Friday, August 16, 2013

1/2 Dozen with Aaron Becker

Welcome to the world of debut author-illustrator Aaron Becker. His recently released picture book JOURNEY is getting rave reviews, including a glowing write-up in The New York Times. Becker has worked for Lucasfilm, Disney, and many other production studios on films such as The Polar Express, Monster House, War of the Worlds, and Beowulf

Read the interview below, buy the book for a kid you love, and check out his web site -- -- for some delights.  

What kind of child were you, inside of what kind of childhood, and how did it shape you as a writer? 
The inner imaginings of my childhood were far more compelling to me than anything I found on the outside. The adult world seemed like something to actively avoid, but the inevitable was always lurking around the corner. I vividly remember the moment when I became self conscious of my imagination; standing in my room realizing I was talking out loud to my toys. I tried to keep going with the storyline but it felt silly: I knew how things would end, so what was the point?!! I’ve been hungry ever since to reconnect with that unaffected place where it’s worth the time to daydream. To capture enchantment and put it on the page. 

Writing Tip #17 for Aspiring Writers – or #47 or #2. Your pick.  
Before you write, examine why it is you’re attracted to the idea that’s grabbed you. Explore this until you grow uncomfortable. From there, find what needs to open within you and, with empathy, create the character that needs your attention and love. Or, alternatively, realize all of this in hind-site after you've suffered through the process of writing something meaningful and realize why it worked.

Pep talk (or bootie-kicking) for the downhearted writer. Let fly.  
I’m in my tenth month of writing a 40 page picture book for children. The first or second draft would have sufficed, but it would have been a lousy book. I keep coming up with story lines, switching formats, refining text, and then canning the entire thing only to start again. I believe I am on my fifth overall concept, each with countless drafts, some with entirely fleshed out sketches and drawings that take weeks of full-time work. Is this sane? Probably not. But I do believe it’s going to lead me somewhere good. It’s this delusion that keeps me going, and it seems to do the trick. 

Have you learned to strike a balance between your writing life and the other aspects of your life? 
Yes, but only because I’ve made a conscious decision to be a husband and father first. The taxing nature of this type of work requires that there are people around you who love and support you. The only way I’ve found to ensure that this happens is to be a decent person myself.

What other jobs have you had -- other than writing or teaching writing? Did one of these help shape you as a writer? 
For about ten years, I worked as a concept designer for the film industry. Though you’d think this would have taught me a lot about story telling, it actually has sort of worked the other way around. The best children’s books don’t follow the strong morality tales of cinema; a picture book allows for a more nuanced, ambivalent tone.  It's what I love about the genre.

Are you a writer of place? Is place always one of your main characters?  
Place comes first for me. As a painter, I’m drawn to landscapes. I’m ungrounded unless I know the space I’m inhabiting. Journey started out this way, as a series of exotic locales. Slowly, the hero girl made her way into the story. And eventually she encouraged me to see the benefit of having more going on than just the pretty pictures. I'm glad she did.

Born in Baltimore, Aaron Becker moved to California to attend Pomona College where he scored his first illustration job designing t-shirts for his water polo team. Since then, he's worked for Lucasfilm, Disney, and many other production studios on films such as The Polar Express, Monster House, War of the Worlds, and Beowulf; he's traveled to Kenya, Japan, Sweden, and Tahiti backpacking around while looking for good things to eat and feeding his imagination. He now lives with his family in Amherst, MA where he's busy at work on his next book project. 

 You can find out more about what he's been up to lately at