Local cartoonist, comic strip artist, writer, and orthodontist Grant Snider joins Sara to talk about art, inspiring illustrators, what it is like to get a book published, and more.
SARA MCNEIL, VOICEOVER: Hello and welcome to episode 7 of Read. Return. Repeat : A ReadICT Podcast. I'm your host, Sara McNeil of the Wichita Public Library. In today's episode, titled Doctor by Day, Illustrator by Night, we will explore category 5 - an illustrated book - with local cartoonist, comic strip artist, writer, and orthodontist Grant Snider. Mr. Snider's work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Kansas City Star, the Best American Comics 2013, and all across the internet. Grant has written and/or illustrated children's picture books, illustrations for children's nonfiction books, and adult graphic novels. For weekly insights on art, idleness, and imagination, check out Grant's blog, incidentalcomics.com and be sure to follow him on social media. Grant, thank you for joining us today and welcome to the show.
GRANT SNIDER: Yeah, thanks so much for having me, Sara. I'm excited to be here.
SARA: Oh yeah, I'm super excited to have you here talking to us about illustrated books and comics and all kinds of fun things of drawings. I've seen you around in the community. I think I saw you once at WALA, you gave a book talk there and you just had a book come out. And so when we were planning different categories, I knew that you were the person I wanted to reach out to for this specific category so thanks for making time for us.
GRANT: Thank you.
SARA: Okay, well, we'll just get started. The first question for you: how did you get started drawing? Did someone inspire you at an early age or, you know, to doodle or did you pick it up as a pastime on your own? How did that process take place?
GRANT: It's funny, every time I read a profile of one of my favorite illustrators, it's like even as a kid, young kid, they loved to draw. And I think that kind of describes every kid, not just the ones who kept doing it so yeah, I did... I did love to draw, you know, from a young age and still do. I think some of it grew out of like a... a good sibling rivalry. I have a twin brother named Gavin --
SARA: Oh, fun!
GRANT: -- who's an artist. And he's a designer and artist in New York City so quite a bit different work than I do but we're still very... you know, in tune with each other's work and helping each other out and stuff. But we would... we would get pretty competitive with our art. We had a an easel my parents set up where I would draw on one side, Gavin on the other and we would just go crazy creating stories and worlds and, you know, using our imagination. And it wasn't until college that I really kind of figured out what I wanted to do long term with my art. I mean, I'd always been painting and drawing and stuff just... just for fun. But I started submitting cartoons to the university of... University Daily Kansan, the KU student newspaper, the University of Kansas that is. And from then on, I was hooked. I liked the cartoon format which I'd never really tried before. I had the little bit of an ego boost of seeing my work in print and seeing friends read it in the newspaper, you know, in class. Which kind of turned into a weekly comic strip for the Kansas City Star that I drew when I was in dental school and then, you know, became the books and the... the online Incidental Comics and where I'm at today.
SARA: That's so fascinating. I actually am a twin as well.
GRANT: Oh cool. That's great.
SARA: We didn't we didn't have a passion for drawing but we had... music was our... our competitiveness. She played clarinet, I played cello so yeah.
GRANT: That's awesome. Identical twin?
SARA: No, we're fraternal.
GRANT: Yeah, yeah.
SARA: But from the back we both look like each other.
SARA: But yeah, we would have these dueling music things sort of like what you're talking about.
I've seen some of your work, obviously I've read some of your books and it seems very organic. It doesn't seem like the stylistic drawings that you see in the drawing books where you draw the circles and then you... that forms into a picture. And is that just kind of what you did growing up like instead of studying drawing books, you just sat down and put pen to page?
GRANT: You know, I do remember, you know, checking out some of those from the library as a kid and being really frustrated because I could never get it to look just like that and the steps that they had seemed very like random and... you know, my brain just didn't work that way. So I would do better, you know, just sitting and drawing the thing from my imagination or sometimes looking at a picture and drawing from that. Which I think is what most people end up doing, I mean...
GRANT: Nothing wrong, nothing against the how-to-draw books but I do think that, you know, being self-taught in art was... was kind of a blessing in some ways because I never really knew what I was doing wrong. Now, if you had me like sit in a room and draw a perfect three-point perspective drawing, I would fail miserably. Or you know, if... if I was drawing a model from life, you know, the hands would look really weird and yeah it wouldn't it wouldn't turn out well. But I learned more by just looking at other people's cartoons and comics and, you know, putting that through my... my vision and came out with my own somewhat unique style. But if you look closely, I mean you can definitely see okay, well, he probably picked up this detail from this artist and this one from this artist. You know, I can probably go through a comic strip and say okay, well, I learned that from, you know, Roz Chast or that from Tom Gauld -- these are all cartoonists -- that from J.J. Sempé and you know... but I think it comes through as hopefully something unique to me when you see it all put together.
SARA: Yeah, I really like your style and I... please don't take this as a slight but it's like stick figures evolved, right? You... you don't put so much emphasis on the... the person or the subject but it's the surroundings or the background that you really put thought into and that translates to where you can... you know, in some of your books you're talking about these deep meanings that are conveyed just by really simple pictures so I find that really enlightening.
GRANT: So as a cartoonist that's a compliment so I feel like a lot of my favorite comic strips like I mean, you know, classic Peanuts, the Tintin graphic novels -- they called them comic books back then -- you know it's... it's a very almost like flat character that's, you know, and by their actions and by their... by what they do and what happens around them, you kind of get a sense of that character. You almost like as a reader inhabit that character. And that's... you know, that's definitely a goal of mine but it's also kind of maybe my own artistic limitations. But you know, when I'm reading, I notice I do prefer that, you know, if the character is not quite so specifically defined that you're noticing every facial expression. I can definitely get more of a sense of their emotions because I'm putting my own emotions into it.
That said, I did a... one of my recent picture books I illustrated, it was a little bit more realistic drawing style. And about halfway through my drawings of the book, my wife's like oh, you don't know how to draw elbows. And I was like yeah, that's correct. They kind of have these like spaghetti arms but... and a different sense of motion than real people might move in. But hey, it works.
SARA: Yeah, it's like impressionist paintings, right? You get a sense of what the -- what the picture is from far away or you don't have to hone in or get under a microscope to understand like you get the feeling of it.
GRANT: Yeah, hopefully.
SARA: Yeah, I... you emote that emotion for sure. For sure.
GRANT: How much time do you have?
So I yeah, I can think of a few and you know if... if I go too much, you know, feel free to change... change the subject. but I think from early on, books that I remember reading were some of the wordless picture books so like David Wiesner, his book Tuesday which is frogs floating out of a pond at night and flying through the... the town on lily pads. that was just, you know, pure imagination and something that really sparked me to want to draw and still does for that matter. kind of along that more realistic and imaginative line, Chris van Allsburg was a... an illustrator I also loved growing up, just the... the sculptural detail and... and feeling he puts into his works and they're all kind of mysterious and have these stories with great twists at the end. I don't know that anyone's ever quite drawn like him or... although many have tried.
Nowadays, you know, reading to my own young kids, I really love Mo Willems. I mean, he's kind of like the Dr. Seuss of the current age. I think his Elephant and Piggy books are just... you know, they're just hilarious and they... they leave you as like a... as a cartoonist or a picture book maker, I walk away from it feeling like man, I want to go and make a book. It looks... Mo makes it look so easy and obviously it's not easy but he makes you feel like you can... you can just go out and draw that book after you read it. You know, getting into like I guess more comics, I grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes and still like those by Bill Watterson. Which was in the newspapers, you know, I would read with breakfast cereal every morning. I never liked Peanuts with Charlie Brown and Snoopy growing up. I think it was too like maybe grown-up.
SARA: Right, there's a lot of those comics.
GRANT: A few years ago I started checking out the volumes from like 1950s beyond. And just reading it.. you know, trying to read every decade of Peanuts and I realized no, I love it, it's an amazing strip and obviously it's influenced so many people including, you know, Bill Watterson, Mo Willems, etc.
And then, you know, getting more into graphic novels, Raina Telgemeier, she's a really popular one among, you know, teens and young readers. I love her work. Gene Yang another, you know, cartoonist working in that space. He had an amazing book come out last year called Dragon Hoops. And I... he's... he usually does, you know, kind of middle grade or young teen concepts but this was like about basketball which as a sports fan and a graphic novel lover, it was... it was amazing that he was able to combine those two in such a cool way.
Shall I go on? [LAUGHS]
SARA: Yeah, yeah, if you have more. Because what we do at the end of each episode is we build a book list and then we share that on our website so if anything that you feel you want to share, we'll share it with our customers too.
GRANT: Yeah and then I mean going on to like books for grown-ups quote-unquote which I kind of think is a... a silly distinction sometimes. I have been... I mean, I've always liked the work of Chris Ware, Roz Chast who are two very different cartoonists but you'll find both of them in the pages of the New Yorker. And based on some of the influences of other artists I've seen, I've gotten these old comic books which are about like the size of a... a table really of some old comic strips from like the 1920s and '30s and '40s: Little Nemo in Slumberland, Gasoline Alley and the way that these artists worked with like the full broadsheet Sunday newspaper was amazing: colors, composition, everything. So that just makes me want to go and draw too. And I think that's the... you know, the highlight of a good book, illustrated book is it makes you want to pick up a pen and pencil and start drawing.
SARA: Definitely. And I really like what you said about children's books, wordless books. You know, oftentimes people overlook wordless books but it's so fascinating to sit down with a wordless book and create your own story with your child or just look at the pictures, you know? Oftentimes people who are, you know, English is their second language, those books or graphic novels, it really helps fill in the gaps for people who may be struggling with literacy and so that's... that's really nice.
SARA: I remember the first time I went to the children's room and picked up a wordless book. It was The Other Side by István Bányai, is that how you say it?
GRANT: Oh yeah. His drawings are amazing.
SARA: I love it! It was just no words, just perspective. Just one perspective of a little girl looking out a window and then another perspective of someone looking up at that window and seeing and it just carried that story that way and I just thought, wow, how profound that these pictures could speak so much without any words at all.
GRANT: Right, yeah. And I think too like I mean... where I'm in my... in my reading life right now, I don't have so much time to sit down and devour a novel. When I do, I love it but it's just... it's hard. But for better or worse when I pick up a graphic novel from one of my favorite author/illustrators, I can maybe read it in a night or a couple days. Which... which is good for efficiency. Not saying that's the most important thing in reading but for the time crunch individual.
SARA: Right, but then also you like it get your brain thinking differently, right? Because you're reading text, you're looking at words, you're synthesizing both of that together and sometimes even graphic novels that are geared toward teenagers to teach complex ideas like physics or math can do a lot more and you're seeing a lot more textbooks have illustrations in them because we can bridge that gap, you know? And it's not just for reluctant readers but it actually is completing the story or the narrative.
GRANT: My thought is the next generation of readers will be so much more visual because... because of their interactions with screens and with Instagram and I think, you know, probably that has some negative effects but it also really opens up the possibilities to people who are just used to seeing words and pictures together. I mean, that's going to be their... their normal and I think, you know, graphic novelists and cartoonists and comic book creators who really take advantage of that and... yeah, make some great work for these young readers.
SARA: I was recently reading this article in the Wichita Eagle about this WSU professor and one of his prior students creating an app called Vizling. Have you heard anything about this?
GRANT: No, I haven't. That sounds neat.
SARA: So what they're doing is... you know graphic novels, illustrated books are wonderful and all but if you have any kind of visual impairment, right, you can't unless it's scripted audioly -- or excuse me, an audio version, then you... you don't have context to what the story is.
SARA: And so what they're doing is they're... they're testing this app where not only are they transcribing the words that are in the graphic novel but they're creating a multi-modal system where you can have alerts on your device, your tablet that tell you like sound effects or, you know, how to swipe for panels so that way it makes it more inclusive and because they were finding that there were people in their classes that had these impairments, these visual impairments and they weren't able to conceptualize all the content. And so to create equity, they started this project and I'm curious to see how this will go. I know they're testing this fall, this app that they have so...
GRANT: That sounds like an amazing idea, yeah.
GRANT: And it's a challenge that, you know, the average reader maybe wouldn't think of but man, to make something that can be appreciated as much by, you know, by readers who have those visual impairments, that's... that's a great goal.
SARA: I think so too. Yeah.
Well, hey. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll be talking about the process of telling an illustrated story and what it takes to get your work published so stay tuned.
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SARA: Okay, welcome back to the show. We're here with Grant Snider and we've been talking about turning a passion for drawing into a reality.
So you are a very busy person. You not only draw in your free time but you also are an orthodontist. Where do you find your inspiration for the subjects in your stories?
GRANT: Yeah, I think for me it all starts with the sketchbook. When I try to sit down and create something with that scary blank page in front of me, I get intimidated. Nothing happens, it's... it's frustrating. But when I can, you know, just casually doodle, draw something I'm seeing as I'm walking in my neighborhood, you know, have an idea in between patients at my day job and... and then come back to it when I need to, you know, make something publishable, you know, that's a... that's a really good jumping in point. I can look back through my sketchbook that's... that I've been keeping all... all year really and, you know, find the seed of an idea and then, you know, make that come to life hopefully through... through a comic or through a kid's book. So yeah, that's... if I had like a time machine to go back and tell my younger artistic self one secret, it would be, hey, start keeping a sketchbook. Put down everything you think of, put down everything you see. Most of it will be not very useful but the little things that are... are, you know, hugely inspirational to sitting down to do work.
SARA: I really love that about your picture books. You know, what's the sound of morning, what color is night? You know, these seem like simple concepts but when you really start to think about them, these are really profound ideas and it's not that you're... it's not that you're telling our listeners or telling your audience that they aren't capable of thinking like this, it's just like you said, settling down, having patience, sitting with a thought and then making that thought you know -- or expressing that thought on your on paper. So yeah, I checked out quite a few books preparing for this episode and was just really touched by a lot of your stories. I even recently checked out Quiet Power where you illustrated the young adult version of that and because I have a child who is a bit of an introvert now that she's getting into her teen years. And I didn't necessarily want to just thrust this book at her and say you need to read this, but I was like, oh, you might find this interesting. You're about to go to middle school. You know, there's some really good tidbits in here but also having that illustrated component makes it less scary, makes it less feel like a self-help book.
GRANT: Oh, absolutely.
SARA: Or more like just a companion novel or something that you're taking with you.
SARA: So she... she's still pretty reluctant to read what I encourage her to read but she did start reading it this morning so I was like, yes!
GRANT: I do like the idea of yeah, just... just leaving the book out there, you know... you know, not... not actually handing it to your child just being like hey, you know, it's almost... it's an invitation to pick it up but not, you know, do something for homework basically.
SARA: Exactly. It's not required reading.
SARA: You know, for a long time I would bring books home and yeah, we would read together and now she's at the point right now where she does her own reading and she... she likes finding her own book. She doesn't necessarily want her mommy librarian to tell her what to read.
GRANT: Oh yeah. [CHUCKLES]
SARA: Not to say that I don't have the resources available.
GRANT: Yeah, I've found whenever I give... give my kids... you know, elementary school age -- well, the older ones -- free range to go pick a book at the library, they'll put... they'll pick the one I absolutely could not stand to read.
GRANT: I don't know what that means basically. I mean, we have different tastes but there is definitely some overlap like I get my stack of kids books, they like some of them, some they don't want to touch. So we're looking for different things in books, we do find some common ground.
SARA: Definitely. And one thing, the program that we have at the Library, 1000 Books Before Kindergarten -- I don't know if you're... you participated in that program or not.
GRANT: They've done a million books before, yeah.
SARA: Oh yeah. Yeah and it doesn't take long. I mean, if you just read a few books a night, you can hit that thousand mark in a year. But yeah, those are... that's really good incentive. And letting children self-select I think is important because that just empowers them to want to read more on their own.
GRANT: Oh yeah.
SARA: Well, so you kind of talked about your process of having a sketchbook and that is a jumping off point for inspiration. What is the process for illustrating your illustrated storytelling? So once you do that sketch, where does it go from there to become a book?
GRANT: Everyone's a little bit different. I mean, so I work best when I have the pictures and... and words come together. Which if I'm writing and illustrating, obviously that's easier to do that. So it's kind of just iterations of detail so... so like the first sketch will look like, you know, somebody scribbled it on a napkin. You might not even be able to read the words if I showed it to you. The second one, you know, I'll be refining things thinking more about okay, where are things gonna sit on the page? You know, what words need to be here, what... what pictures should be here? Eventually if I'm... if it's going to be like a kid's picture book we do what's called a book dummy which is kind of a funny... funny term but basically that... it's something that looks like the finished book but it's going to be, you know, rough text, rough sketch but you... you could actually pick it up, flip through it and it would read like a book. And I think that's the... that's the point where I know, okay, is this idea working or not? Is it something that's, you know, going to follow through for 32 or 40 or more pages?
And then at some point if I'm trying to get it published, you know, my book editor and book agent will get involved. And obviously bringing in other... other minds is a challenging part because you have to be open to criticism and failure and, you know, feedback. But assuming the idea is approved and goes through that process -- which can take a long time -- then it's... it's just kind of reworking it, reworking it, each step getting a little bit more clear with the pictures, more detailed and more... more polished. So I probably end up like on the books What Color Is Night?, What Sound is Morning?, I might go through 10 or 12 drafts of it including, you know, three or four of the actual final drawing before the actual completed art and completed text is in place. Which sounds very frustrating when you... if you were to like look back from that perspective but in the process of it, it doesn't... it doesn't seem like you're doing -- going through it that many times. It just it feels more like a an organic process, I guess.
SARA: Yeah. And do you have your family members jump in like do you read the book to your child or your children?
GRANT: Whether they want to hear it or not.
No, I'm... I'm kind of blessed with two amazing first readers. My wife Kayla is like the person who has a different, a lot different brain and perspective than me and you know... but still reads tons of picture books like I do so she's a good feedback from someone who doesn't think quite like me to see, okay, is this interesting, what's working, what's not. My brother Gavin who I mentioned before is somebody with a very similar brain than me but, you know, different life experiences because he doesn't have kids, he lives in a big city, you know, etc. So... so those, they're two like very different kind of readers that can give me very honest feedback and don't have to worry about hurting my feelings because they know how to --
SARA: They love you!
GRANT: Yeah, exactly. They know they're not going anywhere. So having those... those two first readers is one of the most valuable parts of my process.
SARA: That's great, that's great. And so you... you get your book out there and like you said, you go through all these reiterations of it. But your book Shape of Ideas, now was that taken from your website Incidental Comics or --
GRANT: Yeah, so those books are a little bit different. There... I have The Shape of Ideas which was my first, you know, published solo book. It's a collection of comics done basically over half a decade or so that... that were my weekly comic strips that appeared on incidentalcomics.com. But eventually they were enough to kind of, you know, reflect a deeper theme which was creativity in that case. And then my second book in that style was called I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf which is all my books about -- I'm sorry, all my comics about reading, writing, the love of literature, the frustration of the blank page and eventually there are enough of those to put together in a book. I'm putting the finishing touches on the third in that trilogy which is called The Art of Living. So I think over the last few years it's... they've gone more towards poetry and mindfulness and thinking about thinking, as sort of funny as that sounds. So they're more about like internal thoughts and stuff but if you... if you line those three books up together, that's basically all the comics I've done over the course of my creative career.
SARA: That's great and especially, you know, in this past few years or year and a half we've had a lot of time to do thinking or reflect, reflecting.
GRANT: Way too much time to think.
SARA: So we could all use a little bit of mindfulness in our lives. Oh, that's great.
Well, so you have a handful of books out there. Two handfuls, probably. How hard was it to get your work published? Do you have any tips or tricks for novice illustrators who want to break out into the mainstream field of drawing?
GRANT: Yeah, I found that every, you know, fellow author/illustrator I talked to has a completely different path. So my... my own path is definitely a sample size of one. I wouldn't like try to draw any huge conclusions for it although just, you know, expect if you if you want to have your work published, if you want to make books, expect to be doing it for a long time with maybe not a whole bunch to show for it. So what really... what really had to drive me was like the love of making the work. You know, when I first started putting my comics out there, I didn't know how many people were reading them or how many people wanted to read them but eventually they gained some following and stuff. And I thought pretty early on, hey, you know a lot of people are seeing these comics online. They're probably good enough to put into a book. And then a whole lot of nothing happened for quite a while. [CHUCKLES] And then finally they came into a book. Similarly with my picture books, I thought hey, I have some really good ideas. I know how to write and draw. It'll probably be pretty easy to get a book published. Half a decade later, finally.
You know, being open to the frustration of not seeing that first amazing idea take off and, you know, necessarily be turned into a book or... or even a book that many people notice, I think just accepting that but also having still the goal, hey, I want to see my work on the page. I have these awesome ideas. I love to draw, I really want to get that out into the world. More on the more practical side, you know, sharing your work online is... is I think really important. It's super easy to do nowadays. It wasn't quite as easy when I first started but anybody can put drawings on Instagram, put poetry on Instagram, you know, start a... you know, any kind of site or whatever... whatever other social media thing is out there that I haven't discovered yet. And that's... that's a good thing to do. And then if you're really truly like wanting to get your... your work published like by a major publisher, you have to find a book agent which I had no idea for about the first few years I was doing it. But that's the person who connects you with the... with the publisher, with the editors. If you're just an individual person with no relationship to these publishers and you're sending out your manuscripts, it's pretty difficult for it to get noticed and to be turned into a book.
SARA: For sure. And getting that agent, does that also open up accessibility to get your work recognized by certain committees or, you know, certain book events like Kansas Notable Books?
GRANT: Yeah, I mean... I think... I think for sure it puts you like in the category of okay, this person's an author who's... who's taking it seriously. Now, I think a lot of those are more... more a byproduct of okay, your book's been published by a major publisher, now you have a book out, now they can recognize that. But that doesn't happen for the majority of people without that book agent making that first connection with the editor at the publishing house who's going to put your book into the world.
SARA: Right, yeah. Well, thank you, yeah. So if we have any listeners in the audience who are interested in getting their works published, it might behoove you to check into an agent first so that way you can start that path and not have so many hurdles, not to say that the road isn't hard and long and dusty but definitely it helps to have connections for sure.
Well, we're going to take another quick break. When we come back, we'll be talking about being your own muse and sharing that expression with a bigger audience so stick around.
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SARA: Welcome back to the show. We're here with Grant Snider and we've been talking about what it takes to get your work into the hands of a larger audience.
So a lot of your work can be described as self-reflective or autobiographical. Do you think that helps you connect with your audience?
GRANT: I hope so, yeah. I do think that whenever somebody reads something that's... that's authentic to the author or the illustrator, they recognize that. So like when I'm writing from my own life experience, be it actual things I've seen or experienced or more or more feelings I have that I'm representing with like a metaphor, it certainly feels more real to me as a creator when I can put that on paper. And I think the... the audience can see that honesty and authenticity in the work itself. I'm not saying you can't write something completely outside your experience and completely outside your... your comfort zone but you do have to have that... that entry point. Yeah, so for me, just like reflecting on things I've seen, things I've done, feelings I had, those little personal tidbits which, you know, are sometimes tough to share are often pretty universal feelings that, you know, people across the world will be... will be having and can share with you.
SARA: Yeah and that's nice because there are real people in your stories. It's not just books about animals or... and nothing, there's nothing wrong with that but it... it feels like we're stepping into your world, your life, or your bubble and so that... that is nice because like you said, these are universal themes and so it could help someone who might be feeling or down or experiencing some kind of emotion and not knowing how to... to express that and to see someone else express that and then find something on the other side. That's empowering.
GRANT: I think it's healthy for the person making the work too because yeah, if I'm feeling really frustrated or angry about something, you know, drawing a comic about it and working through that is definitely better than putting a hole in the wall or you know --
-- yelling at the top of my lungs in the backyard. You know, it's... it's a good outlet to --
SARA: For sure.
GRANT: -- explore some of those difficult feelings which... you know, which come about.
SARA: Yeah, most definitely.
Well, one final question for you: are there any local events, venues, or projects that you can recommend to our listeners who want to get a better appreciation for illustrated works? Is there anything that you do from your day-to-day life that you would say this is what you need to do to tap in to your community and... and inspire you to draw?
GRANT: Yeah, I have a few ideas. I mean the... I'll start with the Wichita Public Library for one. I mean, a great resource. My... my family may have the record for most books on hold at one time.
I think the librarians kind of groan when they take out our plastic bags full of, you know, books on hold and --
SARA: We love it.
GRANT: And what I... what I like to do like on a... on a free morning sometimes is go to the... the central library branch and just browse the kids section. I think it's really cool to just see the... what the books are organized I think in kind of an interesting way by theme versus by author in a lot of cases. And so I just love to stumble upon books I never would have noticed otherwise if I was just searching for one specific author. So yeah, browsing new books at the Wichita library is great for me. And then Watermark Books and Cafe, you know, for people like me who can't resist going into a bookstore not buying a book. I just love Watermark. The owner Sarah Bagby's just amazing at connecting with the local literary community and the broader, you know, national community. They have some amazing authors come and speak for them whether in person or online and they have a great selection of illustrated and other books plus good food. And then for my... for my just random sketchbook outings, I mean just some of the local, you know, Wichita institutions. Botanica, a great place to draw outdoors. The Wichita Art Museum, I'll go there on their free Saturdays and sketch in the galleries. And then the Ulrich Museum of Art and the... the sculptures on the Wichita State University campus. Those are just great quiet places to sit with a sketchbook, to people watch, to look at art and other... you know, at nature and... and put some good ideas down on paper.
SARA: For sure. Yeah, I really love how they organize -- we call them neighborhoods in the children's room -- and we have neighborhoods up on the second floor for adults too but it makes it so easy to find like books because yeah, if you want books on dinosaurs or you want books on things that go or even emotions, it's just so convenient to find those different neighborhoods and browse. Before they started doing that at the old central branch, they would bundle books or they would kind of stack them on top of the stacks and then just say, oh, here are these different neighborhoods. And... and so yeah, I... when I would go in with my bag, I'm like pull all of them off. [CHUCKLES]
GRANT: Bring the whole neighborhood home with you.
SARA: Yeah, exactly. I brought a whole neighborhood home. But it does, it just... the more accessible you can make your material to customers and attractive, the more it circulates so no, for sure. One thing I've seen in Wichita especially down on in Douglas is all of these pop-up galleries. I don't know if you and your family have taken strolls down Douglas there. There used to be the pop-up park but now I think it's like chain link alley where people can do murals.
GRANT: Oh, cool.
SARA: You just sign up and then you can go out there and paint murals and then I think they rotate those out. There are other different... like there's an alley galley or something or gallery, something like that. Just it seems like in the last five years there's been a lot more emphasis on visual art in the community, not just going to a museum or, you know, indoor space but like they're trying to bring that that art outdoors. So yeah, if anybody is interested in checking those out, the Q Line is free on Saturday -- or it's free all the time but you can hop on and take the trolley up and down Douglas street and check out all those outdoor venues too.
Well, that does it for our... our interview. Thank you so much for joining us today, Grant. It's been really inspirational. As someone who likes to draw but doesn't think she's a very good artist, you've inspired me to keep trying, keep that sketchbook with me because I'm sure there's some good ideas up here, it just...
GRANT: Thank you Sara, that's a great compliment. It's been fun talking with you.
SARA: Have a wonderful day.
GRANT: Thank you, take care.
SARA, VOICEOVER: Today we are joined by three librarians who will share their recommendations for noteworthy books that fit category 5, an illustrated book.
KRISTI DOWELL: Hi, I'm Kristi Dowell, the Customer Service Manager and Interim Director of Libraries. For a book with illustrations, I'm recommending Skippyjon Jones, a children's picture book by author and illustrator Judy Schachner. Among other awards, this book won the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award by the Association of Booksellers for Children. Skippyjon Jones is a Siamese kitten described as having a head and ears that are too big for his body. He has a vivid overactive imagination. He imagines that he is a Chihuahua named Skippito Friskito. Through his closet, he goes on adventures with a pack of chihuahuas in the various Skippyjon Jones books. The vibrant, rich, colorful illustrations match the energetic words and humor and it is a good multi-cultural book for children. For me, looking at illustrations in a book can bring back the feelings that I had while reading it. This is certainly a book that my children and I read over and over and over. When I read it and see the fun illustrations, I remember the bonding and the closeness of being with my kids when they were young. And because it is a timeless book, I hope to share it again someday with my future grandkids!
BEN KITTRELL: Hi, I'm Ben Kittrell, Youth Services Library Assistant at the Alford Branch Library. I'd like to recommend the illustrated novel The Last Hero: A Discworld Fable by Terry Pratchett with art by Paul Kidby. The greatest hero of Prachett's legendary Discworld, Cohen the Barbarian, has done and seen almost everything over the course of a very long lifetime. The only thing left on his bucket list is to finally meet the Gods of Discworld... and kill them. Since this will result in the total destruction of the world, heroes are dispatched from the city of Ankh-Morpork to try to stop him. Will they reach Cohen in time? It's a one in a million chance. But, as Pratchett often reminds us, one in a million chances pay off about nine times out of ten. This book is as good as any of the best Discworld tales, with Pratchett's flawless prose and impeccable comic timing shining through on every page. Paul Kidby's art is imaginative with an impressive stylistic flair that captures the essence of the characters and iconic settings. If you are looking for a truly great comic adventure with real heart and sharp insight into the human condition, The Last Hero just might be for you.
GREG NORDYKE: I'm Greg Nordyke, Virtual Librarian at the Wichita Public Library. My selection for ReadICT category 5, an illustrated book, is They Called Us Enemy, written by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott with art by Harmony Becker. You might know George Takei as an actor, activist, or just from social media. But 24 years before becoming famous as helmsman of the starship Enterprise, he was a five-year-old boy from California. The year is 1942 and young George is the American-born son of a Japanese immigrant. One day his father tells George, his younger brother, and baby sister that they're going on a long vacation which in reality was a forced train ride that led the family past a barbed wire fence into Camp Rohwer in Arkansas. What ensues is a first-hand account of what the United States federal government did to 120,000 Japanese Americans from 1942 to 1945. Although you might find this in the graphic novel section, this book is more accurately described as a graphic memoir. In school, I learned that many Japanese Americans were forced from their homes into internment camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor, but little more. Learning about the camps in this format impacted me in a strong and unexpected way. This book has rightfully earned acclaim. It was a recipient of the American Book Award in 2020 and was named one of the best books of the year by N.P.R. and Publishers Weekly among other organizations. You should check out They Called Us Enemy by George Takei.
SARA MCNEIL, VOICEOVER: Thank you for those awesome recommendations and thank you to the listeners of today's episode. Listeners can request books by visiting our website, wichitalibrary.org, or calling the Library at (316) 261-8500. To participate in the ReadICT reading challenge, please visit wichitalibrary.org/readict. To find a full list of books mentioned in this episode, please visit wichitalibrary.org/podcast. And as always, stay connected with other ReadICT participants on the ReadICT Challenge Facebook page. Find out what's trending near you, post book reviews, look for local and virtual events, and share book humor with like-minded folks.
You can follow this podcast through the Anchor app or stream episodes wherever you get your podcasts. If you like what you heard today, be sure to leave us a 5 star review. This has been a production of the Wichita Public Library and a big thanks goes out to those staff members who helped produce this episode. I'm your host, Sara McNeil. Join us next time when we will be discussing a book bash mashup of three categories: travel, author under 30, and ugly cover with local book peddler Sarah Bagby of Watermark Books and Cafe.