Dan Stern, wrote and illustrated Bear With Me, which is #4 on The Gittle List 2013. Dan talks about living in Japan, the inspiration for his work and what we can all learn from Nike.
Where do you live? What’s it like there?
I live in Nagano, Japan. There’s not much more than mountains and trees here and that is just fine by me.
What’s you earliest memory of writing or drawing?
[In the seventh grade I drew Tetsuo from the anime Akira] and I surprised myself with a pretty good-looking drawing. The expression I drew made him look afraid instead of furious, but there was still life in it.
What is your favorite children’s book? Why?
A week ago I would have said The Giving Tree without hesitation. Now [it’s] this nondescript board-book I have of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It has a hole cut through the middle and a lamb finger puppet sewn into the back cover. My kid loves it, so I love it.
Are you an artist who writes or a writer who can draw?
That’s hard to say. Maybe I’m whichever I’m doing at the moment. I get very focused on my work.
What was the inspiration for Bear With Me?
My daughter, of course! My own childhood too, though. Bear with Me is a mix of truth and fiction. I wanted to express some of the feelings I’ve had in growing up and becoming a parent.
Tell us about your latest writing project.
I’m working on a picture book about a goat who doesn’t fit in and the dangerous adventure he gets himself into while trying to make others like him.
Do you think the printed book is dead? Why or why not?
Personally, I don’t think so. Many people simply like paper. And flipping pages. Babies have to learn about interacting with physical objects. I think there is a lot to be said for tough books with pretty pictures that babies are allowed to drool on and drop.
What are your two favorite colors together? Why?
This might sound boring, but it’s black and white. I love pure black and white together. So much so that I have a hard time adding color to my inks.
What’s your favorite place to write?
I’m not the kind of person who gets inspiration from the place he writes. I’m happy as long as I can focus and express what I mean to say. In fact, if things are going well I won’t have any idea where I am because I’ll be lost in my work.
Tell us 3 strange and wonderful things about you.
1) My brother and I share a huge collection of stuffed animals that we have hoarded since our childhood. He keeps them safe back home in the US. 2) I have an uncanny ability to befriend any cat or dog. 3) I have always loved singing, but I was too shy to do so around others. My baby cured me of that. Making her smile is worth any embarrassment.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I love the Nike slogan, “Just do it.” I think it sums up a crucial lesson about performing without thought or hesitation. It also describes something I feel about creative arts. They don’t make themselves. The only way to create something is to put the time in and build it up, little by little. If you want to write or draw, you have to just do it.
Dan Stern was born in West Virginia and raised in Tampa, FL. He currently resides in Nagano, Japan with his loving wife, beautiful daughter and zany dog. He writes, illustrates and translates (English and Japanese) part time while working full time as a process engineer for a touch panel maker. His hobbies include building and painting model kits, hiking, snowboarding and video games. Playing with and reading to his daughter is the highlight of his day.
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Bear With Me is available on Amazon. (If you originate your purchase from here, I will get a small commission; I and my accountant thank you.)
English: Buy here.
Japanese: Buy here.
Dan! It’s so crazy to see how everyone has grown up, and the places life has taken them. So proud of your success and family.
Thanks, Lumby! Likewise, man. People really do go all sorts of places. I love seeing the pictures you post of your family. I’m glad to see that you’re doing well
I enjoyed reading the interview and being introduced to your work.
Thanks, Barbara! Dan’s book is absolutely adorable. I fell in love with the story and his illustrations. His 25% discount is good through Christmas Day.