Writers Speak to Kids: Mo Willems

Air Date: 09/17/2012
Source:
NBC Learn
Creator:
Jenna Bush Hager
Air/Publish Date:
09/17/2012
Event Date:
09/17/2012
Resource Type:
Mini-Documentary
Copyright:
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
2012
Clip Length:
00:03:26

Mo Willems, author and illustrator of "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!" discusses where he gets ideas for his books, his writing process, and how he illustrates his books. This video is part of the NBC Learn original series "Writers Speak to Kids."

Writers Speak to Kids- Mo Willems

JENNA BUSH HAGER, reporting:

Where do you get your ideas?

MO WILLEMS: There are three types of stories. There are things that have happened to you - that's called biography, things that have happened to other people - that's called history, and things that you make up - which is called fiction. And I try to use all three.

BUSH HAGER: What is your writing process?

MO WILLEMS: I sketch, I draw, I doodle, I put words together, I sit back, and then I take some time off, and I come back and I look at those drawings, and then I draw and I sketch and I doodle again, and it sort of builds. Some stories build from the end, some from the middle, some from other places. If a story is going to be individual, like a person is, they can't start the same way. So, I've never written two books exactly the same. Every book has to come out of a slightly different process. The first bit of writing is just getting it all out there and not stopping at anything, and letting the paths go weird, and watch what the characters do. And then the next step is rewriting, which is cutting and molding and what-not. So again, it's like a plant. Imagine if you've got a really big bush and it's overgrown, and there are all these crazy things going on, but you want to make it presentable. After you've spent all that time letting it grow, you kind of cut it and trim it until it becomes the shape that you'd like it to be.

BUSH HAGER: How do you create the illustrations?

MO WILLEMS: For me drawing is writing and writing is drawing. The shapes of the words, the shapes of the letters affect the drawings and it's this sort of dance. I could never just sit there and write or just sit there and draw and hope that the two things would meet. I have a notebook - I always have my notebook with me, and certainly in my studio, and my ideas come out of that notebook. And at the end of a session of drawing and doodling and figuring something out, I will stamp that notebook with the date so I know when those ideas came about. And then when it comes time to do more serious drawings I take out bigger sheets of paper and I experiment with different pencils or pens until it starts to feel right, until the character is comfortable. Imagine your character being a friend and your job is to get them dressed for a party. And so, sometimes you put them in a baseball uniform and they don't want to go to a party in a baseball uniform, and that needs a certain type of pen, and you keep trying different things until finally they feel comfortable in the way that you're drawing them.

BUSH HAGER: Do you rewrite your stories?

MO WILLEMS: Rewriting is the key to writing. For myself I try to write as much as possible in a first draft, or when I'm drawing, and then from then on it's trimming. I rewrite, and I rewrite, and I rewrite, and then I show it to my editor, and my editor's job is to tell me it's no good. And then I go back, and what they do is - imagine a story is like a road. They say there's a pothole here, and there isn't a stop sign there, and that turn is too dangerous. And so then - don't tell me how to change it, just tell me where it isn't working. And then I go and I fill in that pothole, and I make sure I put up that stop sign, and I change the angle of the road until finally we've all decided that it's smooth enough for a story to drive on.

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