Last year I chose Dallas Clayton’s An Awesome Book! as my favorite of 2009. With amazing imaginative drawings and a rhyming story about how you should dream bigger, this became an instant classic! The self-published book received such great success Dallas continued to sell out large runs of the books. He even started the Awesome World Foundation which he will tell you more about below. This year Dallas has released a follow-up book, An Awesome Book of Thanks! which is just as fantastic as the first book. In this book you are urged to be thankful for everything around you. This book is longer, and with more pages comes a longer rhyme and more quirky drawings in bright rainbow colors. Dallas asks us to be thankful for the earth and air and food to share, but also for more obscure stuff like “girelephants in silly hats skipping rope with jungle cats”. Kids will love this and I certainly can’t help smiling myself. I am pretty impressed with Dallas so I wanted to interview him about making these two books which you can see below. Big thanks to Dallas! I can’t wait to see what he does next! You can buy his new book right here
What is your background in art? Have you always been interested in drawing?
I actually started as a writer, writing zines and going to shows and selling them to strangers. So my first step into any of this is from the perspective of writing. The illustration was actually something I’ve never done before An Awesome Book!. That was the first thing I’d really ever drawn before. Which is crazy because now it’s completely and totally part of my every day existence…
How did the idea for your first book, An Awesome Book! come about?
I just wanted to write a book for my son while he was still young enough to appreciate a kids book- but I also knew I wanted to make something that was larger- that spoke to all ages and levels of people. At the time I was really impressed by the types of dreams my son was having, really by the fact that kids dream at such a young age about the craziest things and I really wanted to play with that idea – dreaming big, dreaming beyond your own limitations.
There is so much that goes into self-publishing- besides the writing and illustrating, there’s organizing the production and printing, marketing, shipping and distribution… How did you manage all of these? What were some of the major challenges you faced doing your first book?
I think the biggest challenge is honestly just having faith, trusting that you’ll send away a PDF and you’ll get a book back that looks how you think it should look. There’s a lot of room for error there and I feel I’ve gotten pretty lucky. Honestly for me the other road bumps have been just trial and error- oh and selling out of books too quickly (which is a lucky problem to have!)
Tell me about the foundation you started.
I started the Awesome World Foundation to help give away books to kids. For every copy of “An Awesome Book! sold, the foundation donates a book, and throughout the year I travel the world and read to kids at schools and hospitals and libraries and book shops and give away books. I get to interact with the kids directly and talk to them all about their hopes and their dreams. It’s pretty much the most fun I’ve ever had.
What have been the most exciting places you’ve gone on your travels sharing the book to and what sorts of experiences have you had?
Not to sound generic but every place I read is pretty special. Being able to get out of LA and drive 30 miles in one direction or 200 miles in another and find so many different voices, so many kids that are so fresh and new and full of love and big ideas- and teachers trying to embrace that, it really gives me so much hope for the future every single time I set out on the road.
Your next book is being published by Amazon Encore. How did you get involved with working with them? What is Amazon Encore exactly and how does it work? How much of the process are they involved in? Are your books printed on demand?
Amazon Encore is a publishing company. Amazon decided to start a publishing company and contacted me about my book being their first children’s picture book so I flew to seattle and met with them and felt like it could be a great fit. They act the same as a traditional publisher (full print runs, nothing on demand) but because they are a part of Amazon, are focused on the use of new media much more heavily than traditional stores. The process has been pretty fun so far, because even though Amazon is so large I’ve really been able to get in on the ground floor and make a lot of decisions as to how to handle the book.
You have had some major stars get excited about your book. In fact Bjork and Matthew Barney presented it at a release and signing, Jaoquin Phoenix reads aloud from it in the new movie I’m Still Here and Justin Timberlake posted about it on his blog, to name a few. How are all these celebrities hearing about your book? And why do you think your books also appeal to adults so much?
I guess the longer you live in Los Angeles the more the “celebrity” angle becomes common place. The same as if I lived in West Virginia and my books were popular among coal miners. That’s just the industry here. What honestly makes me the most excited is that all of this has come through word of mouth press. Up until this point I haven’t done any traditional PR so it’s all been just the grassroots love of the book thats spread it around. As for the adults loving the book, like I said I try to approach things from a thematic place so that no matter your age, your location, your race, your social background, you can relate to it. Everyone can relate to dreams.
Besides an author, you are also a father. What do you like most about being a dad? And what does your son think about your book and project?
Everything about it is fantastic. Just the multitude of ways it has opened me up emotionally, taught me knew ways to thing, taught me to be a better person. Being able to share my life with someone who is so honest and inspirational. It’s pure magic. And yes, being able to have my son grow along with my books, to come on tour with me and help me give away books to kids, and see the country and get involved at such a young age – that is such a reward.
What’s next? More books? Animations? I think doing some unicorn t-shirts for adults is a must….
I wrote 10 books this year so now I’m just going to be putting them together, figuring out the best way to share them with the world, fielding all sorts of weird offers to do strange and amazing things, animations, t shirts, television, music. Basically waking up each day to a new series of emails asking me questions and challenging me to take things to the next level. Just being 100 percent stoked on life!