How many authors do you know of who hold a personal goal of a “50 State Author Visit Challenge”? How wonderful is that?! Timothy Young has already entertained and educated students in hundreds of schools, particularly in the Northeast, over the past decade. His illustrious career has included diverse creative directions such as animation, toy design, sculpting, magazine illustration, graphic and website design, as well as art direction.
Timothy is also the author and illustrator of numerous picture books. If you haven’t checked out I Hate Picture Books!, If You Give the Puffin a Muffin, Do Not Open The Box! or I’m Going To Outer Space! then you don’t know what you’re missing!
I met Timothy at a New York book fair this year where we were signing books and mingling with the day’s book festival crowd. As a fan of his artwork and picture books, it was an honor to finally connect with him in person. He is kind, engaging, and has a warm, friendly smile.
Because Timothy’s website and blogs are chock full of interesting ideas, tips, experience, and inspiration (https://creaturesandcharacters.com), I think our interview can afford to be a bit more quirky!
First though, I have a couple of questions regarding his books.
In your funny 2019 picture book, Untitled, the characters aren’t sure who they are suppose to be nor do they know the plot they are to follow. Would you say you’re someone who “plots” out your path or do you find you “wing it” most of the time?
Timothy: “I do a bit of both. With this book, much of the idea flowed out quickly. I wrote three-quarters of the book in one sitting. I then started designing the characters and doing thumbnails of the spreads. During that phase more plot ideas came, including the ending. The title of the book changed a few times and I started referring to it as “untitled”. Once I realized that it was the perfect title, I tweaked the story a bit and added the final lines of the book.”
The Angry Puffin does a great job of appropriately depicting frustration and loneliness, and allows options for a child to deal with anger and connect with others if needed. When you’re frustrated with a project, how do you deal with it?
“I pull my hair and stomp around! Not really, if I’m stuck and need inspiration I stop trying to work it out and take a walk or drive somewhere. I have had a lot of good ideas pop into my head while driving. I’ve even written 3 books that way. It helps to have a good memory since I can’t type while driving.”
Now to what inquiring minds want to know –ha!
I’d never do this again:
“Not pay close attention when proofing a book, no matter how busy I am. I was finishing Creatures and Characters when I received my proof for I’m Going To Outer Space! I didn’t notice that some of the text was missing and neither did the editors. The book ended up being delayed by a few months. My publisher and I had gotten a little too comfortable with one another and assumed that since everything in the past had gone so smoothly, it always would. We learned our lesson: Always check your work!”
My guilty pleasure is:
“Ice cream. Recently two new ice cream parlors opened in our town. I’m trying to lose weight and they did this just to tempt me.”
My worst habit is:
“My wife would say that I can never just sit and relax. I work for myself so my boss is tough on me. I am always working on something. If I’m not doing a client’s job, I’m working on an illustration or writing a book. If I’m not doing that, I’m on social media promoting or posting a picture to Instagram, or I’m working on something around the house or sending out emails to try and book school visits.”
I’d love to be stuck in an elevator with:
“Somebody who fixes elevators!”
One of my very favorite books is:
“Wow, that’s always one of the hardest questions! Do I pick something from my childhood like Go, Dog, Go? Should it be a classic like The Grapes of Wrath or great science fiction like The Martian Chronicles? Ok, I can narrow it down to a favorite specific book that I own – my copy of The Lorax, signed by Dr. Seuss himself at a NYC bookstore from when I was in college.”
I have an irrational fear of:
“Heights, but in a weird way. Most people say that looking down bothers them when they are up high. If I’m on ladder or up on a mountain enjoying the view I get queasy if I look up.”
My hero is:
“The educators I meet when I’m visiting schools. I get to go into a school and treat the students to my assemblies. They get to see me at my best and I get to see them when they are happy, excited and having a great time. Everybody has good days and bad days, and teachers and librarians are there for those kids when they really need help through the bad times. I admire that so much.”
Star Trek or Lost in Space?
“I have references for both shows in my book I’m Going to Outer Space! While I would have loved to be on the Enterprise, I would be asking Captain Kirk to introduce me to Spock. And as a kid I wanted to be Will Robinson so I could hang around with B9. I took a picture with him, my favorite robot, at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.”
A funny question asked by a student:
“I draw for the students during my presentations. Last year, after I had drawn the Puffin from The Angry Little Puffin, someone asked if I could draw with my eyes closed. I said I did not know but I accepted the challenge. I was surprised that it was fairly recognizable if not a bit cubist.”
A song that could be the soundtrack to my life recently:
“With the 50th anniversary of Woodstock in the news, Joe Cocker’s version of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” has been going through my head. Working for myself can be a bit isolating at times. I’ve been so happy in the past decade to have reconnected with old friends and made so many new ones on social media. It’s also been helpful when friends talk about my books and refer me to schools. With all these friends around the world I feel so connected.”
Thanks Raven for such a fun interview!