For Your Imagination

Mini-interview: Silence with Francesca Sanna

Francesca is an award-winning children’s author and illustrator, based in Zürich. You can find her at

ABCH Portraits Sanna
Francesca Sanna’s self-portrait for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2019.

i). What role does silence play in what you do?

I somehow associate silence with emptiness. Visually, for me that’s an empty page, and an empty page can be pretty scary. I recently worked on a book where I worked a lot with this concept, the empty white space, and the negative image that it creates, and this concept was associated with the feeling of anxiety, or fear, because this empty space reminds me of the fear of the white page, the blank paper.

I usually listen to something (the radio, an audiobook or a podcast) when I work, but there is usually a moment when I create a book, especially on the early stage of a project, when I need silence and some quiet time to concentrate. I think that’s the other aspect that silence has in my work: finding concentration to think about a certain concept, putting together the pieces of the puzzle that a story can be. 

ii). How does that silence feel to you?

As I mentioned already, I think for me silence has this duality. It is an empty space that can feel sometimes a bit scary, I feel my thoughts and anxieties are completely exposed, when I have silence around. At the same time this empty space makes me feel more present, I can focus on myself, on what I am doing without any distraction. Also, sometimes “empty” is also very positive: it also means I feel lighter, refreshed and that I can make space for new things that are going to come.

iii). In today’s world, people often struggle with silence. Do you feel we would benefit from a bit more silence? How could we go about finding it?

Since I associate silence with focusing on something without any distraction, I feel the best, positive way to find it is to find something that makes you happy, and find the space for being alone with that special thing. For instance, I love the silence I find in museums when I look at a painting I like, or the silence of the libraries where everyone is focused on books, getting lost in their worlds. Sometimes I also find silence in my own room, focusing on myself and my thoughts, and thinking about what is important for me and what makes me happy.


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