I met Ame at the 2013 New Jersey SCBWI annual conference. And Holy Smokey Batman! She is a spitfire of energy and enthusiasm. And it’s no surprise that her first book, Boy + BOT, illustrated by the amazing Dan Yaccarino, is affirmatively AWESOME! She also has three more affirmatively awesome books coming out: Tea Party Rules, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Viking; October 3, 2013); Wolfie & Dot, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (Little, Brown; Spring, 2015), and Horrible Bear, also illustrated by Zachariah OHora (Little, Brown; Fall, 2015).
Ame, thanks so much for doing this interview.
Thanks so much for having me, Robin! Your blog’s a fun place!
Let me start off with that my son and I are HUGE fans of Boy + BOT. How did it come about?
Awww, SO CUTE! (Thanks for the book love, little guy!) I’ve adored books since I was little, too—especially the great friendship-despite-difference stories of my youth, like Frog and Toad and George and Martha. But I didn’t get serious about trying to be an author myself until I grew up got older. Luckily for me, I found the amazing NJ chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. (YAY, NJ SCBWI!) I made tons of friends, got gobs of really helpful feedback on my own friendship-despite-difference story, and met Super Agent Scott Treimel, who heard my pitch for Boy +BOT and said, “I love it! Let’s work together!”
One of the things I love about Boy + BOT is that the Boy’s and the BOT’s stories mirror each other. How long did it take you to come up with the structure, let alone the story?
Boy + BOT took about nine months (I know!) from its first “Write me!” idea to the version I pitched to Scott at the 2009 NJ SCBWI Annual Conference. I started playing with the mirror structure pretty early in the process, though. Mirror stories are a fantastic way to show similarities between seemingly dissimilar characters. (And bonus: they have big humor potential!)
You’ve had some really cool jobs in the past—from playing a costumed character to teaching. Have any of these jobs influenced your writing?
My year as a preschool/elementary substitute teacher definitely influenced my writing! My favorite part of each day was story time. (Even when the toddlers asked me to read The Giving Tree just because they knew it made me cry!) I never wanted story time to end. And now it never has to.
What was it like playing a costumed character?
Being a costumed character is terrific fun—except in a strong breeze. (Once, in a costume that had a particularly high surface area-to-volume ratio, I got blown over and couldn’t get back up!) Here’s one of my other alter egos:
I was lucky enough to attend your talk, “Growing an Evergreen” at the NJ SCBWI conference. You started out by quoting from Pippin Properties, Inc. “Evergreens . . . to create books that will stand the test of time.” What traits do you think a book needs to stand the test of time? What are some of your favorite evergreen titles?
For me, the most important shared trait of evergreens is genuine Kidness—something in the protagonist or plot that really reflects what it means to be a kid. (I know Kidness isn’t a word, but it should be!) Whether it’s emotional Kidness (Where the Wild Things Are), action Kidness (The Snowy Day), belief Kidness (The Carrot Seed), relationship Kidness (The Runaway Bunny), etc., I feel it’s the Kidness in an evergreen that makes each new child listener connect with it and say, “I get this! I love this!” and each grown-up reader say, “I still love this, too.”
Can you tell us a bit about Tea Party Rules and Wolfie & Dot?
Tea Party Rules is a funny compromise-during-playtime story between a savvy little girl and the cookie-craving bear cub who crashes her backyard tea party. K.G. Campbell’s (Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters, and the upcoming Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo) illustrations are hysterical! They make me laugh every time I see them!
Wolfie & Dot is a funny sibling story about a family of rabbits who adopt a baby wolf. Mama and Papa Bunny adore little Wolfie, but daughter Dot is convinced he’s going to eat them all up! It will be illustrated by Zachariah OHora (Stop Snoring, Bernard; No Fits, Nilson, etc.), and I couldn’t be more over-the-moon about this! I wrote Zach a year or two ago telling him how much I loved his work—and now we get to work together! It’s a Small (Kidlit) World!
Can you give your fans the scoop on some of your works in progress?
I’m currently finishing a funny (YAY, funny!) early reader starring three very unlikely roommates, and beginning work on a (you guessed it!) funny father/daughter difference-of-opinion picture book.
How can your fans get a hold of you if they would like you to do a school visit?
The best ways to reach me are via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), Twitter (@AmeDyckman), or you can just hang out in my local library or ice cream shop, and I’ll be sure to see you there soon!
Where can your fans buy Boy + BOT?
Boy + BOT is available via Indie and chain booksellers worldwide.
Lastly, do you have any words of wisdom for new writers?
Read MOUNTAINS of books in your genre, get involved with your local SCBWI chapter, learn from your critiques (especially those tough ones!), get yourself some good reference materials (such as Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac), and most importantly: don’t give up!
Ame, thanks again for doing this interview. All the best and much success!
Thank YOU, Robin! Did I have lots of fun with this interview? AFFIRMATIVE!