SCBWI/North Central-Northeast Texas Newsletter
Endcap Interview: David Davis Q&A
by Charlotte Lanham
David Davis is the author of eleven picture books. His Latest title, A
Southern Child's Garden of Verses, is scheduled for release on February
15, 2010. A Texas Renaissance Man, David excels as poet, humorist,
cartoonist, short story writer, and speaker/presenter at schools and
writers conferences. His titles include Redneck Night Before Christmas,
Librarian's Night Before Christmas, and Nurse's Night Before Christmas.
His books Jazz Cats and Ten Redneck Babies were both named to the
Children's Choice Top 100 Selection. His Texas Mother Goose and Texas
Aesop's Fables became instant favorites. David lives in Fort Worth,
Texas, and is an active member of SCBWI. Check out his website at
www.davidrdavis.com and don't miss his live school presentations on You
When did you decide to combine your love of poetry with writing rhyming picture books?
It was the day I faced the fact that I was completely unsuited to doing
anything but cartooning and writing. I had a good suit-and-tie bank
job, made good money, and was...stark...raving...miserable. I had
written comics, satire, and humor since grade school, and I knew I
finally had to take the plunge and try to sell it. Nine-to-five was
making me crazy.
Can you share, in a word, the secret to your success as a children's book author?
Persistence. Persistence is almost more important than talent. I didn't
start freelancing until I was 38 years old. Actually, some people
thought I had dropped out of life and become a bum. I hung on to my
dream like a pit bull for over ten years. I worked and slowly learned
by trial and error. I had a modest amount of talent—but I worked with
what talent I had and sent out manuscripts. I received hundreds of
rejections for my cartoons and writing, but I kept sending things out.
(I used to say I was a double threat. Being a cartoonist and writer, I
could starve in two disciplines.) Eventually the worm turned. I started
selling political cartoons and a little humorous writing to Comics
Buyer's Guide. My first picture book was published when I was 49. After
11 years, I was an overnight success. And I still get rejections. They
are a fact of life.
Who is your favorite picture book author?
Can you give us a peek into your writing schedule?
I drag out of bed about eight and make coffee. I read the news online
and check my mail. I sip a cup of java and write for approximately four
hours. (I can't be on my creative toes much longer than that.) After a
light lunch I take a power nap. In the afternoon I deal with
correspondence and maybe do some rewriting. I like to keep two or three
projects going at one time. I switch off between them when I get bored
or stuck with one. I knock off about four, and stir up a gastronomic
experiment for supper. After eating and occasionally popping a Tums, I
read until about midnight. I climb into bed and fall asleep to the
quaint sounds of booming car stereo systems in the parking lot.
Tell us about your Writer's Digest winning submission, Black Diamond.
Black Diamond was a change of pace for me. I usually write humor and
rhyme. Black Diamond is a prose story based on people I knew as a child
in East Texas. It is a bittersweet story about endings, beginnings, and
the circle of life, told through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy on a
visit to old Mr. Sike's Black Diamond watermelon stand.
How has your involvement with SCBWI furthered your career?
The main things SCBWI has given me are friends and support. I used to
struggle alone. At one point I lived five miles down a dirt road in
South Georgia—literally. I really didn't know many writers. It was so
wonderful to move here and join SCBWI! Now I have friends to share my
successes and failures. That doubles the joy and halves the sorrow.
Also, I owe more than I can ever repay to Jan Peck. She dragged me
kicking and screaming into doing school programs. After I got over my
stage fright, I found I really enjoyed it, and our “Two-for-One”
programs have become quite popular. I really love the kids. They make
Any advice for beginner writers?
Whether you have been published or not, think of yourself as a writer.
Don't hang around people who discount your dreams. Cultivate friends
who support you in what you are trying to do. Join a good critique
group. Be yourself. Write what YOU like. Don't obsess about comparing
yourself to other writers. Two things can happen—both of them bad. You
can always find someone who is a better writer than you. If you dwell
on it, you may get discouraged, feel like a slug, and quit writing. On
the other hand, you can always find someone who is worse than you. If
you dwell on it, you may get the big head and become an absolute jerk.
Keep the focus on you. Just do your best and keep improving. Finally,
if you can, win the lottery, or marry a spouse with money.
When I want some ice cream,
I'm never in the middle.
I want a little of a lot,
And not a lot of little.
I don't want just a tiny taste,
'Cause I'm an ice cream pig.
Don't dip me any little,
I only want some big!
By David Davis
A Southern Child's Garden of Verses