Leslie Portriat under trees

Leslie Tryon

I began drawing almost as soon as I learned to walk.

I began drawing almost as soon as I learned to walk. I toddled into the studio, which was the room right next to mine, and discovered my father’s art supplies! I wasn’t really interested in the oil paints that he used, I went for the charcoal, the colored pencils and ink!

I wrote and illustrated my first full story when I was in fifth grade. I was a new student in a private school in Rhode Island, a world apart from my little country school in California. I discovered that year that I had come from a long line of writers because of the wonderful letters I found, written by earlier generations of Sullivans. All the letters were addressed to 68 Mercer Street which is where they remained, in that house; in a candy box, a cookie tin and a cigar box, all under my bed--the very same bed my mother slept in as a child. I still have those letters and read them often.

I might have begun my career as an author and illustrator much earlier if I hadn’t become a dancer first. I’ve learned that dance, writing and illustration make the same demands on an artist: discipline, respect for process and patience.

I’m delighted to know that my books are embraced by teachers and librarians. I have volunteered in a first-grade classroom, in my neighborhood school, since 1990. The children have given me so much over the years; they’ve told me their stories, made me laugh and given me unconditional hugs and love. The ALA Notable Albert’s Alphabet is set on a school playground. Seven Albert books followed; some like Albert’s Field Trip, Albert’s Thanksgiving and Patsy Says are stories set in my fictional Pleasant Valley Elementary School. Life imitates art, which imitates life . . .

My roots are deeply set on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, in Rhode Island, where I spent my summers as a child, and on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, in California when I lived in Carmel Valley, and now in Westerly, Rhode Island where I live just half mile from the ocean and two blocks from the river. Those places and my husband, relatives, friends and countless pets continue to encourage and inspire me.