This past weekend my husband Adam and I made our annual trip to Western Massachusetts to welcome the fall season. Our primary goal on the agenda was to attend Tony and Angela DiTerlizzi's book signing at Odyssey Books in South Hadley Saturday afternoon.
Tony was there to promote his middle grade sequel A Hero for Wondla, and Angela her new picture book Say What? They both were extremely natural, enthusiastic, and fun (& funny!) with their pre-signing presentations and made for an enjoyable afternoon at the local indie book shop.
Angela read Say What? aloud and gave some back story to how she comes up with her ideas (when she isn't stealing them from her adorable daughter, that is!). I found it very interesting that her foundation for this book was beginning with a question. I think that's a great prompt for creating a picture book and something I'll keep in mind as I write my own. Also worth remembering is that inspiration can strike anywhere---even from something candidly said by your child. I may not have kids of my own from which to garner inspiration--but I do have the ability to keep my eyes and ears open for little seeds that could grow into a story. Stories are all around us, you just have to be looking for them! What I found reassuring was that not every story can or should be EPIC in its subject matter. I get overwhelmed because I like fun, lighthearted stuff but get caught up and convinced that the only thing worth writing is something epic. It's much more important to just write and have a good time enjoying the little things, too.
Tony's presentation was longer and more personal as he shared some of what he was like as a kid and how it helped shape the author and illustrator he has become. He is very conscious of understanding the things his ten year-old self liked and would like, and draws from those ideas as he creates his new material (i.e. Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan & Wendy). Although I'm not much like my 10 year old soccer/troll obsessed self who liked to read but didn't do much of it independent of the school curriculum, I absolutely believe in creating something your child self would love. After all, what's better than using your kid self as a barometer for interest? And as Tony said, it's an amazing thing to be able to put into the world something you wished was there but isn't. An exceptionally wonderful thing, actually.
Both Angela and Tony reminded me that the best way to connect with a group at this kind of even is through humor and personal anecdotes. They created a fun environment and in turn we all had a good time. Never underestimate the power of being silly and making people laugh! Being relatable, down to earth, and playful works wonders for kids and adults alike.
Tony was kind enough to sign lots of our books as well as a heap of Adam's Magic cards, and he drew a little something in a couple of books, which needless to say, is THE BEST.
It was truly inspiring to get to meet one of your favorite illustrators and to have them turn out to be so accessible, friendly, funny, gracious, and well....GREAT. Its just wonderful to see nice, insanely talented, hard-working people succeed and still be so nice to us adoring fans. Worthy role models, for sure.