What was your favorite book when you were a child?
When our second grade teacher took us to the school library for the first time (circa 1959), I thought I was in paradise. After the librarian delivered her don’t-do-this and don’t-do-that instructions, we were free to roam the stacks. I felt free, alive, and light while scanning spines and opening books to read from their pages, often at random. That first time I found a biography of Lou Gehrig and, being a baseball fanatic, checked it out. I totally relived the drama of Gehrig’s remarkable life during reading hour in class and at home. From then on, I read voraciously, about anything and everything. (Sorry, but I don’t remember the title or author of the Gehrig book!)
What’s your favorite line from a book?
“The way that can be described is not the eternal way.” (Lao-Tzu, Tao te Ching).
Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?
Lao-Tzu, Charles Reznikoff, Marc Chagall
Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
For the first 18 years of my life, I disliked writing. I found it difficult to organize my thoughts as I was prone to tangents. Then I read Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. The freedom of his thoughts and the long, prose-like lines of poetry inspired me to write in order to find out what I didn’t (versus did) know. Overnight, writing became pleasurable, and I have followed and woven its often unexpected threads ever since.
Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
Use your lie detector to figure out if people giving you advice—be it teachers, friends, family members, editors, etc.—know what they are talking about and have your best interests in mind. Ultimately, you need to trust your own voice, but you can’t always do it alone, so don’t be shy about seeking out mentors who support and don’t hinder you in your creative journey.