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People Don’t Bite People: Interview with Lisa Wheeler and Molly Idle


Here today to talk about their new book, I have both Lisa Wheeler (author) and Molly Idle (illustrator) with me!

Thank you for taking the time to join me here at Mile High Reading!

Molly: Thanks for hosting us Dylan!

Tell us a little bit about People Don’t Bite People from your perspective.

Molly: Oh my goodness, I LOVE the text in this book. Lisa’s writing is short and sweet and FUNNY! From the moment I first read it I was completely smitten (bitten?). I couldn’t wait to start drawing!

Lisa: Every person has either bitten someone, been bitten, or knows someone that has been bitten.   Bites happen, people!  I see this book as a funny and mildly subversive chant that amuses both parent and child and  explains what biting is for–Food!

Molly, can you tell us a little bit about your illustration process?

Sure thing!

First, I scribble tiny sketches and notes on the manuscript, as I read, and reread, and reread it… figuring out pacing… and page turns… and how I’d like to break up the text throughout the book.

Then, I’ll move to my sketchbook and start making rough compositional sketches- still keeping them very small- less than half the size they’ll be in the finished book. I’ll share those sketches with my editor and art director, (for PDBP that’s the fabulous duo of Emma Ledbetter and Ann Bobco), and we’ll revise and rework them as needed.

Once all of the sketches are approved, I’ll scan them and scale them up to about 120% of the size they’ll be in the book. Then, I print out those enlarged sketches, and transfer them, by hand, onto the paper I’ll use to create the finished pieces of art. My medium of choice is Prismacolor pencil, so at that point I get out my pencils and start coloring! It takes me a few months (and more than a few pencils) to color all the pieces for a book.

Lisa, can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

Lisa: My process can vary with each book. I get a lot of ideas and some never come to fruition. But once I get an idea, I generally do not go straight to paper. I mull it over in my mind. I do lots of  editing in my brain before I ever sit down in front of the computer. I often scratch words down on envelopes, backs of receipts, grocery lists, etc. When I think that this idea could be viable, I go to the computer. I jot down all my scratchings and see how it might come together. It’s like a fun little puzzle.

I get obsessed. I walk around talking to myself, repeating lines over and over. I answer questions from others with nonsense because I’m generally still inside my head writing. This is actually   my favorite part of the whole process. Sparking life into that idea is what really gets me excited.

Have you always been into writing / illustrating?

Molly: Before I became and author and illustrator, I was an animator.  In fact, my first job out of school was working for DreamWorks Feature Animation. I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons, and studying every old Disney film (long or short) that I could get my hands on. Some of my favorites were the Jiminy Cricket, “I’m No Fool” shorts from the 1960s, which were a mix of education and entertainment. That same mix is very much in line with Lisa’s text for PEOPLE DON’T BITE PEOPLE, and so I tried to bring a bit of the same retro-edutainment vibe into my illustrations too. This book  really brings together my love of both classic animation and illustration.

Lisa: As a child, I liked to make up little songs and chants. I was obsessed with jingles, jump-rope rhymes and hand-clap games on the school playground. I also have a knack for remembering words to silly songs–not good songs, just wacky ones. My brother, Dan and I made up a song which we called “The Garbage Truck Song” and we still remember it today even though it was basically one line. “Ho-ho-ho! Hee-hee-hee! My Dad-Dee works on a garbage truck!”

 In 4th grade I won a Halloween poetry contest  and it was the first time anyone said that I was a good at writing. I continued to write–mostly poems–throughout my life, but I was 32 before I ever sent my work to publishers.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Molly: Ooooo, that’s a tough one. I like a lot of things about my job. But the most exciting part? I’d have to say that, as an illustrator, it’s the first reading of a new manuscript on my desk. That first reading brings with it all sorts of new visual storytelling possibilities, and that- to me at least- is just about the most exciting thing there is in the whole world!

Lisa: The most exciting part is the idea process as described earlier. That is when I am one fire. The revision process can also be as exciting when an editor makes me rethink things and I get in this headspace where I am turning the manuscript upside down.

It is also very exciting to see the art. I think about the picture book process this way; When I  sell the manuscript, it’s like finding out I am going to have a baby. But when I see early sketches, it is like getting a 3-D ultrasound! That’s when I know what the baby is going to look like and my excitement of the arrival grows exponentially.

Then, the finished book arrives–our baby is delivered!

What inspires your creativity?

Lisa: I do a lot of reading. I tell kids that you have to keep your brain fertilized with words if you want to be a writer. I take my own advice and try to stay on top of what new books are being  written, taking stacks home from the library each week.

But I am also inspired by many other things; nature, conversations, dreams, television, music. . .I am a kinesthetic learner and when I am writing, you will often see me taking long walks, riding a bike, driving or swimming laps. Don’t be fooled! My brain synapses are firing like crazy when I   am in motion.

I also get a lot of ideas from insomnia. When I am lying in bed, trying to get back to sleep at 3am, I have often come up with new ideas. I even dreamed one book.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Molly: My favorite color- because it changes all the time! Today, it’s AQUA.

Lisa: I have always felt the need to create something. I’ve gone through many “phases” in my creative life. As a child, I learned to crochet and I adored art class. I got into drawing and painting in high school, crafts and sewing when my kids were young, and of course, writing was always thrown into the mix. I worried that my writing would be a phase, like everything else. But I’ve come to realize that it is a part of who I am, not a phase. I still like to create and got   into a rock painting phase a few years ago that lasted an entire summer. Some things never change!

If you weren’t writing/illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Molly: Hmm… maybe arranging flowers… or making furniture… something that would let me continue to make things by hand.

Lisa: Before I was an author, I worked for six years in a children’s book department. I loved that job! Not only did I get to be surrounded by kid’s books, but I got paid to read them. It also fed  my desire to organize everything. I think that if I had not been working there, I never would have got the nerve to start submitting my work. So, if I couldn’t write for kids, I would look for a job in a children’s books store or a school library. I am really very passionate about children’s books and what I do!

What can readers expect from you in the future?

Molly: Let’s see… My next book is one that I’ve both written and Illustrated. It’s about a mermaid named PEARL, and it’ll be out in the world this fall. (October 9, 2018, Little Brown Books for Young Readers)


and…Lisa and I are working on another project together- a companion book to PDBP!

Lisa: I am most excited that People Don’t Bite People is entering the world on April 3rd, 2018. Molly and I already have a follow-up book in the works called People Share With People. It is such an honor to have my words illustrated by such a talented artist!

Next September is the latest installment in my popular Dinosaur series. this one is Dino-  Christmas, illustrated by Barry Gott. My editor at CarolRhoda and I decided to have the sport- loving dinosaurs explore a few holidays. Then, I have a book coming out in December with Abram’s Appleseed called A Hug is for Holding Me, illustrated by Lisk Feng, in which I explore things in nature that can be compared to a hug.



Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Molly: It’s funny you should mention sharing because book that Lisa and I are working on now is titled:


Lisa: Just that I feel so fortunate to be allowed to do what I do. I LOVE my job! I am grateful to all    my readers for their wonderful support. Thank you, Dylan, for affording me this opportunity to        share a little bit about myself with them.


Interview with Corinna Luyken!

Next up on the series of interviews on my blog is the talented Corinna Luyken! Enjoy!

Hello, Corinna! Thank you for joining me here!

It’s my pleasure Dylan, thank you for having me!

Tell us a little bit about your 2018 book, Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have A Horse!


Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have A Horse, (written by debut author Marcy Campbell and illustrated by me) is essentially a story about compassion, kindness, and learning to see the world a little differently.

The publisher’s description is here:

Adrian Simcox tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse–the best and most beautiful horse anywhere.

But Chloe does NOT believe him. Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house. Where would he keep a horse? He has holes in his shoes. How would he pay for a horse?




The more Adrian talks about his horse, the angrier Chloe gets. But when she calls him out at school and even complains about him to her mom, Chloe doesn’t get the vindication she craves. She gets something far more important.


Written with tenderness and poignancy and gorgeously illustrated, this book will show readers that kindness is always rewarding, understanding is sweeter than judgment, and friendship is the best gift one can give.


Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

Yes!  I’ve always loved to write and draw.  I’ve been fortunate to have a mom who loves poetry and art, and who encouraged me when she saw that I loved to write and draw.  Even so, it took seventeen years for my dream of writing and illustrating books for children to come true!

What inspires your creativity?

I’m inspired by the general messiness and uncertainty of life.  By nature, the human form, my family.  But in terms of finding the inspiration for a particular project, I rarely have an idea that appears in my head like a light bulb.  More often, my ideas come from the process itself.  I sit down to write or draw and from the blank page and the process of interacting with it, ideas start to emerge.

There is a Chuck Close quote, which I find to be absolutely true:

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” 


What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I almost left college to become a Buddhist nun. (In the tradition of the Vietnamese monk, poet and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh.) Fortunately my stepmother intervened, and insisted that I finish college first.  After that, she said, I could do whatever I wanted.  She knew from personal experience how difficult it was to find meaningful work in today’s world, especially as a woman, without a college degree. I was furious at the time, but I’m very grateful now.

If you weren’t writing and illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I’d be trying to figure out what I needed to do so that I could write and illustrate books!

In all seriousness, I feel like I’m finally doing the work I’m meant to do.  And it’s been a long journey. But if for some reason I couldn’t do this, I’d probably want to be a school librarian.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

After Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have A Horse (written by Marcy Campbell, which will be out August 14, 2018 from DIial), I will be illustrating Weird Little Robots, a middle grade novel written by Carolyn Crimi, which should be out in spring 2019 from Candlewick.

I’m also working on my next book as author/illustrator with Dial.  It’s called my heart, my heart and is a meditation on/celebration of the heart— how it can open, close, and open again.  It’s a project I started many years ago— I took a rough dummy of it to my first national SCBWI conference, in LA, in 2013.  It also went on receive the SCBWI Don Freeman Work in Progress Grant in 2016.  The book has changed a bit since then (with all new art) and we are still tinkering with the text.  It’s a poem, and it has rhyme and a meter, which makes it tricky.  The artwork, which started out in watercolor, is now all monotype printmaking— so when this book finally makes it out into the world, it will look quite different from my other books.



Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

To see more of my work you can head over to:

IG: @corinnaluyken:

twitter: @corinnaluyken

Interview with Stephanie Graegin!

Next up on my series of interviews is Stephanie Graegin! I’m thrilled Stephanie is here with me today!

Hello, Stephanie! Thank you for joining me here!

Happy to be here!

Tell us a little bit about all of the books you have coming in 2018!

In February, the third book in the Heartwood Hotel Series by Kallie George will be out. This book is titled, Better Together. If you are unfamiliar, this chapter book series stars Mona the Mouse, a hard working, brave and quick witted young maid who works at the Heartwood Hotel. It’s a really great story and series, and I feel incredibly fortunate I get to experience this world through my drawings. The fourth and final book in the Heartwood Hotel series, Home Again, is out this July. I’m really going to miss drawing these charming characters.


Also in July—my favorite little, brave raccoon, Super Manny, is back in Super Manny Cleans Up! written by Kelly Dipucchio. This time, Super Manny and his friend Gertie are standing up for their community and the environment along with having fun, imaginative, adventures while wearing capes!




In September, I have a picture book coming out written by Mary Lyn Ray called, The Thank You Book. This book is about gratitude for little things, for family, for friends, for home and for the earth. Mary Lyn Ray’s text is beautiful and poetic—it left a lot a room for me to play around and create without having to adhere to a traditional story arc.


What was it like illustrating Elvis Presley’s text, Love Me Tender?

It was a really great experience! It was, hands down, the shortest period of time I’ve ever had to complete a book (the whole thing was done in just a few months). The timeline forced me to not procrastinate, to just sit down and draw quickly. I worked closely with my editor and art director, plotting out the images that would go with the lyrics. We decided early on we wanted several diverse families represented, and the book would take you through the sweet milestone moments: from the hospital nursery to crawling and walking and up to preschool. It’s really a love letter from a parent to a child. I love the challenge of illustrating picture books that don’t have a traditional story line.



Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

I have! I’m tilted slightly more to the illustrating-side. Drawing has been my favorite activity since I was old enough to hold a crayon. I remember back in elementary school I enjoyed writing and illustrating little stories—I still have some of them. One of these books I did when I was around  8 was about beavers and bunnies playing baseball, The Magic Baseball Bats. It won a young author award at my school in Indiana. It was around this time that I started to think I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator (or a zookeeper), when I grew up. In college I studied fine art, though everything I made was a kidlit-esq masquerading as fine art.

What inspires your creativity?

The world around me. Animals, nature, the seasons, long walks, the city, and a really nice pencil. The process of making is really taking the everyday and slowly building upon it—I guess to the point where animals can dress themselves.


What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I’m obsessed with collecting picture books! I currently have close to 500 and they are from all around. I have some from Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Japan, Egypt, and on…though I didn’t actually travel to get them. There are so many super talented people around the globe making great picture books.  I’m in the process of cataloging them.

If you weren’t writing and illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I think I might be an editor or a librarian, or something in the book world. I just love reading.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

I just want to keep drawing and making books. I love what I do and the experience of having to put pictures with words. It’s challenging and rewarding—there’s a certain satisfaction of throwing yourself into a project that is unquenchable.

I will also be authoring and illustrating more of my own books. I’ve learned a tremendous amount by working with talented authors and editors and I’d like to use those lessons to unlock all the stories I have inside of me.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Thank you for the opportunity to chat! Thank you Dylan for your support of all of us in the kidlit world!

If you’re interested in seeing more of my work, you can here:

Interview with Samantha Cotterill!

I’ve got some stellar interviews lined up on the blog for the next few weeks, and I’m thrilled that Samantha Cotterill is here to kick things off!

Hello, Samantha! Thank you for joining me here!

Thank you, Dylan!   It’s such an honor to be here!


Tell us a little bit about all of the books you have coming in 2018!

2018 is an extremely exciting year for me, as I have three wonderful books coming out over the next three seasons.  February 13th will see the release of Jinx and Doom Fight Crime, written by the amazing Lisa Mantchev. This is my first book done in 3-d format, and I’m just ecstatic with how it turned out.




Once Upon a Slime, written by debut author Andy Maxwell, slimes stores everywhere July 3rd. I know there are probably many parents out there ready for the slime craze to die down a bit, but we are enthusiastically encouraging all the kids out there to keep it going strong (sorry parents).


Finally, Just Add Glitter by Angela Diterlizzi will hit shelves this September with sprays of glitter vs the goop of slime.  I will say that was my most challenging book to date, as in addition to the 3-d approach, piles and piles of real glitter filled each spread. (Our family is still in therapy trying to heal over the specks of glitter that are still present in every nook and cranny of our home.)




Tell us about your very unique and amazing illustration process.

It depends on the book, and with my ADD, sticking to one method gets boring pretty quickly. I like to vary things up, while trying to be aware the entire time of the common threads that need to be sewn into every book I make. Pattern and linework have quickly become those threads for me, and it’s my goal that they take center stage no matter the medium of the work itself.  Whether the work is 2-d or 3-d, my approach to linework now is always the same. I have tried digital methods of drawing, but find the good ol’ nib pen and ink bottle to be my preferred method. Once dry, they are scanned in to be colored digitally via Photoshop.  For the 3-d books, the process continues as I print, cut, glue, and set up each diorama to be photographed.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

I studied bacteriology and virology for 5 years at uw-Madison, but I did eventually admit to my mother that she was right and agreed to go to art school like she told me to 😉. A good 20 years was spent as a ceramicist, oil painter, and fiber artist (ADD make more sense now?) before taking a good 8-year hiatus to focus on my family. When I hit 40, I decided it was time to get back out there, and was soon approached by the amazing Kirsten Hall, who thought my illustrations could lend themselves well to picture books.  So first my mum told me what to do, and then my agent. I need to listen to people more often.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Hmmm…..I accidentally shut down all the computers in Helen C White Library at UW-Madison 1 hour before closing during finals week? And all because I sent an email asking about a party.  My computer screen froze…I absent mindedly reached under the desk, turned the power strip off, and within seconds heard the shrieks of many a students’ final essays disappearing. Let’s just say I made a very stealth and quiet exit.

If you weren’t writing and illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Diagnosing everyone’s food borne illnesses.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

More books! I have a wonderful series coming out over the next couple of years that’s very near and dear to my heart. I cannot wait until I have the green light to share those details! I am also illustrating a book for debut author Jonathan E. Jacobs, entitled The Secret Rhino Society, which will debut Spring 2020.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Just thank you to all of the kids, readers, librarians, publishers, editors, interviewers 😉, that have already made this career so fulfilling.

Come Right In! May I Come In? Blog Tour Guest Post by Marsha Diane Arnold

“Come Right In!”

It’s always a pleasure to share book news with Dylan Teut. Maybe it’s because he himself is one of the most sharing people I know and a champion of children’s literature. Maybe it’s because Dylan feels a bit like a neighbor, I growing up in Kansas and he living in Nebraska. Whatever the reason, I’m delighted to be here to share about my newest book May I Come In? Thank you, Dylan!


May I Come In? actually launches from Sleeping Bear Press tomorrow, on February 15, but I’ve already shared it with students from California to Connecticut to India via Skype. It feels a bit like I’m sharing a secret with them and they are more than happy to be in on it!


Sharing May I Come In? with first graders at the Aga Khan Academy in India. 

I’ve spoken with classes at this school several times. It’s always a pleasure.

 It’s the simplest of stories, really, Raccoon searching for an open door, a friend to spend a scary night with. It’s a story about inclusion, sharing, and empathy. Jennie Poh’s delightful illustrations are also simple, perfect for the youngest readers and filled with a brightness that keeps the story light, rather than scary.


What children find interesting and somewhat surprising is that although Raccoon is afraid of the thunderstorm, he goes outside anyway to search for emotional support, a friend to spend this frightening time with. Sadly, when he knocks on the doors of Possum, Quail, and Woodchuck, he’s turned away! Then he sees a light in the darkness, “glimmering and shimmering.” That light represents hope to Raccoon. But when he approaches the door he becomes doubtful and when the door is opened to a house full of rabbits, he’s more doubtful still. Mother Rabbit is used to a crowded home though and she invites Raccoon right in, for there is always room for another friend. Our dear Raccoon moves from fear and discomfort to joy and serenity.


The little twist in the book is when Possum, Quail, and Woodchuck, who each turned Raccoon away, are seen first as shadows approaching Rabbit’s home and then sheepishly standing at the door because they too have realized, “Being alone on a night like tonight is scary.”


Many of my stories take scores of drafts and lots of tweaking, but my May I Come In? folder shows only three drafts. My stories are often called character-driven and I often start my stories with a character. This particular story is an example of my following my character, who leads me through his story and shows me which way to go. Interestingly, my main character was originally Badger. The main reason I transformed Badger into Raccoon was because I had other stories with badgers as the main character and wanted to spread the spotlight around a bit. And I do like raccoons. When I lived in the country in California, they often visited our back door, and here in Florida, they appreciate our pond very much.

 Publisher Weekly recently announced news of another Sleeping Bear Press book which is planned for spring of 2019 and I couldn’t be happier. The staff at Sleeping Bear Press is a delight to work with and they do so much to help readers find their authors’ books. The name of the 2019 book is Badger’s Seeds. Yes, one of those badger stories.

It’s Valentine’s Day today, a perfect day to open our hearts, which is what my book is about. I hope you read a copy of May I Come In? with someone and do just that.

 More information about my books and author visits may be found and more information on following your characters through your story at my course, Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books at