It’s been a hectic season for Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who has had four books published in quick succession. Chronicle released Duck! Rabbit! and Little Oink. Spoon rolled off press from Hyperion and Yes Day! is out from HarperCollins. The Chicago resident has been touring to promote her Chronicle titles, and was in for several bookstore signings when Bookshelf caught up with her to talk about her current and future projects.
An obvious opening question, given your full roster of spring releases: how do you fit it all in?
I work hard and I work every day. I have my ritual. I always say that my PhD—I don’t have a real one—stands for “putting in the hours daily.” I don’t mind hard work and I love what I do. It’s a funny thing about this business. I have a job that leaves me with something tangible at the end, something to show for all the work. I like that.
You have at least six more books scheduled for publication over the next year or so. Where do your ideas come from?
My eyes are always open and I happen to like thinking, which has helped me to do a wide range of books.
Would you say that your own children provide inspiration for your picture books?
I have three kids, ages 12, 14 and 16. Obviously they are a huge part of my world and they have certainly helped me over the years in certain ways. It’s not so much that they’ve given me ideas for book subjects, but they do offer astute observations, suggestions and tweaks.
Duck! Rabbit!, which you created with Tom Lichtenheld, is a very creative take on an optical illusion. What was the genesis of that book?
Last June, Tom and I were speaking at an elementary school together. A big part of our presentation has to do with our love of word play, palindromes, looking at the alphabet in new and fun ways, visual puns. We were drawing stuff for the kids on an easel. And it was then that Tom ad-libbed something: he drew the duck/rabbit image and then asked the kids—and me—what it looked like. There was a brief pause as everyone deciphered the image—and then an enormous burst of “Oohs” and “Ahs” and “Cooooool!” from the kids—and from me. I could hardly contain my excitement about his little creature and when we were done with the kids, I pulled Tom aside and said, “Tom, that’s a book!”
And how did you transform that duck/rabbit creature into an actual book?
Right after first seeing this creature, I heard the “voice” of the book. I could just hear the two kids in my head debating, each one certain that he/she was right: “It’s a duck. Are you crazy? It’s a rabbit!” I went home to write the first draft of the book. Tom and I met at a Starbucks a week or so later to work on it together. It was a memorable creative jam session for us. Tom returned to his studio to sketch out the book, and then we promptly sent it off to our agent, Amy Rennert, who promptly sent it on to Victoria Rock at Chronicle Books. Much to our surprise and immense delight, we received a thumbs-up verdict within a few hours.
So do you see a duck or a rabbit?
My answer to that is always “yes.” I see them both. When I’m talking with kids about the book, and they tell me they see a duck, or a rabbit, I tell them that whichever they see is absolutely right. That’s the beauty of it.
So you’ve been on tour for much of the spring. Do you find it exhausting or exhilarating?
It’s totally exhilarating in every way, on every level. Of course it’s great to see my books getting out there and hear how they are making their way into the crevices of life. But also, getting to see all these wonderful bookstores and meet the owners, and meeting so many new interesting people at bookstore events, and going to schools and meeting so many amazing kids and teachers and librarians and principals—I mean, the whole thing is like being a kid in a candy shop, only the grown-up version. The candy shop in this case is the vast open world with shelves and shelves of books and incredible people.
You also have a film project, The Beckoning of Lovely, underway, for which you’ve solicited creative works from “the universe.” What were your initial aspirations for this project and were you overwhelmed by the number of people who responded?
I did not have big aspirations when I launched it. This thing has really truly evolved organically, bit by bit over time. I’m just trying to let it lead me. I wouldn’t say I’m overwhelmed by the response, more overjoyed. It’s a bit of a dream project for me. This is a merging of all my interests, my background and my love of making things with what has come to the foreground in technology—YouTube, Skype, Twitter, etc.
Is this an ongoing project, or do you have a projected release date for the film?
I’m hoping to have the film released on 10/10/10—in theaters everywhere! Either it will happen... or it won’t. We’re also planning something big and fun and different on 9/9/09 from 9:09 a.m. to 9:09 p.m. in Chicago, and an online version of the event during the day too.
After your book tour and your trip to BEA are behind you, do you have a book project in the works that you’re anxious to return to?
I’m always working on a bunch of different things at the same time. That’s how I seem to work best. But I’ve also been thinking and taking notes on the road. My work is very portable, you know? Basically I just need my little head and a pen. Well, and coffee.
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. Chronicle, $16.99 ISBN 978-0-8118-6865-5
Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. by Jen Corace. Chronicle, $14.99 ISBN 978-0-8118-6655-2
Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. by Scott Magoon. Disney-Hyperion, $15.99 ISBN 978-1-4231-0685-2
Yes Day! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. by Tom Lichtenheld. HarperCollins, $14.99 ISBN 978-0-06-115259-7