CLiF is lucky to have 64 amazing authors, illustrators, poets, graphic novelists, and storytellers who we send to schools, libraries, afterschool programs, childcare centers, refugee/immigrant programs, prisons, affordable housing developments, and other spaces where low-income kids and families spend time in New Hampshire and Vermont. These talented folks share their processes of creating books and stories, share their work, and get kids excited about reading and writing.
One of our incredible presenters is Jason Chin, the award-winning author/illustrator of nonfiction picture books like Grand Canyon and Redwoods. His work has received starred reviews from the School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly and has received a Caldecott Honor. You can see Jason in action in this Stuck in Vermont video taken at JFK Elementary School in Winooski last summer.
We talked to Jason about what inspires him and what he hopes to share with young readers and writers.
Q. What inspired you to become an author/illustrator? What do you love most about this work?
A. When I was young, the illustrator Trina Schart Hyman came to present at my school. She lived in our town, and I got the idea that I might be able to be an illustrator from her. In high school, I met her and she became my mentor. When I was in art school, I thought I might become a portrait painter, but I realized that I liked the form of the book better, because I could tell stories with a sequence of images. The picture book as an art form excites me. It’s a three dimensional object, a sequence of images and words, and it holds a story and there are so many possibilities.
Q. What are some of the greatest challenges you face in your work?
A. The biggest challenge is figuring out what I want to say about the topic. Typically I pick a topic because I’m interested in it and want to know more about it. I do a lot of research, then I start creating. While I’m creating I have to decide what I really want to say about the topic and why the topic moves me. It can take time, and be frustrating, to figure this out.
Q. What lessons do you want to share with young readers/writers/illustrators? What do you hope they take away from your presentations?
A. One thing I tell all the kids I meet is that practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes progress. The reason is that no art is ever perfect, and if I were to focus on making a perfect piece of art, I’d never be happy. And if I don’t enjoy making art, I won’t do it, and if I don’t do it, I won’t get better—I won’t make progress. So the important thing is to enjoy drawing (or painting, or basket ball, or singing, or math) or whatever you want to learn. If you enjoy it you’ll do it, and if you do it, you’ll improve. That’s the path to success.
Q. What do you like best about doing CLiF school visits? Do you have any favorite memories from CLiF events that you want to share?
A. I love interacting with the kids and I love answering their questions. They always ask great questions and I always end up running over the time limit, because I want to take every question that comes up.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. I just had a book come out called NINE MONTHS, by Miranda Paul and illustrated by me, which I’m really excited about. I’m working on a book about the size of the universe. It’s been a struggle to put together, but I’m in the home stretch and it’s almost done.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A. I love CliF!