Today the Eastern Penn Points Cafe welcomes Zachariah Ohora! Zach is one of our featured faculty members for the Pocono Retreat this year. Have you registered yet? If not, click on over. But first, get to know Zach! He’s written and/or illustrated a whole bunch of cool books, including STOP SNORING BERNARD, NO FITS NILSON, and WOLFIE THE BUNNY. And he’s here! With us! Today! See?
Lindsay: Hi there, Zach, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! As we settle into our comfy booth, can we get you something to drink?
Zach: Hi Lindsay! Thanks for having me! I would love a double espresso. It’s really feeling spring-like today so let’s follow it up with an Elderflower and Champagne cocktail.
Lindsay: And a munchie?
Zach: Why not? I actually brought some Girl Scout cookies with me. Hope that’s ok. I’ve got some Thin Mints and some of the Peanut Butter ones. Help yourself!
Lindsay: Ohhh, who told you about my devotion to peanut butter? Waiter, bring me some chocolate milk, please, so I can dunk those babies. Thanks, Zach!! Okay, focus Bandy. Back to books. So, what’s new in Fuzzytown?
Zach: All kinds of good and fuzzy things. Ame Dyckman and I have a new book out April 5th. It’s called Horrible Bear! and she really knocked it out of the park. So happy that we got to work together again!
I’ve got another book coming out in July called “The Not So Quiet Library” and its about a boy and his bear brother battling a book-eating hydra in the library. Try saying that three times fast!
Lindsay: We’re super excited to have you as a faculty member for our upcoming Pocono Retreat! What can illustrators look forward to learning from the workshops you have planned?
Zach: I’m excited too! I’ve heard great things about the Highlights Foundation Poconos spot. I’m going to talk about creating characters and how they help me write stories. I’m only just becoming comfortable with calling myself an author, and I lean heavily on my characters to write the story for me. I’m also going to share my horror stories. Children’s books is a challenging and competitive field and it helps to hear that everyone struggles.
Lindsay: Are you offering workshops for illustrators only, or for writers of picture books, too?
Zach: It will be from an illustrators perspective but it will have a lot for writer’s too. I’ll be talking about my writing process and collaboration with an authors.
Often the process an illustrator and author go through is insular because its second hand info from the editor, but this will be a revealing peek into what happens on the other side.
Lindsay: One of the cool things about this year’s Pocono Retreat is that we’re hosting a team of pros that have already worked together: You, your agent, Sean McCarthy, writer Ame Dyckman, and editor Leila Sales. What’s been the best part of working together?
Zach: One thing is that we all share a sense of humor and love of the absurd. I think that’s what makes working with Ame and Sean a fun experience. Ame is one of the few authors I regularly talk to and collaborate on each book as we are working on it. She’s flexible on my coming up with left field ideas and I’m also sensitive to things she might not be comfortable with. I bounce ideas off her even before I submit something to the editor, and that’s not anything I’ve done with anyone else. Sean has been a huge force in helping me understand what makes a good story and despite my best attempts at naively wrecking my career, he’s a master of damage control and diplomacy.
Lindsay: What’s the most challenging aspect of collaboration?
Zach: Sometimes you get locked in on how you envision something. and it might not be the best way to approach it. Someone else might have a better solution and taking a step back to see it for what it is and checking your ego and emotion can sometimes be difficult.
But 9 times out of 10 I look back and think, they were totally right!
Lindsay: Congratulations! A parachute has just dropped from the sky onto your doorstep, and it carries a gift certificate entitling you to your choice of any three pieces of artwork from any museum in the world. That’s right, anything. To keep. Eternally. So what three pieces do you choose?
Zach: Whoah! Ok. Hope its not a drone from Amazon! Uh…Three pieces? These imaginary questions are so hard!
Woman at her Toilette with Red and White Lilies by Max Beckman.
When I lived in SF I used to go just to look at this painting all the time.
I love Ben Shahn’s work, particularly his drawings. He’s been a huge influence on my work.
This would be nice to wake up to everyday.
I’m also a big fan of Chris Johanson’s art. I’d love anything of his.
Lindsay: If you had to draw yourself as a picture book character, what might you look like? (You can tell us or show us. You can be human, animal, alien, or other. Or you can refuse to answer, but then we’ll be grumpy….)
So, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Zach: I wanted to be either a Spy or a Children’s Book illustrator. I’m lucky to grow up to be at least one of those things, maybe both. But I’m not telling which!
And now for rapid-fire favorites! Name your favorite….
Book as a child:
Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?
Mode of transportation:
The Big Lebowski
Bowl of cereal, preferably Cinnamon Life.
Morsel of advice:
Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow?
Lindsay: Thanks so much for joining us today, Zach, and for being such a good sport. Looking forward to lots more fun in the Poconos!
Zach: Thanks for having me! I’m really looking forward to hanging out with everyone in the Poconos!