Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: How long does it take to write a book?
A: It depends on the book. I've written a manuscript (and re-written it many times) in as few as three months. Sometimes it takes a lot longer. Several of my story ideas have been with me for twenty years, and I still haven’t decided on the best way to tell them!
- Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: Ideas can come from lots of different places: things that you like to do or you've done in the past, things that you see that make you curious, or things that people you know might say or do. There are lots of ideas everywhere, and all you have to do is start paying attention to things around you. Also, when you get an idea, write it down in a notebook or a sketchbook, so you won’t forget it!
- Q: I’ve written a children’s book. Will you illustrate it for me?
A: It’s normally the editor and art director at a publishing house who choose the illustrator for a book, and if you want to suggest me as a potential illustrator for your work when you submit it, I'd be honored. It's important to know that you don’t need to have an illustrator with you before you submit a manuscript for publication—the most important thing is that your story is as strong as it can be when you submit it.
- Q: Would you be willing to read my manuscript and give me some advice?
A: Though I enjoy providing critiques in certain professional circumstances, I’ve been advised not to read other people's manuscripts any more. It could get very awkward if someone sent me a manuscript similar to something I was already working on!
- Q: What were your favorite books when you were a kid?
A: My favorite book when I was very young was Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever. Other early favorites were The Wonderful Treehouse by Harold Longman and illustrated by Harry Devlin, Why I Built the Boogle House, by Helen Palmer, Drummer Hoff by Barbara and Ed Emberley, and Fortunately, by Remy Charlip. When I was a little older I loved Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain, Helen Bush’s Mary Anning’s Treasures, and all of the children’s books by Jane Langton (The Diamond in the Window, The Swing in the Summerhouse, etc.). I also enjoyed reading Edward Eager’s magic books (including Half Magic and The Well Wishers).
- Q: Of the books you’ve done, what’s your favorite?
A: I’d bet most authors or illustrators would answer that whatever they’re working on when you ask the question is their favorite. However, for a number of reasons, if I HAD to choose, I'd say my favorite book so far is The Rough Patch, a meditation on grief and the anger which sometimes accompanies it . . . and on hope.
- Q: Do you ever give up?
A: Sometimes I’ll work on an idea for a while, and then decide that it either doesn’t really work as a book, or isn’t something that I want to spend more time on. But I’ve definitely found that persistence is the best way to succeed.
- Q: Does your hand hurt after you draw a book?
A: If I’m working seven days a week to get a book finished, my hand will start to hurt a bit. But I can paint or draw for eight or more hours a day and not have it bother me. What gets really tired is my head. It’s hard to keep your concentration going after many hours of work.
Q: Why did you become an author and illustrator?
A: I’ve always loved coming up with ideas and putting them down on paper, whether it was writing or doodling. Writing and illustrating children's books seemed the best way to do something I loved.
- Q: What do you like most about writing?
A: I like making stuff up. And writing is an opportunity to get ideas down on paper so that I can share them with other people. My hope is that, if I do it well, a story I create will actually seem real to some readers.
- Q: Does writing and illustrating books become easy after a while?
A: Mostly, no. Both writing and drawing take a lot of time and effort, and they never feel easy. But at the same time, as I do more and more books, I feel more comfortable in my own drawing and writing style. It has become more fun than it was in the beginning.
- Q: When you were young, were teachers impressed by your stories?
A: No, I don’t think so. I think I was probably seen as a creative student, and I clearly loved to write and draw, but I don’t think I was ever considered “a future author/illustrator.”
- Q: Which one do you like better, writing or drawing?
A: That's a hard question to answer. I like both, and find both incredibly frustrating. To me, that's like asking "Do you like verbs or nouns better?" They're both important in a sentence, and writing and drawing are both equally important in creating a picture book. To me the most important thing is story, and the words and pictures both work in service of that story.
- Q: Have you ever written a book about seasons or holidays?
A: No—so far, the stories I want to tell haven’t been tied into seasons or holidays. I do think it’d be fun to do a Halloween book some day, but there are lots and lots of them already. Some people think my bat books are Halloween stories, but they're not—if you look at them, not a single one takes place at Halloween time! Also, if you do a season/holiday book, you’re limiting when people read your stories to that time of year. Bookstores will stock your book in the month before the holiday, and the day after. . . off the shelves they come.