WISCONSIN • TEXAS • ALASKA
I was born in Wisconsin, moved quickly south to Texas, and then followed my parents to Anchorage, Alaska.
Living in the "Last Frontier" from 1974-1983 doesn't have a lot to do with children's books, but those memories are very important to me. Alaska, more than any other place, defines my childhood - contains it - and keeps it alive.
Like kids in many places, I explored the woods, floated tinfoil canoes in the gutter, and played with friends. As an Alaskan, I loved trout fishing, the snow, and the Fur Rendevous celebrations in winter. I got pretty comfortable with the occasional moose wandering through our yard, and once-upon-a-sledding-expedition, I was even run-over by a dog sled!
I also loved to draw. At one point, my friend Robert decided that we should be brain surgeons because we had steady hands from all of our dinosaur doodling in 4th and 5th grade :) That sounds great, but I am not a brain surgeon. Amazingly enough, Robert is!
COLORADO • TEXAS • MINNESOTA • WASHINGTON • MINNESOTA...My family moved a few more times over several years and drawing (and soccer) were my primary way of finding friends in each new place.
In Minnesota, a terrific high school art teacher kept my artistic interests alive and somewhere between pop-up books and printmaking it seemed like living as an ARTIST of some kind or another - graphic designer, architect, animator - would be a pretty great thing to do.
After graduating from Carleton College in 1994 with a degree in Art and a K-12 teaching certificate, I more practically followed in the footsteps of that illustrious high school art teacher. Between substitute teaching assignments however, I kept creating doodles and drawing of my own and I started telling stories in my sketchbook. I discovered simultaneously that these drawings and ideas were a powerful connector to the kids that I was trying to teach. I could teach art of course, but I also gained immeasurable satisfaction from making art of my own. A poem from that period of my life sums it up as well:
As much as teaching appealed to me, I needed an creative outlet of my own. And picture books it seemed, were what I needed to do. After reading and researching I tried to get serious about creating a suitable portfolio. During this process, and over several years, I eventually stumbled upon the ideas for my first book, The Practically Perfect Pajamas.
Freeway sunrise, sumac fire,
What is it that I desire?
Longer days and time to sit,
Try to get my soul fire lit.
While not so simple as that of course, this is where my work as a writer and illustrator began.
AH HA!I love telling stories and creating the art to go with them. I've had the enviable honor of illustrating the work of Betsy Byars, Shirley Climo, and Eric Kimmel - just to name a few - and with each book I learn something new about painting, drawing, and expressing these ideas in the art form of a book. And I know that this will always be the case! Occassional sleepless nights and deadlines aside, I love what I do -- I don't even mind the all nighters that much -- I just get tired :)
WINTHROP, WA, U.S.A
most handsome mutt of a dog that you will ever meet. Expect Max to have a book of his own someday. If I don't write it, Max'll take matters into his own paws! When not drawing, writing, or visiting schools and libraries, I also coach at the local high school, run, ski, or wandering the foothills of the Cascade mountains. My wife and I also spend a fair bit of time chasing after the kid - just living!