Mini Interviews – David Ezra Stein

Mini Interviews - David Ezra Stein
There are just some books that resonate with you on so many levels…Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein is just one of those books.  I have read this book and reread this book to my kids so many times and with each time the volume level gets louder.  The fighting also increases on who gets to be “Interrupting Chicken”.  How could a book about the telling of quiet bedtime fairy tales from a Papa Chicken to his daughter lead to such uncontrolled chaos?  I’m partly to blame because I love it so much and have a hard time restraining my enthusiasm.
Mini Interviews - David Ezra Stein
I’m also beyond enthusiastic presenting to you David’s answers for the latest Mini Interview.
Please describe your career as an author-illustrator in 5 words:
Injecting fresh air into books. 
Mini Interviews - David Ezra SteinWhich books, that were your favorite when you were little, have had the greatest influence on your work?    
Hmm….I have been influenced by everything interesting I’ve ever seen. But here are a few: Dr. Seuss books, for love of language and wonky world design. Calvin & Hobbes, for its philosophical perspective, sophisticated silliness, and dynamic drawings. Tintin comics, for bright colors, colorful characters, and international adventure. And so many more books, commercials, movies, TV shows, textiles, paintings, and musicals.

Mini Interviews - David Ezra SteinPlease share an instance in which you had an idea or experience that started out small, but took root and grew to become a book.
One of my latest books, Ol’ Mama Squirrel, was a combination of a squirrel scolding me in the park near my house, and the Occupy movement being in the news. Squirrel protecting her babies + outraged activists = picture book? It does if you’re me.

Do you ever hide little images, names or personal details in your illustrations? 
Please give us a peek…

In my 2012 book, Because Amelia Smiled, I was able to put lots of people I know in as extras. My children’s book illustration teacher, Pat Cummings, is seated in the subway scene, at the right hand side, looking at the viewer. My sister and her husband are walking a dog outside in the pizzeria scene, which also features my son’s face on the soda machine. My son is also in Ol’ Mama Squirrel, which is dedicated to him. 

Mini Interviews - David Ezra SteinDaily routines are important for both writers and illustrators. Could you describe your typical work day, and tell us the one little thing you absolutely cannot begin your day without (besides caffeine)?

There’s not a lot typical about my days. I feel like I’m always trying to manage my creativity better. It’s a full-time job to provide outlets for all my inspirations and interests. I’m constantly trying new schedules to harness the day in a more productive way.

I do like to write and storyboard in my local cafe, where I have written and sketched out all of my 11 books. Then I end up in the studio for making my finished art. One thing I almost never skip is Morning Pages, which I got into by reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s part of the spiritual practice of being an artist.

Tomie dePaola once told me that Ben Shahn told him that being an artist isn’t what you do, it’s how you live your life. So I tend to see it that way as well: an ongoing daily practice that is punctuated by published works.

MIni Interviews - David Ezra Stein
Being an admitted “space cadet” do you find that state of mind helpful or harmful to completing a book? (from one space cadet to another)

I would not be able to listen to my inner voice and honor it if I didn’t have the power of daydreaming. It’s essential to me. Winnie-the-Pooh called it a “hummy” sort of feeling when he was getting an idea. That’s how I experience it as well.  

On the flip side, when a deadline comes along I have to be a professional. I have to sit down and work even when I don’t feel like it. Sometimes I even have to do a book idea I am not crazy about, and I have to find a way to become crazy about it.  

Mini Interviews - David Ezra SteinAs a young child, David started out drawing on Post-It note pads his mother, an editor, left around the house. An admitted “space cadet,” he showed an early knack for daydreaming and doodling. His parents and grandparents read him lots of books, which fed his imagination and became a touchstone for his love of imagery and storytelling later in life.  David went on to become a voracious reader and made up stories of his own. Near the end of his time at Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, encouraged by beloved author and teacher Pat Cummings, he decided to pursue children’s books as a career.  After graduation, he was briefly a window display artist, puppeteer and puppet builder, interior and set-design illustrator, and New Yorker cartoonist. In 2006, his first book,Cowboy Ned & Andy, was published by Simon & Schuster. Since then he has published eleven picture books.  David lives in Kew Gardens, NY with wife, Miriam, and son, Sam. When he’s not working on new stories and pictures, he enjoys making music, cooking, running, hiking, and talking with kids and grown-ups about books!

If you’d like to see more of David’s work make sure to check out his site and Facebook page!

If you can’t get enough of this talent, make sure to check out David’s latest book Dinosaur Kisses!

Mini Interviews - David Ezra Stein


2 thoughts on “Mini Interviews – David Ezra Stein

  1. Great interview. Thanks! Love his colorful, imaginative work – and he made me feel better about making the time, daily, to be creative with constant rescheduling going on. Sigh.

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