Ame Dyckman reads and writes picture books when she should be sleeping. She’s the author of:
BOY + BOT, ill. by Dan Yaccarino (Random House’s Alfred A. Knopf, 2012).
TEA PARTY RULES, ill. by K. G. Campbell (Penguin’s Viking, October 3, 2013).
WOLFIE THE BUNNY, ill. by Zachariah OHora (Little, Brown; Spring, 2015).
HORRIBLE BEAR, ill. by Zachariah OHora (Little, Brown; Spring, 2016).
For what age audience do you write?
I write picture books. So I write for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, elementary students, just-learning-to-read readers, new-language readers, parent readers, grandparent readers, teachers, librarians, and anybody who had a tough day and just needs to smile.
Henry: Yes, picture books are for kids of ALL ages.
Tell us about your latest book.
TEA PARTY RULES, hysterically illustrated by FLORA & ULYSSES’ K. G. Campbell, is a funny compromise-during-playtime story between a bossy little girl and the bear cub who crashes her backyard tea party because he wants cookies.
Henry: One can hardly fault the bear cub for wanting cookies.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I hope readers of all ages will laugh at the dilemma poor Cub gets himself into, cheer at his “ENOUGH!” moment, and smile at the resolution. I hope it will open up home and classroom discussion as to what it means to compromise. And I hope readers will get the idea to send me chocolate chip cookies.
Henry: Do you hear that, readers? Send Ame cookies!
What aspect of writing do you find the most challenging?
The hardest part of writing is breaking through that “THIS ISN’T ANY GOOD!” moment. For every manuscript, it seems I must have at least one night of screaming at my computer at 3 AM for this to happen. (My neighbors are lovely, forgiving people.)
Henry: Little known fact: Ame used her advance for BOY + BOT to soundproof her office.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
I’ve learned patience. (And to not chew on my pencil anymore, because “I accidentally ate my eraser” apparently isn’t covered by my health insurance.).
Henry: Don’t you have to eat the eraser to clear the graphite out of your system from chewing on pencils?
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
While browsing in a bookstore, I had two little boys recognize me from a visit to their school, where I’d read BOY + BOT. They robot-walked over, happily chorusing BOY + BOT’s catch phrase, “AFFIRMATIVE! AFFIRMATIVE!” and giggling with each repetition. Strangers stopped to watch—and eventually, they all joined in the laughter, too. It doesn’t get better than that, does it?
Henry: Only if they had also given you cookies.
Another memorable experience Ame and I had was as follows. She told me she liked Heather Brewer (author of The Vladimir Tod series). I PhotoShoped the cover of BOY + BOT, giving the boy fangs and changing the title to VLAD + BOT. I Tweeted the image to Heather, who Favorited it. 🙂
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read everything you can in your genre, join SCBWI if you write kidlit, get yourself a good Writing Buddy (hi, Adam!) and don’t ever give up! (Keeping a large stash of Reward Chocolate handy is a good idea, too.)
Henry: Yes, a good critique group or writing buddy is invaluable. And an interview with Adam is in the pipeline.
Cookies. Chocolate. I’m sensing a trend here.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
My favorite quote is, “You can’t leap a 20-foot chasm in two 10-foot jumps.” (I don’t know who originally said it. But I hope he’s fully recovered.)
Henry: That reminds me of “Nine women can’t make a baby in one month.”
Do you have any strange rituals you observe when you write?
DUMPLINGS! When I’m in a serious writing groove, I absolutely MUST have Chinese dumplings. Happy tummy, happy writing brain!
Henry: Cookies. Chocolate. Dumplings. Bot says, “That does not compute.”
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I wish I had Super Photographic Reading Memory. It would rock to be able to remember every single bit of every book I ever read. (But then I wouldn’t be able to shout, “WOW! I forgot how AWESOME this book is!” during re-reads. So maybe I need to rethink this…)
Henry: Yes, I suppose there is a hidden downside to every superpower. For example, would you really want read people’s minds ALL the time?
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
It’s my inner 4-year-old’s heart’s desire to dine with the inner 4-year-olds of Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, and Maurice Sendak. There would be a fancy menu that we would completely ignore in favor of ice cream. No bowls—just giant tubs of ice cream and huge metal spoons and absolutely no manners at all. We’d gobble ice cream ’til we were sick and fingerpaint with some and use the rest to have a snowball fight (which Roald Dahl would win because he’s wily). And then we’d write a story.
Henry: Cookies. Chocolate. Dumplings. Ice cream. Wow. Just wow.
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
Centaur, Dragon, and Medusa came over for dinner last night. (We had dumplings.) They wanted me to tell you they’re a little upset with the premise of this question.
Henry: Well played, sir.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to read. I love to ride roller coasters. Sometimes I do both of these at the same time.
Henry: My mom told me as a kid not to read books while on a roller coaster because I’d get cramps.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
“Here lies Ame, who forgot to look.
Crossed the street while reading a book.”
Henry: “Here lies Ame, who sought a cookie.
At crossing the street, she was a rookie.”
Where can readers find your work?
My books can be found in bookstores and libraries worldwide. (And here’s hoping extraterrestrials have beamed up a few copies, too!)
You can follow Ame on Twitter (@AmeDyckman), where she Tweets picture book reviews and pretty much everything that pops into her head.
This interview is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.