Today I get to know kids’ book creator Adam Wallace…and if there’s one word that describes him, it’s inspirational. Of course I could also add dynamic, energetic, funny, authentic, enthusiastic – no wonder he’s such a popular author guest at schools. Let’s find out a little about what makes this force for positivity tick.
Adam is a New York Times bestselling author who writes every single day, no exceptions. He plans to do that every day for the rest of his life, and he plans on living to 130! From self-publishing through to traditional publishing, Adam now has had over 80 books published, and has had his books read on the White House Lawn and in Kim and Kanye’s house!
What’s the best aspect of your creative life? Being creative! I mean, we’re all creative, but it can easily get shut down amongst all the “life” stuff that goes on. I have been fortunate enough to carve a career out of being creative (ie making stuff up!), which means that the creativity I create gets to be seen by heaps of other people, which for me, is a main goal. I want to entertain and inspire as many people as I can, and my stories and videos can’t do that while sitting on my computer here in lovely Croydon!
—the worst? I am yet to experience that aspect of it, and hopefully never do. Just the words creative life, to me, speak of imagination and energy and aliveness, and I can’t think of a single thing that could be bad about a creative life. Seriously. When you’re living a creative life, you’re curious, and excited, and always looking for the next idea in all your experiences, so even something people (in general) may see as a bad thing, well, that could potentially be your next great story, so how can anything be bad?
Where do you draw the inspiration for your children’s books? Haha, oh boy, settle in and grab a cup of tea. Actually, don’t worry about it. It’s everywhere. I have had ideas for stories spring up from listening to a song, or seeing a kid play with their parents, or something someone has said, or a bird landing on a wire, or playing a game with my niece, or a publisher has said write about this thing, or I do or see or experience something.
Like, literally everywhere. Ideas are everywhere. This is the main reason I have never been scared of running out of ideas. How can we? We’re alive! There is always something happening, which means there is always something to write about!
Isn’t it awesome?
How has your childhood influenced you as an author/illustrator? In so many ways! Firstly, my grandmother was an amazing writer (and pianist and linguist), and we were always making up stories together.
Second, my step-dad was a teacher-librarian, and so our house was filled with books and he was always reading us stories in incredible voices and with amazing emotion.
Third, my mum ran her own business from the time I was one.
Fourth, I spent quite a good deal of time on my own, playing sports by myself, commentating, making up the games and results.
Fifth, I loved to read, and had so many incredible books influence me (although teachers weren’t always happy with the influence the horror books had on me … in primary school!)
Sixth, Dad took us to movies every second weekend, so I started to see, even if not consciously, how movies and stories worked, in terms of characters and structure.
Seventh, I nearly failed Year 12 English, and never thought I would write again, so a helluva lot of stories were bottled up inside me when I finally did sit down with pen and paper again.
How do you approach a new project? Walk us through your creative process. Once you have an idea, what’s the next step? I start writing. That’s it. I am not a planner at all at all, and especially if it is an idea that really strikes a chord with me and gets me excited, I sit and I write and I see what comes out. That is one of the most exciting times, those first words, seeing how the story starts (and that doesn’t mean the finished product will start that way), it’s started and the possibilities are endless from there.
Then I keep writing till either a first draft is done, or I realise it isn’t working. If the draft is done, well, then it’s time for read-throughs and edits.
If it isn’t working, it’s time to either get back and start again, using what I have already done but reconfiguring it. If that happens a few times, there are two choices.
One, I still have the energy and excitement around the idea/concept, and I will grind at it until it clicks and then I am away. This has happened with two stories I have in mind. For each of them, I struggled initially, doing four or five drafts of around 13,000 words, but it didn’t feel right to me. Then, suddenly, something clicked, and I was away, and I flew through it and now those are two of my all-time favourite books.
Two, I let it go. A story doesn’t have to be finished. We don’t need to cling to that idea, unless we are worried there won’t ever be another idea … and we know there will!
What are you working on at the moment? I am having so much fun at the moment! I am working on a picture book series that is currently 34 books long, with another to be written today.
I am also working on a new collection of short stories, Amazing Alien Adventures, which are being illustrated by the awesome Kat Rattray.
I just finished and sent off the first book in a new series, so edits will come in on that shortly, along with a couple of other stories with my editor.
I have revisited a picture book series I had done two books for, and I had ideas for another two, so I wrote down the titles of those yesterday and will start on those today as well.
And I am deciding on which course to film next for my online portal, Kid’s Book Creator Capital (thekbcc.com). It will be either creating a picture book, or self-publishing. Both will be done eventually, just deciding which one to do first. Picture book is currently winning!
What do you hope readers will take away from your stories? What do you hope your audience will take away from your courses?
From my stories, I really hope people get entertained or inspired. And inspired can mean they are inspired to write their own story, or be inspired to be themselves, or go for a goal, whatever.
And just for them to feel joyous emotions, be that laughter, inspiration, connection, hope, possibility, whatever.
And for kids, as well as all those things, for them to be excited about books and reading and writing and drawing and creating. For them to be energised about themselves and what they are reading, and what is possible for them.
With the courses, I guess the main thing is for people to see that it’s possible. That things we think seem out of reach or that we are told can’t be done are possible! Whether that’s making an income doing something we love, or reaching goals, or moving past limits we have imposed on ourselves, it is possible! If we break it down, if we see that someone else has done it, if we can use their blueprint, their framework, then we can make amazing things happen.
These courses are taking my 20 years and distilling it into three or four hours, so that people can get to where I am way faster than I did it.
And it’s breaking it down into little steps, which make it seem so much more achievable. It’s the same when I teach drawing to kids. People who never thought they could draw suddenly realise it’s way easier than they ever imagined. A line here. A circle there. A tweak here. A curve there, and we have a character … a character they can then expand on and develop, because now they have the confidence they are able to do it, so the walls are down. And now the only limit is their imagination and curiosity, because they aren’t working from a place of fear or lack that they can’t do it.
Is there any area of art or writing that you still find challenging? One of the main things is getting seen amongst all the noise, whether that be other books or just that whole life thing again!
But even in that is an opportunity! With so many books, and so much noise/social media/everything else, that means people are looking, always looking, and that means you can be seen!
Other than that, really, it’s deciding on which of the ideas is the one that is going to get me the most pumped, narrowing it down to that and then doing it.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Haha my writing probably sucked a bit … hence the 150 rejections over eight years!
In saying that though, I had a few books that were rejected well over 10 times each that went on to sell a lot and do really well, and kids loved them … so one of the obstacles is time and place. Maybe those books weren’t ready to be done right then, and maybe it took me seeing what I did in them to then self-publish them and get them out there with my passion.
So, in a way, it’s hard to say what the obstacle really was. I don’t know why most of those stories were rejected. I often didn’t get feedback on why. My guess is they either weren’t good enough, they weren’t to the publisher’s taste, or they didn’t fit the list at that time.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an author/illustrator? I would get out there more, and I don’t mean with my books, I mean with myself! As a rejected author, and then a self-published author, I didn’t feel like I belonged in the children’s book world. I felt like doing it the way I was doing it made me less worthy than those people who were being published by publishers.
I also was determined to prove I could do it on my own.
Then when I finally got the guts to get into the community, I discovered a world of the most amazing, supportive, encouraging people ever. And that is from the very, very top down. I had some of the most famous authors and illustrators in Australia talk with me for hours, discussing books and passing on advice and ideas.
I was made to feel welcome immediately, I was made to feel worthy, and from that moment on both my writing and my career went to a new level.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become a children’s book creator? Well, following on from the previous question, to get out there. Go to book launches and conferences and retreats and talks and festivals and mingle and play and meet these amazing people who do what I love to do, and do it at a level I want to be at.
It’s interesting, my first instinct was to say I wish I’d been told it was possible, that we can make a living out of children’s books, and that is definitely something I want to pass on to kids’ book creators … but at the same time, being told I couldn’t do it, that it wasn’t possible, made me so incredibly determined to prove it was that it is one of the main reasons I have made it to where I am today.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
- Get your work as good as you possibly can. Everything else will flow from that. Work and work and work and work on your craft, so that when the opportunities arise, you will be ready.
- Get the schools, teachers and children onside, and everything else will flow from that. Focus on them, not on the bookstores. Not that bookstores aren’t important, they are, incredibly so, but if you have kids and teachers raving about you and your books, and if you can get in front of those kids face to face so they love you as well as your books, then you are on a winner.
- Actually, there’s three. When I had started going well, I was told, “This is when you have to lift your game even more. This is when you have to get even better.” It was great advice a), so I didn’t rest on my laurels and get comfortable and slacken off, and b) because I had an audience and I had expectations, and that is both from readers and publishers. And you always have to keep growing, as a creator and as a person, because if you aren’t growing and flowing, you’re stagnant. And stagnant water stinks.
What’s your top tip for aspiring author/illustrators? Those three things are huge, but I think the working on your craft is the biggest thing. Getting out there and meeting the community and kids and all of that means nothing if your work doesn’t follow through on the promise you as a person, a personality, are putting out there.
Second top tip is write what you love. Don’t worry about what’s hot in the industry, or what people tell you to write. Write what you love, that is how you will find your authentic voice, and that is what kids (especially) will respond to most of all.
And, if you are writing for kids, write for kids! They are the most amazing human beings. They are open and willing to go on a journey with you, but only if what you write connects with them on their level or above. Find out what kids love, what they respond to, what energises them. Sometimes there are beautiful, amazing picture books, like, just incredible … but are they for kids? Will they give kids an incredible sense of enjoyment and excitement around reading, and make them want to read more? When you can connect with that, when you can find that magic pill, that’s when you will soar.
Now for a little light relief – If you were going to be stuck in a stalled lift for several hours who would you choose to share the experience with you and why? Oh boy … definitely someone who smelled amazing! Okay, so I am going to go for someone I have never met, although some of them do smell amazing.
So, if Drew Barrymore wasn’t available to be stuck in the lift with me, I would go for Will Smith or Tony Robbins. Definitely. Drew Barrymore not only as an actor, but also as someone who has such determination and skill and ability to reinvent and be awesome. Will Smith because he inspires me with his philosophies on life, and also his incredible energy. And Tony Robbins because I just find him fascinating, and would want to draw out as much knowledge from him as I possibly could, and go deeper than I have been able to so far, from the conferences and videos I have been to and watched.
Can I have all three? We would all fit, for sure!
Of course, Adam. It would make for the most interesting conversation. I’ll have to join you and listen in!
You can find out more about Adam on the following links:
Kid’s Book Creator Capital
School Visits 101
School Visits 101 promised to tell me everything I need to know about inspiring kids in schools and I wasn’t disappointed. Even after many years of presenting author talks and workshops to all age groups from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, there was much for me to take away from this comprehensive video course presented by a master of inspiration. It will be invaluable for anyone just starting out as a kidlit creator keen to spark children’s imaginations via school visits.
Best-selling author and experienced presenter Adam Wallace delivers the course in imitable style. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious so it’s no surprise he is such a popular visitor to schools. Students exposed to such a dynamic creative boost can’t help but respond. Authors and illustrators who complete this course are sure to be similarly inspired as Wallace walks participants through the series of units in the course.
Drawing on his experience gained during more than 15 years and 500+ school visits, he shares advice on how to get bookings, what to charge, how many sessions to run per day, using technology, session content, keeping kids in line and organising book sales. A step by step guide to creating your own school visit is a highlight of the course, which also includes homework and downloadable resources. Throughout, Adam emphasises the importance of authenticity when presenting in schools. His essential message is “Be you” because everyone has something unique to offer.
Four courses are currently available on the Kid’s Book Creator Capital website, with more on the way. Check them out at https://thekbcc.com
Review by Teena Raffa-Mulligan