked my cartoons, because they made them laugh. I'm happy when I make others happy. You can do the same illustration twice but they aren't the same. Suffice to say, only God is perfect...but that's another story…

What do you feel makes your children's stories different from other books already out there? Everyone is an individual, yes, but describe what you feel you are contributing that is unique to this literature.
With these children's book series I want to bring happiness and awareness  to others. I can 
touch people I don't  know. I also want to touch early readers with a unique love story filled with 
wisdom and to produce different volumes about a loving friendship that exists between 
threatened animals. The books are funny and candid. That’s not new. What’s new is 
showcasing one of the most endangered species in the world in a flowing fairy context. “Out of 
101 species of lemurs the aye-aye must rank as the least beautiful” said Sir Richard Brason, 
and he has reason. It is very difficult to see an Aye Aye in the wild. They are the 
ballet dancers of the primate world. To be a biologist illustrating threatened species is just a 
joy! I celebrate campaigns to defend threatened wildlife. Laughing at the same illustrations that 
children like and laugh at, is a gas!

Do you think adults will find them as interesting as the kids? If yes, in what way?
Yes they will! I have given away my illustrations to children, to teens, to adults. I know, I know I 
shouldn’t .. Even more, when I showed my illustrations to the one and only Grammy Trudy 
Morse, she cried laughing. It was an awesome moment, as Trudy and I were watching the Aye 
and Aye and laughing. Trudy is 94.! But as you know Don, “art is in the eye of the beholder”.  
The people I know are like children and interested in beauty. In preserving this planet where we 
live, we must leave something good to the new generations to come. The Aye Aye has its 
sense of identity. People have seen the illustrations. They like them and I’m like “wow they are 
laughing, that’s cool” … I know they will enjoy reading the plot. Laughter is the best medicine.

Coming next week on Interview Blog:
Part II: A Detailed Look at the two Books
(to be published in July in English, Spanish and French)