Christopher P. Stanley won the #6 spot on The Gittle List 2016 for The Tree Watcher. Read my review here. In this exclusive interview, Chris shares his reaction to winning and the best advice he’s ever received. (Hint: It involves sin.)
How did it feel to win a spot on The Gittle List? It felt so fantastic to win a spot on The Gittle List! My first thought after hearing the news was, “Hey, I’m an award-winning author!” Ha! In all seriousness, I was taken aback and quite humbled. It’s truly amazing to have my work recognized in this way. I’m pretty sure I stared at the Gittle List website with a smile on my face for about 15 minutes making sure that it was real and I wasn’t just seeing things.
What’s you earliest memory of drawing or writing? One of the earliest memories I have of writing something of significance was when I was in 5th grade in 1990. I wrote a paper on the War of 1812 and won some school writing award. I remember my teacher gushing to the class that I used the phrase, “Unlike the British.” I honestly can’t remember anything else about it except the feeling associated with being recognized for my writing. That, and my friend Michael teasing me for having to stand in front of the class on the carpet area. Then my teacher sent me down to the office to give something to another teacher with the instructions that I was to tell her that, “she was a life saver, but not the kind with a hole in it.” So off I went, skipping merrily down the hall!
Which artists or writers most influenced or inspired your work? The Tree Watcher was definitely inspired by Nancy Tillman’s, On the Night You Were Born. The first time I read that book to my daughter it took everything I had to get to the end without crying. I had to blame the tear that rolled down my face on yawning – which was a solid excuse, by the way. My daughter totally bought it. But what I enjoy about that book is that it is equally loved by both parents and children alike. The sentimentality on every page really struck a chord with me and I attempted to evoke similar emotions in my book. It’s been one of the greatest joys of my life so see that, at least for some of my readers, I was successful and The Tree Watcher touched them in the same way Tillman’s book touched me.
Why did you decide to self-publish? I decided to self-publish because I believed I had something to contribute to the world of children’s books – that I had a voice – and I didn’t want it to fall into the Wasteland of Bureaucracy that is the traditional publishing world and have nothing come of it for years on end. I don’t know literary agents and, sadly, I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on attending writing conferences to meet them, so I knew it would be very hard to break into that scene. I am also lucky enough to be friends with a professional editor and one of my best friends is an artist, so he and I decided to start our own publishing company. Honestly, the process was harder and more labor intensive than I could have imagined. Self-publishing is a lot of work, but when I’m holding a copy of my book in my hands for the first time, it’s all worth it.
Tell us about your latest project. My latest project is a book I’m working on with my friend and artist Alex LeVasseur called Dr. Ulysses J. Picklebottom’s Guide to Everyday Household Monsters and How to Defeat Them. While still in its nascent stages, Alex and I have some really solid, funny ideas outlined and ready to expand. The basic gist is that we categorize monsters that dwell in houses, such as monsters that live under the bed, in the closet, etc. and detail humorous ways that kids can thwart their plots. I’m excited to see the finished product later this year!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Back in my college days (may they ever reign) one of my favorite professors, Dr. Kathleen Riley, constantly captured my imagination and inspired me to succeed. Stealing a line from Martin Luther, she used to say, “If you are going to sin, then sin boldly.” I really took this metaphor to heart, and I think about it often as I am getting ready to attempt some sort of crazy project. It has helped me to cast aside my self-doubts and, more generally, to not be afraid to embrace my ambitions. We only get one shot at this life, after all. I have passed her advice on many times over these intervening years, and it continues to be the most impactful advice I’ve ever received; in fact, it was her words that echoed through my head as I began to write a novel last year. If not for this piece of advice, the thought of writing books might have been too intimidating to attempt. Thank you, Dr. Riley!
Christopher P. Stanley grew up in Grove City, OH and had a childhood that centered around imagination, play, and exploring the outdoors (mixed in with a healthy amount of Nintendo). He is an award-winning children’s author and a co-founder of Jump Splash Books, a publishing company that aims to highlight imagination and celebrate the joys of childhood. A graduate of Ohio Dominican University, Christopher has been an educator for the past ten years in both the K-12 and Higher Education settings. He currently lives in Upper Arlington, OH with his wife, four children, a dog named Captain Theodore Wookiee Roosevelt and a rodent called Alexander Hamsterton.