I am excited today to welcome Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant to Kid Lit Frenzy. Their first picture book YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL comes out this Tuesday, August 5, 2014.
Hi Anna & Christopher - First, I would like to say that I loved YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL. One of the things I enjoyed about the book was the idea that in addition to being a picture book, it can easily double as an easy reader for children just beginning to read. Consequently, it seemed to have a bit of a Dr. Seuss quality to it. So, I was wondering what inspired you to write this story in this style?
Thank you so much for your kind words. We’re both thrilled that you enjoyed the book. The writing style wasn’t a conscious decision but it naturally emerged from the dialogue, starting with the first confrontational sentence. In fact, the debate that the creatures have with each other is a conversation I’ve played out in my head since I was a child. I remember feeling indignant when told, “You are X,” or “You are not Y.” Kids do this all the time (as do adults), but as I grew older, I realized that these labels were someone else’s subjective perspective and not necessarily my truth or the whole truth. The story and writing style is a reflection of that revelation.
In most cases, writers and illustrators do not have contact with one another and communication is done through editors. In your case, there would not necessarily be a need for a middle person. This can be good and this can be...well it can be a bit of a challenge. How was it working together? Were there any challenges?
Anna: We’re still married, so that’s a good sign! Of course, for me, having Chris right downstairs was a huge bonus. I knew I didn’t want these creatures to be human or a particular animal and I could express that to Chris, who was on board with that idea from the beginning. After that point, I had to learn to keep quiet and let him do his job. Which he sometimes/often had to kindly remind me. That was the biggest challenge for me because I was trained as a visual storyteller, so when I write, I picture everything. But I’m pretty certain it was a lot tougher for Chris because I’m so opinionated. Fortunately, we’re both thrilled with the way the book came out. And we’re still talking to each other.
Christopher: Having Anna as the in-house writer to bounce ideas off of was such an asset for me. Luckily, we both have similar sensibilities so we were already on the same page when we discussed the writing and illustration. Once we found the creative space for each of us to have our own vision for the book (an important step), then we were able to move forward together and benefit from each other’s strengths. Not surprisingly, it was a like a marriage in that regard.
Anna - I noticed in your bio on the jacket flap that you like to read, travel, laugh, eat, and nap. What was the last book you read that made you laugh out loud?
It’s been a while, but off the top of my head: Naked by David Sedaris, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, and Bossypants by Tina Fey.
One place you would love to travel to?
There are so many places I’d love to visit: Africa, Eastern Europe, India, Turkey, and more specifically, Angkor Wat, Petra, Machu Picchu, the Pyramids, and a bunch of places in the U.S.
Favorite hole in the wall restaurant?
The food trucks in Los Angeles, In-N-Out Burger, and Sao Mai in the East Village. Sao Mai has great pho.
Are you a cat-napper or long afternoon naps?
I’m definitely a cat-napper. After a fifteen-minute snooze, I feel human again.
Christopher - How was the process of completing a picture book similar or different from the cartoons that you draw for The New Yorker?
I found the process to be very different. With my New Yorker cartoons, I’m the sole author and artist so it’s one direct path from my brain to the page. Also, since it’s only a single panel cartoon in black and white, the execution is quick.
As the illustrator for You Are (Not) Small, I had the opportunity to focus on Anna’s wonderful characters and bring them to life visually. I enjoyed the process of working in color, creating characters and having fun with their personalities. The visual timing for humor in a children’s book is so different than that of New Yorker cartoons as well. Being able to do both types of art was amazingly rewarding.
Children are faced with hundreds of images every day. The concept of visual literacy has become more and more critical in learning to read. Any advice for teachers who may not be as comfortable with teaching visual storytelling?
I don’t know if I’m qualified to give advice to teachers! Since the days when humans lived in caves, we have been expressing ourselves and exploring our world visually. Visual storytelling is a fundamental part of our evolution as a species. I think most people will remember a fact or concept when it’s presented visually. When combined with words, it’s even more powerful.
Any new projects that you are working on that you can tell us about?
The “sequel,” That’s (Not) Mine, will be published in August 2015.
What is your favorite independent bookstore and why?
Anna: Montclair Book Center in New Jersey because of its vibe and the sheer volume and diversity of its used books. You can easily spend an afternoon browsing. Vroman’s in Pasadena, California, because it was my haven after I had my first child.
About the illustrator and author:
Christopher Weyant's work has been published worldwide in books, newspapers, magazines, and online. His cartoons are in permanent collection at The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. Anna Kang received her MFA from USC's School of Cinematic Arts. YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL is their first children's book; they are currently at work on a sequel. They live with their children in New Jersey.
Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Christopher Weyant from YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL by Anna Kang.
Check out the other stops on the YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL Blog Tour:
Mon, Jul 28 Cracking the Cover http://www.crackingthecover.com/
Tues, Jul 29 As They Grow Up http://www.astheygrowup.com/
Wed, July 30 Susan Heim on Parenting http://susanheim.blogspot.com/
Thurs, July 31 5 Minutes for Books http://www.5minutesformom.com/category/feature-columns/5-minutes-for-books/
Fri, Aug 1 Kid Lit Frenzy http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com/
Mon, Aug 4 Geo Librarian http://geolibrarian.blogspot.com/
Tues, Aug 5 Just a Little Creativity http://www.justalittlecreativity.com/
Wed, Aug 6 Children's Book Review http://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/
Thurs, Aug 7 Children's Book Review http://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/
Fri, Aug 8 Once Upon a Story http://mariaburel.com/
Thank you to Two Lions for offering a copy of YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL to one lucky reader. Complete the Rafflecopter below in order to enter the giveaway. Participants must have a US mailing address.