Frequently Asked Questions
Some questions adults and children ask me, in no particular order:
Can you help me get my children’s book published? What is the best way to get a children’s book published?
NO, I really can’t help people get their books published directly. I am not an editor, and not a publisher, and I have weird taste in children’s books anyway, and furthermore, you might easily not like what I have to say about your book, or about how hard it is to get a book published. No one wants to hear bad news, I understand that completely, but if you want to get a children’s book published you have to dedicate yourself to the task for a long time, just as you would have to dedicate yourself to nursing for a number of years before you could become a nurse. Someone once said to Dr. Seuss at a cocktail party:
“I’m a neurosugeon and I’m about to retire, and I’m planning on writing children’s books!”
Without missing a beat Dr. Seuss replied: “That’s amazing! I write children’s books and I’m about to retire and I’m planning on becoming a neurosurgeon!”
But seriously, if you are interested in learning about children’s books, take a class, get involved, join SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in Los Angeles: SCBWI.org
It is possible to get a book published and there are lots of publishers, you just need a little determination and patience and a desire to do something wonderful for children.
What is your favorite color?
Blue. Deep Blue. Royal blue. Blue Blue Blue!
Do you drive a limo?
(A second grader once asked me this, for real) No.
Which book is your favorite?
That’s a little like asking a mother which child of hers is her favorite. How could you name one? I always feel self-conscious, naked when a book comes out, but then if I read it to kids and see that they like, I’m happy. That’s what it’s all about.
But really, I think my favorite is Art Dog. I can still read it to kids and not get bored.
“Can this guy draw? Is he sure he can draw?”
(A kindergartener asked me this while I was drawing in front of about 300 kids.) NO, I’m not sure I can draw at all, and I worry that someday everyone else will discover that I can’t draw.
How long does it take to make a book?
Some books take much longer than others. I wrote Little Mouse’s Big Valentine in about two weeks, and it came out a year later. Art Dog took years to write. It took a long time to work out the story. Bongo Fishing, my novel for 8-12 year-olds, took five years to write, but I wasn’t working on it all the time. Still, I do work pretty slowly.
Didn’t your father write Goodnight Moon?
No, but he did illustrate it. If you want to read all about Goodnight Moon and Margaret Wise Brown, read Leonard Marcus’ book Awakened by the Moon.
What are your hobbies?
I take photographs and I print them using an old process called copper plate photogravure (see the photogravure section of this website), and I do woodworking, and I grow a vegetable garden in the summer, and I meditate. Meditation keeps me sane….
What was it like growing up in a family of artists?
It was pretty normal, really, except that I loved going to my father’s studio and watching him work and think about a book, and my mother always read to me before bed, all sorts of books and she had a beautiful way of reading that really made you love whatever book she was reading. She truly instilled in me a love of writing and good stories.
Are you ever going to retire?
I guess if I ever really stopped having ideas for books I wouldn’t know what to do. Retire? Can artists retire? I’m not sure. But I’ll probably never play golf….
What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
Sailor Dog, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Garth Williams. A really great, perfect children’s book.
I also love the books of Taro Yashima, such as Crow Boy.