Amy Courage: Today on Writers’ Rumpus, we’re joined by Ame Dyckman, the author of numerous funny and sweet picture books, including WOLFIE THE BUNNY, YOU DON’T WANT A UNICORN, and MISUNDERSTOOD SHARK. You may also recognize Ame by her ever-changing, pixie-cut, kaleidoscope of color hair. We’re excited to have her answer a few questions about her writing journey and books here.
Ame Dyckman: Thanks so much for having me, Amy! And HOWDY, Rumpus-ers!
AC: First of all—what is your favorite dinosaur and your favorite ice cream flavor?
AD: My favorite dinosaur is Compsognathus, the teeny little late Jurassic chicken-sized theropod. They’re always shown in movies as hopping/running around like mad, and I like to imagine that’s what you get when a giant dinosaur falls over—it shatters into a wave of Compys!
My favorite flavor of ice cream is any scoop I DON’T drop on my foot! (But big bonus points for chocolate and peanut butter and no foot.)
AC: And getting business-y—what was your road to publication like? How did you find your agent?
AD: SCBWI, BABY! I met my agent at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) New Jersey Annual Conference way back in 2009. I participated in the Agent Pitch Session, which is where you have two minutes or so to tell a prospective agent all about your manuscript (and hopefully not throw up). I pitched my little story about a boy who befriends a robot to Scott Treimel of Scott Treimel NY. (And I didn’t throw up!) Scott and I clicked, he offered representation, and BOY + BOT became my first book.
Nine-and-a-half years later, and still having a blast! Scott just negotiated what’ll be my 17th book, and we’re working on more!
AC: What do you like best/worst about the creative/writing process?
AD: The best part about the creative/writing process is getting COMPLETELY immersed in an idea or a story. The worst part is that when I’m COMPLETELY immersed in an idea or a story… I often burn dinner and laundry. (Some weeks, we hafta order emergency pizza—and underwear!)
AC: Do you have any rituals or routines you follow when you’re writing?
AD: I’m not a “schedule” writer—I just write whenever the voices in my head complain too loudly that I’m not working on their story. (Characters can be very demanding that way.) But with every manuscript sale and major Good News, my family takes me out for Chinese food. Dumplings are EXCELLENT Ame Motivation. WILL WRITE FOR DUMPLINGS!
AC: Do you have a favorite book that you’ve written?
AD: I CAN’T CHOOSE BETWEEN MY BOOK BABIES! I seriously do love all my books equally. But that said…
I just received the dummy for my upcoming (Spring, 2020) picture book THAT’S LIFE! (an idiom-filled buddy misadventure that begins when Life literally knocks on a child’s door) with Cori Doerrfeld and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and… WOWZA! Cori did an AMAZING job with the sketches—HILARIOUS and crazy and sweet and did I mention HILARIOUS? JUST LIKE LIFE IS! I’m really, REALLY looking forward to sharing this one!
AC: What’s one of your favorite picture books by another author?
AD: *LAUGHING* Kidlit’s such a small kiddie pool, if I mention anybody’s book, I hafta mention EVERYBODY’s book! (If I leave anybody out, I gotta steer clear of spindles on spinning wheels FOREVER!) But recently, I was blown-away CHARMED by the empathy-and-humor effectiveness of the storytelling device (identical dialogue, different perspectives) in THE CROCODILE AND THE DENTIST by Taro Gomi (English translation Chronicle Books, 2018).
Hands-down, though, my favorite picture book of all time is WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak. If anyone says anything negative about WILD THINGS in my presence, they should expect to be BITTEN—I love it THAT much. Feisty-beautiful GENIUS book!
AC: What cool thing are you excited about right now? Could be a book, movie, snack, music album, warm slippers…
AD: I’m generally excited about EVERYTHING! (A friend once said I have only two settings: STOKED and Bummed! HA!) But it’s nearly the holidays, and that means a teeny bit of downtime and our favorite new family tradition, the Krampus stocking: a stocking filled with all the mischievous prank items—ghost pepper gum, anyone?—that Santa’s too nice to bring! (You should maybe not accept any food items from me ’til February. Just sayin’!)
AC: And to close—what’s coming next for you?
AD: Thanks for asking! Busy days: I have three book birthdays scheduled (so far!) in 2019:
- JANUARY 29th: MISUNDERSTOOD SHARK: FRIENDS DON’T EAT FRIENDS with Scott Magoon and Orchard Books, Scholastic (“SEA-quel” in the Misunderstood Shark series).
- MARCH 18th: TOUCHY THE OCTOPUS TOUCHES EVERYTHING with Alex G. Griffiths and Little Simon, Simon & Schuster (#3, Wee Beasties board book series).
- APRIL 2nd: DANDY (a daddy/daughter battle-of-wits over a dandelion) with Charles Santoso and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
I’m working on new stories (YAY, new stories!) as well as what’s already in the pipeline: my 2020 release of THAT’S LIFE! and one or two (I dunno know pub dates yet) other possible 2020 books, then my 2021 books, then…
Then maybe I’ll take a nap. (But prolly not! HA!)
AC: It sounds like you’ve earned that nap after all those books! Thank you for letting me pick your brain, and for sharing with us.
AD: THANKS again for having me, Amy! READ AND WRITE ON, WRITERS’ RUMPUS-ERS!
AME DYCKMAN is a NYT Bestselling author and short human megaphone. When not writing picture books and board books, Ame is usually RIGHT BEHIND YOU! (HA! Made you look!) Visit Ame on Twitter (@AmeDyckman) for picture book reviews, goofy poetry, and pretty much everything that pops into Ame’s (ever-color-changing!) head.