We're thrilled to be showcasing John Stewig today as our FEATURED SWEETHEART!
John Warren Stewig began writing professional books for teachers, librarians, and parents. He has presented lectures and workshops in over 30 states and two such professional organizations as the National Council of Teachers of English, The International Reading Association, and the American Library Association. He served on, and subsequently was chair of the Caldecott Committee.
His writing for children includes eleven picture books. Most recently published was The Animals Watched (Holiday House) an alphabet book which retells the tale of Noah. Forthcoming in 2012 is Nobody Asked the Pea, a retelling in several different first person voices.
TXS&S: Can you tell us about the Center for Children's Literature and your role as the director?
JS: The Center bases its public programing for teachers, parents, and librarians on a collection of about 25,000 recently published books. We maintain a website http://www.carthage.edu/childrens-literature/ which includes reviews of recently published books as well as additional information about the center. A major effort is bringing authors, illustrators, and others involved in children's books to campus to speak about the nature of their work. A workshop "The Business of Children's Publishing" offered every other year, explores the nature of editing and art directing.
TXS&S: What drew you to the field of children's literature? What is your hope for the future of children's literature?
JS: My mother drew me in a wagon to children's books. We went to the Carnegie Library in the small town where I grew up every single week and hauled home a wagon load full of books. My love of books began even before I could read myself.
My hope for children's literature is twofold. 1) I hope we can convince more and more adults about the importance of reading to every child every day. There is no more effective way to enhance general literacy then immersion in books. 2) My hope for publishing is that imaginative and courageous editors can continue to produce books with wide child appeal, which do not necessarily follow the most popular trends. Enough of vampires already!
TXS&S: As a multi-published author, do you have any writing or marketing advice you can share with aspiring writers?
JS: Regarding writing, I'd suggest that every piece of writing can be improved by skillful editing, either the editing the writer does or editing by some other person. I have been lucky enough to publish children's books, books for adults, a language arts series, journal articles, and newspaper opinion pieces. Each is a very different format with different constraints. My experience has been that my work has always been improved by the editors with whom I have worked.
For marketing advice, you really must seek other sources. I was quite surprised when I talked with a published author at a recent ALA convention and she told me as a matter of course that to even get a manuscript considered, a writer must have their own website, blog, facebook, and other electronic avenues to promote their work. Clearly this is the wave of the future in marketing.
TXS&S: Also, as someone who has taught methods courses in the schools, plus conducted many workshops and author programs, any public speaking tips you could enlighten us with?
JS: Know your audience. I've worked with 3 year olds and done presentations in retirement homes as well as scores of public schools and libraries. Frequently I am bemused to discover when something doesn't go over well with an audience, that it's because I didn't learn enough about my listeners before I began. Still vivid in my memory is an experience I had in a small Midwestern town when I was to be the only presenter for an entire day. I opened with Karen Cushman's The Midwife's Apprentice and thought perhaps I was going to be run out of town by 11:00am, so intense was the negative reaction. Clearly it was a case of not knowing enough about who I was talking to. (If you want to hear the rest of the story, ask me when I see you at a convention.)
TXS&S: Lastly, would your friends and colleagues consider you a Sweetheart or Scoundrel, and why?
JS: To answer this, you need to talk to the many student workers who have helped me keep the Center running for many years. They undoubtedly have a much clearer answer to that question. But I'm not going to give you their names.
JS: Thank you Jessica for offering me this opportunity, a first of its kind experience for me.
TXS&S: Thank you for being here, John!