Life has all forms of inspiration, especially in picture books and kidlit galore. Today, Troy Wilson author of “Hat Cat” stops by All Ages of Geek to chat with Galaxy-Boy Delivery. He tells kids what inspires him, tips on writing kidlit, and also talks about what he thinks should change in the children’s book industry.
Remember readers, this post is meant to help, inspire and teach kids about writing kidlit, creating and also gives some insider perspective to parents, teachers and librarians. The best way to support creators and other kidlit writers like Troy is to review books on Goodreads and Amazon!
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Now let’s get into the kidlit interview!
What makes you create? What drives you?
A lot of things drive me. Shiny new ideas. Old ideas I’m dusting off. Amazing work by other creators that opens up new horizons of what is possible. The list is endless (or at least very, very long).
How did you get started in your craft?
In first grade, our teacher had us write and draw short little books. Then she read mine and only mine aloud to the class. It was called Captain Otter. And the class loved it. They laughed when they were supposed to laugh. Gasped when they were supposed to gasp. Cheered when they were supposed to cheer.
This meant the world to a kid with low self-esteem like me. I knew that my classmates had no obligation to be kind to me – and they sometimes weren’t. So it was a revelation for me when they spontaneously and completely loved my work. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, this planted a seed in me. And from second or third grade onward, I wanted to be a writer or cartoonist when I grew up.
Of course, wanting to achieve something and actually achieving it are two different things. I dabbled and played around, but I didn’t buckle down and put in sustained, concentrated effort until age 30. Since I was starting from ground zero, I began writing and submitting a barrage of short pieces. And within a year, I won third place in a postcard fiction competition, published an opinion piece in a local paper, and signed the contract for my first picture book for kids.
I tried my hand at various forms of short writing, but over time I stopped doing almost everything but the picture books. I stumbled into them and fell in love with them. Because honestly, what’s not to love? And when I think about it, Captain Otter was in fact my very first picture book to be read aloud in a school by a teacher.
What’s your favorite part about your craft?
Having my stories illustrated (and co-told) by such amazing illustrators.
Some struggles along the way?
Over nine years passed between the publication of my second picture book and the publication of my third. I kept submitting and submitting but had no luck. Just rejection after rejection.
Thankfully, I did get lots of illustrated stories published in kids’ magazines during that long picture book drought. So my work was still getting illustrated by lots of great illustrators and still getting read by lots of great readers. And I was still getting lots of great feedback from lots of great magazine editors.
What would you change about your industry?
Children’s publishing is facing many challenges these days. My heart goes out to everyone involved, but I have no ready solutions.
So I’m going to suggest a change for the general public instead. Now and then, well-meaning adults will see a kid reaching for a picture book and will push the kid away from it because it is “too easy for them”. Please stop doing that. Picture books can be enjoyed by everyone from 3 to 103. I totally understand that an adult might not want to spend money on a picture book when their kids are beyond a certain age. But if a kid of any age at all is reaching for picture book at the public library, let ‘em grab it. Let ‘em enjoy it. Not only is there enjoyment to be had between those covers, but there are also lessons to be had about effective communication. Masterful storytelling is masterful storytelling, and all such storytelling can be examined. How have the writers and artists done what they have done, and why have they done it that way? Why have the page turn here instead of a sentence earlier or a sentence later? Encourage the older kid to probe deeper rather than forbidding them to look at all.
Obviously, we want kids and young adults to continue venturing into more complex works. But the odd picture book isn’t going to prevent them from doing that. It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. It can be a both/and situation. I’m not giving this advice as a picture author who only wants more readers (though, yes, more readers is always nice). I’m saying this as a picture book reader who regrets that I ever stopped reading them.
Your inspirations and favorite creators?
I have far too many inspirations and favorite creators to choose just a few. So I’ll stick with the inspirations for my recent picture book, Hat Cat.
There were three main sources of inspiration for that book: a dearly departed grandfather (I called him Pop), a classic Canadian picture book (Waiting for the Whales), and a picture book that needs no introduction (The Cat in the Hat). Not sure which one of these started the ball rolling. Who knows, maybe it was all three simultaneously.
Like the man in my story, Pop fed squirrels from his hat on the back deck. Also like the man in the story, Pop was a gentle, good-natured, welcoming soul. Unlike the fictional man, Pop was not a fan of cats.
Any rituals when you create things like drinking tea or breathing exercises?
No tea. No breathing exercises. No music, either. Just silence or white noise. I tend to do most of
my writing in my room on my personal computer. Occasionally, I’ll jot down ideas and thoughts
on paper when I’m away from home.
Also: I don’t have a smart phone to look at when I’m out and about (just a dumb-as-a-brick flip
phone). So when I’m walking alone or when I’m gazing out a bus window, there is more space in
my head for things to bubble up.
What makes your work stand out from the crowd?
I’m not sure that it does. But I’d be happy to be proven wrong.
Your favorite piece you’ve worked on?
I don’t really have many favorites. No favorite color, no favorite food, no favorite place. And no
favorite piece I’ve worked on. The stereotypical answer for a writer is something like “My
favorite is the one I’m working on right now”, but that’s not always true for me, either.
Any tips about your craft for beginners?
If you want to write picture books for kids, read a lot of picture books for kids. Read and reread
and examine them. Notice which parts of the load the words are (and are not) carrying. Notice
which parts of the load the pictures are (and are not) carrying. Notice what is said, but also what
is not said. Notice the different types of page turns. Read and write and rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite.
Oh, and did I mention rewrite? Picture books are short, but that doesn’t mean they take a short
time to write.
What do you think about All Ages of Geek? Who do you think we should interview next? Any creators you want to give a special shout-out to?
I think you should interview Jarvis next, whose picture book The Boy with Flowers in His Hair
might be my favorite of 2022. And I want to give a special shout-out to any creators who are struggling today. Keep going. And take breaks. And keep going.
Where can people find your work online?
My website is http://troystory.ca . And my Twitter handle (for as long as Twitter lasts) is
As for finding my work online, I hope folks will go to their public library and borrow a concrete
book of mine instead. Hold one of those beauties in your hands if you can.
For an online experience, though, I recommend people watch KidTime StoryTime’s hilarious
readings of my two fractured fairy tales, Little Red Reading Hood and the Misread Wolf and
Goldibooks and the Wee Bear. Via her website or her Youtube channel. And, of course, I highly
recommend all her other readings, too.
Thanks for the interview. I really appreciate it. This has been fun!
If you liked this article be sure to let us know what other kidlit authors you want All Ages of Geek and Galaxy-Boy Delivery to interview!