“It takes a while to learn what you don’t need.”
With a Caldecott Award-winning career in writing and illustrating kids books already under his belt, David Small made a huge splash in the comics field with his 2009 memoir Stitches. Now he’s back with the graphic novel Home After Dark (Liveright) and we got together at SPX to talk about how those careers mesh, how he got his start in illustration, how he approached his new book as fiction, and more. We get into his artistic, literary and cinematic influences, the struggles of studying representational art in the ’60s and ’70s, and the incredibly wrong geographic decision about a teaching gig that led him to the love of his life. We also discuss the elements of a good kids book and why so much of today’s market turns him off, the moment in Paris when he got over his fear of making comics, the memory palace he reverse-engineered to start his memoir, and the evolution Home After Dark took over 12 drafts (!) to tell the story David knew he had to tell. Give it a listen! And go buy Home After Dark and Stitches!
“Recent kids books are beautiful to look at . . . but the stories are lacking. It’s all concept books; they’re teachy.”
“‘Illustrative’ was used as an epithet when I was at Yale. They would always curl their lip when they said it.”
About our Guest
David Small, author of the #1 New York Times best-selling Stitches, is the recipient of the Caldecott Medal, the Christopher Medal, and the E. B. White Award. He and his wife, the writer Sarah Stewart, live in Michigan. His new book is Home After Dark
There’s a longer version at his site.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Bethesda North Marriott on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Small by me. It’s on my instagram.