Friday, January 6, 2017


Sometimes I'll have an idea for a book that comes very quickly and then there are times when I have an idea in my head for a few years before I even write it down. My picture book I AM A STORY was in my head for at least 3 or 4 years before I wrote or drew anything because I think it was such a BIG idea, I wasn't sure how to approach it.

I used to think of stories and books as being synonymous, but once I took the long view, say 500,000 years, I realized that the medium of books hasn't actually been around all that long. In fact, just about any other medium which delivered stories had been around significantly longer.

I first looked at it in very broad strokes, playing around with an image I've seen many times before, the Ascent of Man, to cover in a very general way HOW stories were delivered.

Then I thought about a quote I read years ago, which sort of stuck in my head.

Hmmm. Willa Cather had a point. We do tell and listen to essentially the same stories over and over. It's just the details that have changed to fit in with the time period, location, or culture.

So putting specific story aside, I decided to concentrate on just the ways stories were delivered to us and came up with this.

Now I know there are many many other different ways, but I had to narrow my focus, so I decided to limit it to these, which ended up being the end pages for what eventually became I AM A STORY a few years later. 

Once I figured out the different mediums, then I started to sketch in my sketch book to work it out. This is an important stage in the process for me. I usually like to give myself several days, a few uninterrupted hours at a time, to just draw whatever comes to me. I don't edit myself at all. I play some music, turn off my phone, and shut down my computer. 

I know most of what I'm doing will not end up in the book, but that's okay because looking back on having done this for other books, I find that some of the things I come up with at this stage actually do end up in the book, almost exactly. Throughout all of the changes and draft upon draft that comes later, there are certain things that never change.

These are the very first drawings I did to flesh out specific scenes.

While I was sketching, I thought about what kind of voice should tell this story.

The idea of it being a first person narrative came to me very quickly.

As did the title, I AM A STORY. 

It just clicked and once it did,  I never had any other ideas about how to tell it or the title. Even some of the text I scribbled in my sketchbook remained unchanged and eventually ended up in the book.

This was such a HUGE and potentially complicated idea, so my goal was to strip it down and keep it simple. 

Next: Honing in on the idea.


  1. Dan, I absolutely love this book. As a long time story lover, librarian, and author the life story of Story has always been fascinating to me. I've yet to see the cave paintings in Lascaux--it's on my bucket list. But in the meantime, your wonderful book is a real gift. I enjoyed this peek into its creation, and look forward to more posts about I AM A STORY. Thank you.

  2. Thank you so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed the book.

    All the best to you.