Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Sue Macartney

© Sue Macartney

June 26, 2020

We are excited to feature Sue Macartney and her debut as an author-illustrator of the picture book, BENJAMIN'S BLUE FEET (Pajama Press, July 14, 2020). Enter to win a copy!





Tell us about yourself and how you came to write and illustrate for children.

A lot of my childhood was spent living overseas and from an early age drawing and reading became my favourite go-to activities. I spent hours drawing my own characters and creating “things”. I remember the excitement of getting my first paint set and still have my first kid’s film camera – (plus the photos of some of my “headless” subjects!) 

© Sue Macartney
I have also always loved nature. As a kid, slimy, slithery and leggy things were objects of fascination (still are). In high school my love of art competed with a growing love of writing and science. I ended up doing both – first getting an MA in Anthropology and then training as a graphic designer. Throughout I continued to explore my creative side and was propelled back towards writing and illustrating for kids when I became involved with the kidlit community.

Congrats on your debut picture book, BENJAMIN'S BLUE FEET. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

Thank you! BENJAMIN’S BLUE FEET is the story of a curious, little Blue-footed booby from the Galapagos Islands. He has an exceptional talent for treasure spotting and one day he discovers a mirror. Benjamin is thrilled with his new find until it leads him to doubt himself. He uses his other treasures to try to change his appearance and in the process learns something very important about his own strengths.

© Sue Macartney


Working with young children as an art educator I’ve been struck by just how early they can start comparing themselves negatively to others. I wanted to gently explore this topic in picture book format with a universally accessible main character – enter the delightful Blue-footed booby, which has intrigued me for some time. Benjamin’s “treasures” are actually garbage and an afterword about “trash” also provides a stepping off point for parents to talk about ocean pollution.


© Sue Macartney




Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

Absolutely “long and winding”! My passion for the arts and the sciences, plus an adult life of overseas postings with my partner’s work has taken me along many interesting paths and smack up against a few forks in the road. But with all the twists and turns, the underlying drive to write stories for kids has never left me.
© Sue Macartney

What projects are you working on now, and are you able to concentrate?

I’m very excited to share that following on the success of A WORLD OF KINDNESS, Pajama Press is releasing a second book for children called A WORLD OF MINDFULNESS: Octorber 2020. 

It’s a collection of original artwork by fourteen artists accompanied by meditative text designed to create moments of quiet for children. After finishing BENJAMIN I was working on my illustration for this collection.
© Sue Macartney

I also have a couple of picture book stories and an idea for a non-fiction, MG story, which I continue to circle around. Yes, focusing has been an issue lately...

Like many, we have an adult child sheltering at home these days so there are lots of different rhythms to navigate. 

Do the words or images come first to you when you create your stories?

It really feels like a “simulcast” with the word and image channels broadcasting together. 

What advice would you give to aspiring author-illustrators?

If you have a strong sense that this is something you are meant to do – persist!

Endeavour to make your drawing and writing consistent habits and record all those random story ideas that fill your head – all of them! Reach out to the kidlit writing community – there is a phenomenal wealth of advice and education available out there. And if it doesn’t come naturally to you, learn how to take those important steps forward towards your goal.



What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I did a stint as an embassy chauffeur and my first illustration payment was for a cartoon in Skin Diver magazine.

Where can people find you online?

Twitter: @suesumac
Instagram: www.instagram.com/suemacartney/

Sue Macartney received an honours certificate in Graphic Design from Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology and worked as a free-lance graphic designer for over 20 years. She currently works as a nature sketch artist/educator at The Bateman Foundation. BENJAMIN’S BLUE FEET: Pajama Press – June 2020 is her debut book as an author-illustrator.
After a lifetime of travel Sue now lives in Victoria, British Columbia with her husband and backyard full of birds.



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21 comments:

  1. Nature has inspired most of my writing too. I enjoy observing and learning about it, even right in my own backyard. Congrats on this fun book!

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  2. Congrats on the book, Sue! Benjamin is adorable!

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  3. I've been a graphic designer for about 20 years as well. I just can't seem to translate that into illustration! I so admire people who can!

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  4. I'm so excited for your PB! We have a stuffed blue-footed booby in our living room from the World Wildlife Fed. I've wanted to write a PB about him, but so far the right concept hasn't struck me. The concept behind Benjamin's story sounds terrific.

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    1. Manju - thank you for your kind words! I have my own little blue-footed booby mascot (felted) that my husband gave me for encouragement:)

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  5. Congratulations, Sue! I love the cover of your book!

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  6. I went to the Galapogos for our honeymoon 30 years ago! Loved the blue-footed bobbies. Congrats on your book!

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    1. On my dream bucket list! What a wonderful honeymoon destination:) Thanks!

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  7. Boobies are one of our favorite birds so I'm already a Benjamin fan. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this fun book.

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    1. Thank you so much! Such fascinating birds. Good luck for raffle!:)

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  8. I always thought one of these colorful characters should star in a picture book--can't wait to read yours (and I love the personable booby on the cover)!

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  9. Love the blue feet! And a mirror! Looking forward to reading this. Congrats!

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  10. I love picture books that celebrate characters with a difference.

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  11. My parents have been to the Galapagos many times and have tons of pictures of the blue-footed boobies!

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  12. Love your artwork! Great interview.

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  13. Congratulations! I'm partial to the name Benjamin, it's my son's name. Looking forward to reading your book!

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