Thanks so much for visiting HipWriterMama, my blog about children's books, authors and readergirlz!

It's time for a change. I've decided to focus my attention on my writing blog, www.vivianleemahoney.com. Hope to see you there!


Friday, October 26, 2007

Robert's Snow: Interview with David Ezra Stein

Nobody is allowed to bid on this snowflake. It's mine, I tell you. All mine. I know. I'm being selfish. But seriously. I want this snowflake. Not because the artist, David Ezra Stein, is one talented guy. Which he is. And not because he's on Fuse #8's HMOCL list.

And not even because David Ezra Stein wrote two books starring a character named Ned. Though I think the snowflake should weigh heavily in my favor since my husband's name is Ned. And while I'm at it, how about the coincidence that David's middle name is Ezra and that's the first name of the man who founded my alma mater.

Okay. I know I'm stretching the reasons why I deserve this snowflake. But, seriously. Look at this snowflake! David used acrylic and black ink...simple materials for a beautiful snowflake that has my name all over it...all because it reminds me of a cute version of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz and all that he wanted...Courage. Pure and simple. Courage.

David has written and illustrated four picture books: Cowboy Ned & Andy, Ned's New Friend, Leaves and Monster Hug! His illustrations and books are joyous, sweet and charming. Perfect for hanging out with your little one(s) and reading out loud. And congratulations is in order for David--Leaves was recently awarded the New York Public Library, Best Books of 2007.

David was kind enough to agree to an interview. Little did he know what he was getting into. Without further ado...I'd like to welcome David Ezra Stein.

HWM: What made you realize you wanted to write and illustrate children’s books?
David: In senior year of Parsons, where I was studying illustration, I had a teacher named Pat Cummings who was a real, live children's book author and illustrator. Meeting someone who makes her living that way put the idea into my head that I could do the same. She told me she loved my class work and I had a good shot at getting published. During that semester, I suddenly remembered how I'd loved books a child, and how I'd always written stories for pleasure, and it all fell into place. Well, not right away; it took four years before I sold my first book.

HWM: Which came first, the illustration or the writing? How did this all come about?
David: Well, if you go back to the age of three, I was already drawing. Writing had to wait until I could read, of course. I remember in school we had special time set aside to work on our own books. This was in first or second grade. My friend and I collaborated on a 100-page book about Charlie Brown. It was all pictures, and I don't know if we ever made it to 100, but it was ambitious. I also drew more than my share of spaceships bristling with guns.

I kept on drawing and writing all through school. It came from a very personal need, not from any real outside source. When I finally published my first book, it was like the public tip of a very big personal iceberg of work...if you catch my drift.

HWM: Your website is wonderful. How involved were you in the design of it?
David: Thank you! I created it all on my own. I have been building my own websites for about 5 years now (i.e., as long as I've had one). I hope folks come visit me and my books there. There's a cool book-making project up, and I will soon be selling prints of my artwork there, among other things.

HWM: The picture book market is tough to get into nowadays. What do you think sets your work apart from the other picture books out there?
David: I don't quite know the answer; Maybe you should ask my editors and art directors! All I know is that the picture book form is very close to my heart, and when I look at the bookshelves in the store I just know there's room for me up there. It's like there's a big conversation going on, and I have something to say that I need to add to it!

HWM: How do you come up with the ideas for your books and artwork? Tell me about your books and any new projects you’d like to share.
David: I have ideas every day. I believe everyone can. The "trick" is to listen to and honor those ideas. Write them down. Draw them. Edison said something like, "The best way to have a great idea is to have a lot of ideas."

Some of my books start as words, some as pictures, and sometimes (like with the book Leaves) the words and pictures come all at once. When an idea meets up with an emotional impetus–a need–a story is born. I believe a story has to need to be told. The way I tell stories is in the picture book format. It is one of my native languages. (After all, my parents and grandparents read to me very early on.)

HWM: Tell me about the snowflake you designed. What inspired you to design “The Mane Event”—I saw a picture of it on the Robert’s Snow website and it’s awesome. It reminds me of the Lion in the Wizard of Oz.
David: "The Mane Event" was inspired by the shape of the snowflake I was given. It was kind of the first impulse I had on viewing that shape. The mane seemed to be gathered in bunches, hence the bows. I imagined someone had tied the lion's mane in ribbons (while he was sleeping perhaps), and this was his first reaction on looking in the mirror.

HWM: Why did you get involved in Robert’s Snow? Have you created other snowflakes in the past?
David: This was my first time participating in Robert's Snow, mainly because I'd never heard of it before this year. It was a good chance to be part of a community of artists and help a good cause. It is all the more important to me because I lost someone close to me to cancer a few years ago.

HWM: What has been the biggest surprise of your career?
So far, that achieving a dream is only the beginning. There's always more work to do, more learning, more decisions to make. Enjoy the process!

HWM: If you could share any unique tip to aspiring illustrators/writers, what would it be?
David: Work, work, work! Don't wait for someone to invite you, pay you, or beg you. While you're waiting to hear about one manuscript, work on another. Welcome your ideas, be a good host to them. And always keep a sense of joy in what you do.

HWM: What was the best illustration/writing advice someone ever gave you?
My drawing teacher always said: Look at what you're drawing, not at the paper.

Hipwritermama's Curiosities:
HWM: Will you be posting more on your blog?
Sure, I plan to post news regularly on my blog. Sometimes I even post pages from my sketchbooks.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
Not a what, but a who: my wife. That's how I fell in love with her.

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
The power to know the truth no matter what distractions are around.

Thank you David!
Here are today's featured snowflakes:

Juli Kangas at Sam Riddleburger's blog
Ginger Nielson at Miss O's School Library
Margot Apple at Jo's Journal

For more information on the master schedule of the featured snowflakes, head on over to 7-Imp. Please think about bidding for a snowflake in the Robert's Snow auction for yourself or a loved one. Treat yourself to some creative goodness and help raise money to fight cancer. Come on, let's make this the year!


Mary Lee said...

GRRRRRrrrrreat interview and snowflake! It'll be hard, but I'll hold off on bidding on this one since you have so many close (and obscure) connections that make it *yours!*

Sara said...

How could someone see the cover of one of his books and NOT want to pick all of them up? They are irresistible. The snowflake, too, but I won't roar at you if you get it instead of me, Vivian.

And I love it when he says to "Work, work, work! Don't wait for someone to invite you, pay you, or beg you."

jama said...

"The power to know the truth no matter what distractions are around." The picture book being one of his native languages?
I LOVE THIS MAN! Thank you so much for this heartfelt interview. That lion is roaring just for me.

jules said...

I've been the MOST eager to see THIS feature. I love his art work. I have a piece for ForeWord Magazine up this week that includes this statement: "I think an up-and-coming picture book illustrator we all can get most excited about this year, other than the obscenely talented Jonathan Bean, is David Ezra Stein" (in my review of Monster Hug!). 'Cause I LOVE LOVE LOVE his books. Man, he's talented. I'm so glad he decided to make picture books.

And I love this: "It's like there's a big conversation going on, and I have something to say that I need to add to it!" If all the reading I do to my wee girls right now will make them want to be picture book illustrators/authors -- like with him -- I'll be very happy, indeed.

My David Ezra Stein name coincidence? I believe his wife's name is Miriam -- now, that makes me sound like some stalker, but I think I read it in one of his book's dedications. And that's my daughter's name. At least here in the South, it's very unusual to come across that name. (Sometimes people don't even know what I'm saying when I say the name. They look at me like I have a bad scalp infection: "Huh? Marion? Mary-um?"). I think it's a beautiful name.

THANKS, Vivia and David. Fabulous write-up! LOVE LOVE that snowflake. Love love LOVE that he's making picture books now. I see big things coming from him -- shoot, he's already done some amazing stuff. Leaves and Monster Hug! are two of the best books I've seen this year.

m. thompson said...

I love how he says his wife makes him laugh. Talent, looks and love. Sigh...

TadMack said...

Vivian, what a great argument that you deserve the snowflake! Too bad it's SO not going to work. The 'mane' is -- again -- my hair. That's WAY more personal, right??

:) great interview!

HipWriterMama said...

Oh, man. You guys just make me laugh. Okay, okay. You can all bid on David's snowflake. And may the best bidder win!

Tadmack, Oooo. You've got a good point. But how about I tell you that David is from New York, and I grew up in New York. Well, Upstate, not the city. And... ;-)

MotherReader said...

Great interview. I hadn't seen one with him before - or hadn't sought one out - and now he'll definitely be on my radar screen.

But I'll leave the snowflake bidding to you.

Susan said...

Vivian, are you a Westchester girl? Anyway, thanks for this interview. Leaves and Monster Hug are going on my list! Gracias.

I have totally enjoyed finding out more about the picture book artists and their work during Robert's Snow. Yay!

HipWriterMama said...

No such luck. I'm only a Westchester gal by association. Most of my long-time college friends were from Westchester, so I got to visit quite a few suburbs through the years.

LibTech said...

I do love the book. Illustrations are great. Too bad its not original. Any one really interested should look at Fletcher and the Falling Leaves. That was published way before Leaves.

Anonymous said...

Actually it's just a coincidence. Leaves pubbed the year after Fletcher, and it takes a year for a book to be printed. Leaves was in fact written in 2004.