Jarrett J. Krosoczka
is the author and illustrator of many children's books for all ages. His most recent book, a graphic novel, Hey, Kiddo, was the recipient of the National Book Award. This interview was from 2003.www.studiojjk.com
___________________________What drove/inspired you to get started?
I always loved to tell stories with my drawings, so I naturally grew into the role of author/illustrator. My drive came directly from the fact that I knew that it wouldn't be easy to break into the market. Do you have any specialized training?
I hold a BFA in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design and I also took a huge number of creative writing courses both there and at Brown University. I also have been a counselor at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for eight years now. (The latter was probably more important in my understanding of what kids like). Has this been something you've always wanted to do?
ALWAYS!!!! Have there been any obstacles along the way?
Well, at the start, I received a ton of rejection letters. I actually started submitting my stories at the end of my junior year at RISD. I had the mindset that I would get my rejection letters out of the way while still a student. I learned a lot from those rejections. Before you got the all important contract how did your friends and family react to your goals? Were they supportive?
They were all very supportive and believed in me. However, my parents were nervous that I wouldn't be able to support myself. Now that you have a book (s) in print, do you get different reactions from friends and family?
Yes and no. Different in that they are proud of me, not different in that I've always been making pictures and stories.How did you land that very first book deal?
While submitting stories to different houses, I would also send out postcards with an image, my name, phone # and web site. After sending out 50 cards every other week for 4 months, a card fell on the right desk, she looked at my web site and invited me in to New York City. After showing my portfolio and book dummies, one got picked up - Good Night, Monkey Boy. Did you have any misconceptions in the beginning about the whole book process?
I didn't realize it would take as long as it would. Editors take time to comb through their edits and suggestions. So I've learned to be very multi-layered. I teach and have a bunch of projects going at once. This way, I don't get too antsy when awaiting feedback.How would you describe your work? What's the most important thing you'd like others to get out of it?
I want kids to get inspired to read and make pictures. I also want them to be inspired to make it in life. I visit schools and share with them my own path to publishing and they can see that I was often met with resistance and rejection. Do you have an agent? If yes, please explain how you acquired your agent and how do you think having one has helped you? If you don't have an agent, would you consider getting one?
No, I don't have an agent and I never want one. I don't think anyone could represent myself better than me.
*Note: Jarrett ended up getting an agent at Writers House and has been with her ever since. Describe your relationship with your editor(s) (art director if applicable).
It is definitely a team effort to make a picture book. So my relationship with my editor and art director is definitely one of teammates. How do you most often communicate with your publisher--e-mail, phone, or snail mail?
Email, Phone and snail mail only when they are sending me proofs or detailed revisions. What books do you have in the works now?
I just finished Max for President. It will be released in the summer of 2004. I also am brainstorming on a bunch of new stories, but they are all top secret. Is there anything you'd do differently with your new projects?
I recently cleaned out my closet and pulled out all of these paintings from 3 years ago and I was shocked to see how my work since then has gotten more tight. I want to get looser and more painterly. In general, I always try to do something a little different with each book, even if that difference is painting off a different colored ground. Do you do any author events? If so, please describe what they generally consist of.
I am always doing author events. Either they will be just straight out book signings at stores or I will go into schools and talk about the process of writing and illustrating. I show slides of my work from 5 year old Jarrett all the way to present day Jarrett. I also have slides of paintings as they go from sketch to finish. How important do you think author appearances are for you and your book (s)?
Very. When you make a book, it takes nearly a year. So when it is released, you need to do all that is in your power to make sure that the word gets out on our book. What's the best thing about publishing a book? What's the worst?
The best thing is walking into a book store in some random city and finding your book on the shelf. The best for me was finding my book in Paris, France (Bonne Nuit, Petit Singe). Also, when you receive praise from parents or kids that love your books. THAT is actually the best part. I'm not sure if there is a worst. Any last words of encouragement for beginners?
Work hard at constantly improving your craft and be relentless in your submissions. And constantly make new work!