2014 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award

New Writer Interview

Ame Dyckman: Tea Party Rules

Interviewed by Margot Abel, Associate Director, Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

TeaParty_11First of all, congratulations on your EJK New Writer Award! How did you react when you got the news?
THANK YOU! A strange thing happened when I got The Call: I was speechless! But I soon made up for it with 247 ‘No way!’s and ‘What an honor!’s and ‘I’M SO HAPPY!’s!

You’ve said that you always wanted to write children’s books. Why did this field of writing, and this audience, appeal so much to you?
When you write for children, anything is possible, everything is new, and you never have to grow up. Children are the best and most appreciative audience. When a kid loves your book, they run up and hug you. Adults generally refrain for some reason.

Why do you think the EJK Book Award jury found Tea Party Rules to be “in the spirit of Keats?”
I love and admire Mr. Keats’s work because his characters and their interactions are so perfectly kid-true. Open a Keats book, and you immediately remember what it is to be a child. I try for the same honesty with my own writing. In Tea Party Rules, both of the main characters get to really be children—even though one of them is a bear cub!

TeaParty_21Tea Party Rules mixes classic elements from children’s literature—the woods, a tea party, a wild animal playmate—with very contemporary behavior. What do you want girls to take away from the story?

I hope everyone who reads Tea Party Rules—girls, boys, grown-ups, and bears—agrees that friendship despite difference is wonderful, compromise during playtime is necessary, and that cookies should be shared. (Especially with kid lit creators. We get hungry.)

Do you think a children’s book should always teach a lesson?
I don’t think a children’s book should always try to teach a lesson. But I think there’s always a lesson or two in a children’s book.

TeaParty3When you were writing this book, how did you imagine the illustrations? Did you confer with the illustrator? How does the writer of a storybook make room for the illustrator?
I really just envisioned the action itself. So you can imagine how over-the-moon I was to see K.G. Campbell’s fantastic illustrations! We only emailed greetings and discussed a few ideas prior to his first sketches. A picture-book author must leave space for the illustrator to have their creative fun—mostly by avoiding overly descriptive text. It’s the illustrator’s book, too!

How do you think the EJK Book Award will affect your career?
This EJK Book Award has already brought a wave of well-wishes from folks all across our amazing kid lit community and beyond. I’m honored the EJK Committee believed in me, and I will strive to always make books for children that reflect Mr. Keats’s vision. Also…‘I’M SO HAPPY!’ #248!

Read more about Ame Dyckman