|Children's picture book author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka's
books include the just-released Punk Farm on Tour, Punk Farm, Giddy Up, Cowgirl!,
My Buddy, Slug and more
Interviewer LuAnn Womach: What stories or authors inspired you when you were growing up?
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: I loved Peanuts by Charles Schulz; I pored over the comic strips, TV specials and books. My grandfather would read Dr. Seuss books to me before bedtime. I can still hear his voice telling the story of the The Sneetches on the Beaches and Iím still scared of the haunted trousers! Seriously, that kept me up for countless nights as a kid. I also loved the Mouse and the Motorcycle series and Roald Dahl books.
I can think of another children's author who has a "difficult" last name for kids (and for some adults) to pronounce. He offered a rhyming word to help with his name. Any hints to help kids learn the pronunciation of your last name?
Yes, when I was a kid, my grandfather used to tease me and would say that they were going to name me ďOscarĒ. Now, I grew up in Worcester, MA, which has a very thick New England accent, so my name would have been ďOsca KrosoczkaĒ. (Crow-sauce-KA)
I understand you won a writing contest when you were in the 9th grade. Did that drive you to write, to illustrate, or ultimately, to combine the two elements?
Yes, I won an editorial cartoon contest when I was in the 9th grade. Since it used words and pictures to tell the story, I was already combining those two elements. Seeing my work in print solidified my desire to have my work published. Back then I still wasnít sure what form that would take, be it a comic strip or comic book, but I knew that I wanted to have my work published on a professional level.
When you first applied to the Rhode Island School of Design, you were rejected. How did you persuade them that you belonged at that school?
I wish that the story went that I marched into the admissions office with my portfolio in hand and stood on a desk proclaiming my destiny. But really Ė I just applied as a transfer student for my sophomore year. I worked on my craft all freshman year and revamped my portfolio and reapplied. My portfolio from my senior year of high school was very weak compared to the portfolio I created during my 1st year of college.
You both illustrate and write your books. Which develops first: the visual picture or the story?
The very first thing that gets put down on paper is a sketch. But not too long after I fill a sketchbook page with drawings come lines or phrases that I may want to use in the book. That back and forth process continues on through the final draft of the book.
How long have you been writing children's books?
I never really know when to pinpoint the start of my career as a picture book author/illustrator. On one hand you could say since June of 2001 when my 1st book was released. On another, you can say December of 1999 when I received the contract for that book. However, if you really want to get technical, I was a college student at RISD when I put together the initial draft of My Buddy, Slug and I was in 3rd grade when I wrote and illustrated my 1st book.
Do you use personal experiences to develop the subjects for your books?
Yes and no. Oftentimes something will happen in the world around me that will trigger my imagination. For instance, I was working with a bunch of kids who were acting like a group of rock stars and that got me to thinking about a book about a band. So that real experience got me on the road to developing Punk Farm, but while I have a love for music and Iíve watched my little brother and sister play shows with various bands theyíve been in, Iíve never been in a band myself. And Iíve never seen actual animals play, but thatís only because theyíre too covert about the whole thing.
How did the idea of using a classic children's song for Punk Farm come about?
I love punk covers of songs. I think they are hysterical and have quite the collection on my iTunes. So that was probably in the back of my mind when I sat down and started drawing out the band members for the first time. It just worked perfectly for the book because the whole thing is about this band full of cute animals that are trying to act tough.
The pictures in Punk Farm really tell the story as the book uses words sparsely. How are you able to accomplish bringing out the emotional side of the characters through the pictures?
Itís all in the face, it gives away everything. Even in life, if someone is saying one thing and their face another, you can tell what their real emotions are. A cocked eyebrow, an open mouth - that is what I use to my advantage to communicate the characterís feelings.
The colors in Punk Farm are vibrant. From what medium do you create the drawings for your books or does that vary?
Thanks! My paintings are created using Windsor Newton Finity Acrylic paints. Itís the perfect paint for me. I canít deal with other brands of acrylic and I have a tough time with oil. I do like using watercolor and pencils, but I havenít been using that for my final illustrations in my books.
The Punk Farm rockers have won numerous awards. Do the boys and girls in the band plan to include you on tour?
Iíll be lucky if the band members even remember me as their star continues to rise. I donít think there will be room for me in the van, plus I bet it smells funny.
Will Punk Farm be the only book for which you've written or planned to write a sequel?
Of the books that I have so far Ė probably. Iíve kicked around a few ideas here and there for some of the other stories, but they didnít go anywhere. I think the charactersí stories ended on their bookís last page and thatís how it was meant to be.
With Punk Farm, however, creating a sequel was such a natural experience and I actually had more fun in creating it than the first book.
Punk Farm is under development for a DreamWorks feature film. How involved are you in that process?
Well, Punk Farm was under development with DreamWorks for a feature film and now while the script is still being worked on, weíre hoping to place it with a new studio soon. Iíve been reading the script and making notes on the story and hopefully my thoughts will be considered if the film gets made.
Are any of your other books under consideration for movies?
Not for movies, but there is potential for an animated series based on a book series that Iím working on right now.
Rejection stings. Did you ever feel like giving up on your writing ideas?
I definitely did. As the rejections kept coming in and no one was responding to any of my promotional postcards, I thought that the elusive publishing contract would never come.
Could you describe a typical day during the creative process?
I wish there was a typical day. But there are so many different stages in the bookís creation that itís always changing. When a deadline is looming, I work until late at night. When Iím brainstorming a new story, ideas come in sporadic bursts. When revisions are due, Iím racking my brain trying to find a creative solution to the problems that have been presented to me. And of course when school is in session, Iím traveling a lot giving presentations and readings.
As an author, do you have much control concerning the marketing of a new book?
I leave that up to the professionals at Random House. I do a lot to promote my work as an author/illustrator through the Internet and by visiting schools, and if I have any ideas I will pass them along to the appropriate people at my publisher. But in terms of how a new book is introduced to the buying public, Random House has that down to a science.
What other projects are you currently working on?
Right now Iím working on a graphic novel series called Lunch Lady. Itís about a lunch lady who fights crime. Itís a few years away from publication and I donít want to give too much away, so Iíll leave it at that.
Any advice for aspiring children's authors and illustrators?
Constantly go back and forth between these two steps:
Repeat this process until you have a book contract.
- Work on your craft, strive to improve upon your writing and/or illustration skills.
- Send your work to publishers, wait for it to be rejected and then send it out to another publisher.
Which of your characters is most like you based on personality and temperament?
I would say that there is probably a little bit of me in each of them. As in My Buddy, Slug, there have been times when Iíve been the overzealous friend and times when Iíve been the cranky friend. Of the Punk Farm characters, Iíd say that I identify with Sheep the most because he wants nothing more than for Punk Farm to be a good band.
You're getting married - congratulations! Does your future wife assist with any of your writing ventures?
Thanks! Yes, the big day is nearly here! I told her about this question and she laughed saying that everyone could watch my career spiral downward if she did assist me. But that isnít true at all! Iím always bouncing ideas off of her and when she responds positively, I know Iím on to something. Sheís an honest critic whose #1 job is to love and support me, so I have no doubt my books will only get better because of her.
If you look closely, I painted her into Punk Farm on Tour and named a brand of pretzels after her.
What can we (society) do to instill a love of reading in young children and keep that passion for books alive as a child ages?
Read together, read often and make reading fun! If reading becomes a group activity, the child is empowered to make some book selections of their own and the power of the imagination behind these stories are valued, a love for reading will be instilled through adulthood.
Contributing reviewer LuAnn Womach interviewed Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of Punk Farm and Punk Farm on Tour about his books via email for curledup.com. This text is the property of LuAnn Womach and the author for whom it is intended. No part may be reproduced without permission.