Welcome everyone. Today I am speaking with the one and only Matt Stanton! Although he needs no introduction, I do tell you more about him after the interview, but first…let’s get into it.
Wait! Is your most recent instalment in the Books That Drive Kids Crazy series and is due for release on 19th March 2018. What can you tell us about your new book?
All the books in the Crazy series are designed to facilitate play between and adult and a child, and this one is no different! ‘Wait’ is a word that kids are used to hearing all the time (and parents are used to saying!). This book plays with that idea – once you start the book you’re stuck and both adult and child must wait until the end of the book before they can do anything else. What begins as a typical exchange where the grown-up tells the child to wait, soon flips and it is the grown-up who finds themselves stuck in the book. We hope adults and kids have heaps of fun playing with it.
(OMG – I think this book is going to drive me crazy if I have to wait!)
You began as an illustrator. What triggered your transition to become an author as well?
Although this was the sequence in which I was published, I was actually a writer first. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was seven years old, I just had to work out how to do it (no one advertises for the job I wanted!) Illustration, also something I loved to do, was a way into the world of children and a way to learn visual storytelling – a crucial skill when it comes to children’s books.
You have a significant collection of YouTube videos, with my personal favourites being your book Launches. How important do you think these videos have been in making a connection with your audience? And, of course, the all-important question, how many subs do you currently have?
I believe authors must serve their audience. It’s the audience that allows them to do what they do. So, YouTube is where my audience hangs out after school, so then it’s my job to use my creativity to engage with them there – and it’s an incredibly creative space! It shows them that I am willing to speak their language and that I want to be where they are.
Haha! I currently have 334 subs 🙂
Just a few more than me then (hhmmmm).
In a February 2017 blog post (later published with ASLA in November), you refer to humour as a “powerful tool” and talk about how it can relax, unify and engage students and encourage them to read regularly. Have you always thought that humour was the key to connecting with students? And…are you in fact, the funny kid?
Every kid loves to laugh … but not every kid says they love to read. I think humour is a profoundly human means of connection because to laugh together is to share something in common – to both respond to stimuli in the same way. It unites us. We often skip a step when we talk about encouraging kids to read. We teach them to read so that we use their new reading skill to teach them other things. Kids aren’t stupid. They know what we’re doing. Learn to do this so that I can then make you learn a whole lot of other things. That sounds like work. However, the kids that really excel in their reading are the kids who have discovered that they can love reading. THEN, books open up a world of discovery and self-initiated learning. That’s where the power is. The miss step is the LOVE of reading and you teach kids that by pairing reading with something else that they love and showing them that reading offers them more of that thing. No one says, ‘I don’t like watching TV’ but not one likes watching everything on TV. Reading is a doorway, but you’ve got to give many kids a powerful motivator to walk through it. Humour is one of the strongest early motivators and it works from a really young age.
You work with your wife Beck on your Books That Drive Kids Crazy series. What is it like working with your partner on such a large-scale creative project? No, really, you can be honest with us. Actually, maybe we should ask Beck the same question?
Haha! I will be honest. It’s fantastic. The classic ‘never work with your partner’ thing is not a concept I understand at all. Beck is my favourite person in the world – why wouldn’t we want to work together on something? It’s a complex process. It’s not easy or straight forward. There is no hierarchy between us. It’s not always efficient. It’s sometimes slow and sometimes frustrating, as it is working as part of any team, but it’s the best because she’s the best.
You are a very active speaker and presenter. I found you warm and down to earth when I heard you speak at an Australian Publishers Association event early in 2017. What do you think are the key factors that make you such an effective and sought-after speaker?
You’re being too kind but thank you. The principle thing in my head is always value. How can I bring the most value to the audience I am speaking to (publishing industry adults, parents and teachers or kids)? I’m not there just to talk about myself or whatever it is I’m currently thinking about, I’m there to take my experiences and thinking and find the places where there might be value for the audience. I think the best way to stay down to earth and relaxed in your speaking is to stay in your lane. You get nervous when you start talking about things you don’t know much about, but I live and breathe children’s publishing. I’m genuinely thinking about it all the time, so to talk about it is fairly painless and I’m not worried about questions because I’ve either thought about them before, or if not, they will help me in my own thinking. That makes the whole process quite relaxing and enjoyable.
Matt, thank you for joining us today. Is there anything you would like to add? Perhaps any advice for aspiring and emerging authors?
Thank you so much for asking such great questions. My advice for emerging authors comes in three parts, the first two virtually every author says (so it must be true) and the third I don’t hear authors say enough.
- Read a lot – different things, different styles, different genres, as broadly as you can. You don’t have to like everything (you won’t) but you’ll be learning every time you think about what you do and don’t like.
- Write a lot – keep putting things down. Always have something you’re working on. You don’t have to finish it (unless you realise you’re never finishing anything and you haven’t experienced the joy of writing THE END), just keep being in the practice of creating.
- Share what you write – find some means of putting what you write out in the world for people to read (the Internet is quite handy for this). It helps your confidence (you’ll be encouraged), it helps your resilience (you’ll receive ‘constructive criticism) and it helps you remember that if you want to make a living as a writer you need an audience. You’re making books for people, not just for you, so get used to it.
That last point is gold! Thanks Matt.
Oh, my kids have insisted that I ask you; is funny kid prank wars coming out in Australia in June 2018? I have been able to find very little information about it.
Yes! Information will flow out soon, but we’re on a 6mth schedule with Funny Kid books – every December and June in Aust/NZ for the foreseeable future.
What great insight Matt, once again I find you knowledgable and generous to a fault!
Read on for Matt’s bio and ways to contact him.
Matt Stanton is a best-selling international author and illustrator. He has created and co-created too many titles to list here but here is a quick at-a-glance summation. He has co-created the mega-hit picture books There is a Monster Under My Bed Who Farts series and the Books That Drive Kids Crazy series starting with This is a Ball. He has also independently released the widely successful middle-grade Funny Kid series. He has over 500,000 books in print and Funny Kid debuted as the #1 Bestselling Australian Children’s Book.
He is a YouTuber extraordinaire, posting videos that answer children’s questions, book launch videos (where he literally launches his books with the help of his old science teacher), drawing videos and videos for entertainment where he reads his books, talks with Max (the funny kid), and generally has fun.
Matt is a sought-after speaker and presenter. He is available for school tours throughout Australia. He lives with his wife (Beck Stanton, who he co-created the Books That Drive Kids Crazy series with) and two kids in Sydney. Go to his website for more information about Matt and his books. Matt can be contacted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube.