Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Matt Phelan, Author and Illustrator of children’s books and graphic novels. Matt is the award-winning creator of the graphic novels Snow White, The Storm in the Barn, Bluffton, and Around the World, and the picture book Druthers. He is also the illustrator of many books for young readers including Flora’s Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall, Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen, Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park, and The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal.
Thanks for being with us, Matt. The first question we have for you is, how can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
My web page at: http://www.mattphelan.com/
Facebook: Matt Phelan Author Page
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you do? What can readers expect from you next (Latest cover, book, comic, movie, etc?) or what is the last thing you worked on?
I am an author/illustrator who creates picture books, chapter books, and graphic novels. I’ve also illustrated many books written by other authors, such as Jeanne Birdsall, Linda Sue Park, and Jane Yolen. I’ve been illustrating for sixteen years and have worked on more than thirty books.
I released two books this year. The first is Knights Vs. The End (Of Everything) which concludes my middle grade novel trilogy. I’ve had an absolute blast telling the adventures of the knights and Mel and this book further develops their relationships and brings the story to a satisfying conclusion (if not an ending). It is probably my favorite of the three.
My latest picture book is Turtle Walk which tells the story of a very, very slow walk with a family of turtles. The walk takes so long that they stroll through all four seasons. It was inspired by walking my daughter around our Philadelphia block when she was two. It would take about an hour and she would pause to notice everything. I loved those walks because it forced me to slow down and notice things, too.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you create? What do you think draws customers to these works?
I began my career as an illustrator of picture books and they continue to be the most wonderfully challenging books to create. As an illustrator as well as an author, I imagine all of my books as picture books on some level. My four graphic novels can be seen as picture books for older readers, for instance. The form of the book (picture book, chapter book, or graphic novel) is dictated by the idea itself. What sort of book should this be? I’m grateful to be able to explore different ways of telling a story, and even more grateful to have readers of all ages interested in reading them.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
After TURTLE WALK in October, I’ll have a picture book called SWEATER WEATHER out next year (hopefully). I am also working on a new, top secret chapter book that is unrelated to the Knights Vs. books. I hope that will also be ready for 2021.
What does your work space look like? What do you need to have around you while working?
I work in a 10’x18′ studio in my backyard. It has all of my art supplies, lots of books (some going back to my own childhood), records, CDs, and assorted musical instruments. Everything is a source of inspiration and/or creativity. Add coffee and mix well.
You can see the studio here:
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your career as an artist/author?
Trust your instincts. And if something isn’t working, fix it.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other artists/authors that have helped you in your career?
The Highlights Foundation runs some of the best workshops designed for writers and artists of books for children and does so in an idyllic setting. Also, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is a fantastic resource. I had my first break from a portfolio review at one of their regional events, so I owe quite a bit to them.
Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us, Matt!