Kelly Crull is an author, illustrator, and photographer. His writing career began in the second grade when his teacher gave him a blank picture book and told him to tell a story. He filled an entire bookshelf at the library at his school in Iowa. His joke book even had a waitlist!
Kelly is the author of a short stack of children’s books including most recently Washed Ashore: Making Art from Ocean Plastic. Kelly’s lively school visits have been known to include reenactments of the Running of the Bulls and La Tomatina, the world’s largest food fight. Crazy fiestas like these happen every day in Spain where he lives with his wife and three children in an old stone house between a castle and a palace.
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
My favorite book as a child was Matilda by Roald Dahl. I was always doodling in class. The margins of my notebooks were filled with Quentin Blake’s illustrations.
What’s your favorite line from a book?
“Ooh!” said Susan . . . Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion. . . . "
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” —The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?
Madeleine L’Engle, Peggy Rathmann, and Oliver Jeffers
Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
In the second grade my teacher gave me a blank picture book and told me to tell a story. I filled an entire bookshelf at my school library in Iowa. My joke book even had a waitlist! Although I didn’t read very much as a child, I was always doodling in class and typing stories on my computer at home.
I consider myself a “jack of all trades.” I love to learn new things, and I love to be creative in all kinds of different ways. In addition to writing and drawing, I love music, theater, photography, video, the list goes on. I feel like making picture books is the decathlon of the publishing world. You have to know a little bit about a lot of different things—storytelling, writing, illustrating, theater (picture books are meant to be performed outloud after all), and in my case, photography—which is a perfect mix for me. Oh, and I didn’t mention that I studied to be a teacher. I love books, and I love kids!
Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
Whether or not anyone ever said this to me directly, I somehow had this notion that being an author or illustrator was not something normal people did. Then I spent a number of years working for an artist collective in Madrid, Spain, and I noticed that many of the artists in that community were normal people, with normal lives, and I wondered if maybe I could be an artist too. I started later in my life, and it has taken many years, but I think if you are willing to be patient, and you keep at it, you’ll find a way.