Monday, August 22, 2016

Quotable Mo

Mo Willems was in town last Friday night. He spoke for free! (Thank you The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and the Wexner Center for the Arts.)

I took this picture of Mo Willems just as he was telling the audience to put away all our devices and just BE THERE for the experience. I followed directions...mostly. I kept my notebook open and my pencil ready.

He told the story of his childhood Charles Schultz fandom. How he loved that the characters were easy to draw (so are his) and how Charlie Brown had it worse than he did. He even wrote and asked Charles Schultz, "Can I have your job when you're dead?"

We heard about his early cartooning jobs. "Anonymous or semi-anonymous failure on a regular basis is a great way to get started."

He was part of a standup comedy duo with a dynamic much like that of Elephant and Piggie. He also taught improv, which was evident especially during the Q/A session.

"If you're the smartest guy in the room, you're in the wrong room."

"I'm constantly failing."

In discussing why he reads primarily nonfiction, he said, "Books are the questions I don't know the answers to." and "I love the truth -- it's so messy."

His goal for his own writing? "I want a book to not look written." and "I need to be terrified to do my best work."

In the Q/A part, a woman asked how he felt about the possibility that people changed up his stories when they read them aloud to their children. He said, "The book is just a suggestion! It's a dialogue! I only bring 49% of the story -- readers bring the rest!"

About Elephant and Piggies names, "Elephant Gerald is my favorite singer." Elephant hides behind his name and his glasses. Gerald is neurotic. "That's a big person word for alive." Piggie is Piggie.

Just about the funniest moment of all was when a kid came to the mic and asked, "Can I have your job when you're dead?"

"Writing is really fun lying."

Which is your favorite book? "My books are like my children, which means some of them grow up to be disappointments."

How do you get your ideas? "I grow them in my notebook."

"My favorite book is my next book."

Then he read aloud his next book, from the F/Gs (F'in' Gs -- "Not as nasty as it sounds, it stands for folded and gathered").

You will want this book. You will want to read it aloud to children. You will never be as funny reading it aloud to children as Mo was reading it aloud to us. (See improv and standup comedy notes above.)

"I don't want to be this generation's Dr. Seuss, I want to be this generation's Mo Willems."

Mission accomplished, Mo.


  1. You are a lucky duck! This sounds like an amazing experience! I'm sharing some of these quotes this morning!

  2. Anonymous8:07 AM

    Sounds like a wonderful evening. I love this line: "How do you get your ideas? 'I grow them in my notebook.'" Thanks for the heads up on Nanette's Baguette!

  3. What fun! Kate DiCamillo said something similar about books being like children, and "Tiger Rising" was the typical, ignored middle child between Winn-Dixie and Desperaux. :-)

  4. Oh, thank you, thank you for sharing this experience with us! Elephant Gerald IS a great singer!


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