Dallas Clayton urges children (and adults!) to dream big through his debut picture book, An Awesome Book. I bought a copy to give Maia for her birthday later in the month and can't wait to read it with her. It's great! You can read the entire book online here, but be warned, you will want to buy it if you do! Join me in learning more about Dallas and his story.
***Note: Readers will have a chance to win a copy of An Awesome Book at the end of this interview.***
JEAN: Dallas, your
book is truly awesome! It is filled with thought-provoking artwork and an
inspiring message. What led you to create it? I want to know what little seed
of an idea blossomed into this amazing children’s book!
DALLAS: Well I suppose the idea behind An Awesome Book is pretty simple. I
wrote it for my son, who was five at the time and was always coming to me
telling me about these amazing magical dreams he would have. Fantastical kid
ideas about wizards and riding dinosaurs through endless space, things like
that... Meanwhile when I talked to most of the adults I knew about the dreams
they had, their hopes and aspirations they would talk about things that were
very material - owning a dinette set, or paying off their car... So I wrote
this book to speak to that idea, to challenge kids and adults as well to try
and make their everyday hopes and aspirations a little more magical. To inspire
people to dream big.
JEAN: Will you tell us a bit about your own background? Did you do any writing or art prior to creating this book?
DALLAS: I live in LA. I've lived here for about ten years, I moved here just after high school. I grew up writing zines, short stories, poems, and selling them to people on the street. When I first moved to LA I realized there were enough events here, shows, galleries, markets, that I could go out every night and sell writing to people on the street and make enough money to pay rent. I did that for a few years and eventually people started hiring me to do writing jobs. I'd been writing pretty steadily in the work for hire world up until a little over a year ago when I decided to write An Awesome Book. I wanted to try and write something for my son while he was still young enough to appreciate it so I decided to write a kids book a day. This was the first one I came up with and I kinda just went with it. As for the art I'd never drawn anything before this book, nothing of substance anyway, so that was the real challenge of it. Drawing takes forever!
JEAN: Your first printing sold out almost instantaneously, your subsequent printings sold quickly as well, and now you’re on your 5th printing. Wow! It seems that your message is so very appreciated and needed. Why do you think this is so?
DALLAS: Actually I think I'm on my 10th or 11th
printing at this point...hahaha. I've lost count. I guess I tried to approach
writing the story from a universal perspective. I think all the best art comes
from a thematic place, rather than being strictly a story or strictly a visual
piece the most amazing things usually help speak to something larger, answer a
bigger question. For me reading books to my son I found that so many of the
classics, the real heavy hitters, did that so I knew I wanted to try and play in
that world. I feel like regardless of your age, race, religion, social status,
where you are in the world you can relate to the idea of dreaming, of wanting
to make the world better so I felt like that was a natural place to
JEAN: I understand that you are giving away a copy of An Awesome Book for every book you sell – putting the free copies directly in the hands of children at places like hospitals and schools. What a great way to give back! And considering the message of your book, it makes me a little teary eyed to think of the lives you could be affecting. Can you talk about your decision to do this?
DALLAS: Yes well the short answer can be seen in this video : http://www.veryawesomeworld.com
But to expound a bit on that - I
always felt like the models that existed for sharing books with kids were
fairly limited. I know when an author would come read at my sons school, my son
would come home with this pamphlet that said "please send a check for x
amount if you want to buy this book, etc" I just always pictured myself as
the kid in the classroom who wouldn't have brought the check in, the only one
who didn't get the book. For me since I didn't go through a big publisher
there's no red tape there's no larger confusing math problem to solve to try
and get as much money as possible out of the books. I can base my model simply
on sharing, and since I am small enough and have enough lateral movement the
Awesome World Foundation can give away a book for every one I sell. Touring
around and reading to kids is pretty much the best thing ever, being able to
give them a book that I wrote and talk to them about their hopes and dreams...
well that's pretty unbeatable.
JEAN: You mentioned that you and your six-year-old son painted a mural together on your kitchen wall in preparation for this mural that you painted. Can you talk about the process of creating art side-by-side with your son?
DALLAS: Well as most parents know, the whole process
is about growing and changing and exploring who you are as you try to teach
someone else who they can become. So many of the things I'm doing in my life right
now, with the book, and art, and touring, and making things are all things I've
never really done before - at least not to the level which I am doing them now.
So the way I see it, including my son in this process puts him at the ground
floor of learning these things with me. It's rare as a parent that you get to
stand with your child and say "I've never done this before either, but it
looks pretty amazing, you want to try and figure this out together."
That's a pretty special feeling. Being able to take him on tour with me, to go
to other schools and read to kids, to give away books with me, I think it's a
beautiful time to share. Also he's my favorite person in the whole world so
that's a pretty amazing bonus.
JEAN: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
DALLAS: Thank you so much for the interview, and to your readers please help spread the word! All the support I've had so far is tremendous, and all of it is because of amazing people going out of their way to share.
JEAN: Thanks for being so awesome, Dallas! And thanks for creating such an inspiring book for our next generation of thinkers, creators, dreamers, leaders, and parents!
Readers who leave a comment by
Tuesday, August 10th will be entered into a random drawing for a
copy of An Awesome Book.
The random number generator chose #66, so Amy wins the book!
Awesome indeed! I can't wait to share it with my 4 year old, and what a great gift for our young friends! Thank you Dallas!