NaPiBoWriWee Day Seven: Good Morning Guest Author/Artist Dan Santat

National Picture Book Writing Week

Good morning! Can you believe it is DAY SEVEN? It is the last day of the 2011 National Picture Book Writing Week!

By now, you are all hardened veterans of NaPiBoWriWee. Congratulations on making it this far. 🙂

Today we have a special treat. Not one but TWO Guest Author blogs to inspire you as you write! To get your morning started right, let’s hang out with author/artist DAN SANTAT, author/artist of the upcoming graphic novel Sidekicks (coming out July 11, 2011 from Arthur A. Levine Books). Dan has graciously offered to autograph a copy of this book when it comes out in July for our prize drawing! (Please come back here at Noon (PST) for our guest author/artist blog with JANIE BYNUM.)

(Keep reading after the jump for our Q&A with Dan Santat…)



Welcome 2011 NaPiBoWriWee Guest Author/Artist/Superhero Dan Santat!

DAN SANTAT’S BIO:One day a year he is Santa Claus, but the other 364 days Dan Santat 
works as a children’s book writer and commercial illustrator. His first written and illustrated picture book was The Guild of Geniuses (Arthur A. Levine Books 2004), and other books he’s illustrated include Manners Mash-Up: A Goofy Guide to Good Behavior; OH NO! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World); Chicken Dance; Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo; The Ghosts of Luckless Gulch; and The Secret Life of Walter Kitty. He is also the creator of Disney’s animated hit, “The Replacements.” Dan graduated with honors from the Art Center, College of Design. He lives in Southern California with his wife, two kids, a rabbit, and a bird. Visit him at

— If you weren’t a writer/artist, what would you be?

A dentist. I have a previous degree in microbiology and I was planning on specializing in dentistry as a career. It wasn’t until I came across an art school booth at our campus job fair that I mustered up the courage to try to apply to art school. The rest is history.

— Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.

I’m left handed.

— What was the most unusual job you ever had?

I worked at a comic book store where I just sat and read comics all day because no one came in. One day, I came to work to find the comic shop had burned down as a hate crime committed by Neo-Nazi’s. There were swastikas spray painted all over the front of the store with racial slurs and so forth. A few weeks later it was discovered that the owner, my boss, did it to his own store so that he could collect on the insurance money.

— If you could give one piece of writing advice for our NaPiBoWriWee participants, what would it be?

Be honest with yourself. The most interesting parts about you are the parts you hold back and keep private.

— What inspired you to write or illustrate picture books?

I always loved to draw and tell stories. When I growing up I was inspired by literature, film and television, and music which crossed all generations. When I entered art school I originally thought I wanted to be an animator but everything ended up taking too long to produce and so I took a course in picture booksl and realized that it was a more efficient and fun way to tell stories.

— Given the changing book industry with the advent of e-books and the rollercoaster economy, do you still think picture books have a place for tomorrow’s children? Will people still be reading traditional picture books in the future?

Picture books will always have a place for children whether it be in digital or traditional format. As time goes on I do find more and more people switching to more of a digital format of book. Some people worry that the illustrations will have to be animated and so forth, which also I think is false. Budget is always going to keep these things simple and the more bells and whistles you add to a program the more it’s going to cost for all the labor to include all those features. With that said I don’t see traditional books going away either.  Someday, I equate the traditional book to be somewhat like collector much like the way vinyl records are in today’s music industry.

— What is your favorite art medium and why? (oil, watercolor etc.)

Traditionally I love to use acrylic paints. They dry quickly and it can take a beating and still stick to the illustration board. You can also work on top of it in multiple layers with multiple different mediums. These days though I generally work digitally in Photoshop because it speeds up my workflow tremendously. Also, no mess.

— When you write and illustrate your own picture book, do you write the story first or do you come up with a certain image first? I’m curious to hear this process.

It’s very much a back and forth process but I never let the illustrations dictate the creation of the story or the actions of my characters. Illustrations, for me, are used as a tool to enhance the story in a way where I may sometimes feel a visual cue will have a greater impact than words. An illustration can sometimes tell you the mood of a character or the way a character may behave but a drawing never tells me what decisions a character will make in a tense scene and so forth.


Thank you so much Dan for your generosity in answering our questions. For NaPiBoWriWee participants, you might win an autographed copy of Dan’s graphic novel Sidekicks (coming out July 11, 2011 from Arthur A. Levine Books) at this year’s drawing, too! We look forward to your comments on Dan.

Please visit again at 12 PM (PST) for a second Guest Author blog featuring JANIE BYNUM!

Until the next blog, Happy Writing! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! 🙂


  1. Thanks for the interview, Dan and Paula.

    Hope everyone has a great Day 7 — this went by pretty fast! I’ll miss the blog posts and the fun chatter on twitter. But it isn’t over quite yet… so I’ll enjoy it a little more!

  2. I’m a Dan Santat fan (a Fantat?) – thanks for the great interview. His work bursts with energetic joy, and his blog is filled with great insights for creatives. And random silliness.

  3. Paula – thanks for all the great blogs!
    Dan – thanks for the interview. I already had Sidekicks on my “to read” list on Goodreads. As an toy designer/artist turned author – it is always very interesting to learn about the process of other author/illustrators.

    I’m done for the week. 7 books in 7 days. Thanks for the push Paula! Thank you to all of the members of the facebook NaPiBoWriWee group – what great support!

  4. This has been a hard week. I have 7 stories started, 3 complete drafts. I get to the middle and just get lost. It’s not that I don’t know the ending, it’s that I don’t know how to get there (funny, I have the same problem in my middle grade novel . . .)

    It is fitting to have Dan Santat close out the week. I am a huge fan of his work and he is an inspiration to me every time I read his books or his blog. I recommend everyone read his blog post about Google for the ultimate in inspiration.

    But this week has also been about the real work, the hard part, the part that exposes my weaknesses and my strengths on a daily basis. Thank you, Paula, for giving me the push to just freakin’ do it.

  5. Thanks Dan, for this wonderful interview. I am in love with that photo of you. If I could have a photo like that I wouldn’t mind having my photograph taken!

    While the entire article inspired me, the advice “The most interesting parts about you are the parts you hold back and keep private.” spoke to me. That’s my big take away.

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