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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Introducing Little Steps by Ryan Hipp!

Thanks to SCBWI, I met Ryan Hipp. We attended several conferences together. I ordered a sketch from him. We both made comments on the SCBWI listserv. Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da. He always came across as being a super cool guy, but I didn't really know him.

Teen librarian, Ryan Hipp, Me
This all changed earlier this year, when I saw he was booking for Summer Reading programs. I told the teen librarian at my library that Ryan would do a fantastic presentation. She booked him, and I was right. He does a phenomenal presentation. (You won't regret booking him for your school or library.) After successfully engaging the kids in one of our best attended teen programs, I got the chance to hang out with him and finally get to know him. What did I find out? Ryan doesn't just seem like a super cool guy, he really is one! He's also wildly talented. He's the 2012 Gwen Frostic Award Winner. (That's a pretty big deal.) But he has a longer list of credentials than that.

Because Ryan is so awesome, he agreed to be interviewed here, for your reading pleasure. So, without further ado, I present to you, The Ryan Hipp Experience.

The Restless Writer (RW): What came first for you, writing or drawing?

Ryan Hipp (RH): My drawings were the result at an early age to tell the story that was in my brain. And to do it faster. at age 6 writing out words was boring for me and i could tell the story much more effectively by drawing it out on 60 sheets of paper and laying it in sequence across the living room floor.
A beautifully illustrated book about overcoming adversity.
RW: You have illustrated books before, but this is the first written and illustrated by you. How did you come to the decision to publish it on your own?
RH: I am carrying this story more 'close to my chest', so I knew that publishing it on my own was the only way to tell it exactly the way I needed to. Sometimes certain work is too personal to let go. 

RW: Who are some of your greatest influences, literary and artistic? 
RH: Pendleton Ward, James Kochalka, Stan Sakai, Carl Barks, Charles Schultz, Peyo, Rodney Alan Greenblat, Richard Scarry.

RW: When you were developing the idea of Little Steps, what came to you first, words or images? 
RH: I looked at a rough caterpillar sketch I did...and then after that, the story appeared to me in my head and everything was clear. The words just came to me. I didn't originally plan on telling this story this way, but once I knew, I just knew.

RW: What draws you to the children's book genre? 
RH: For me, I have always felt an affinity for cute whimsical endearing things, and children's books quantify that. I (try to) write stories that have that same whimsy that I had when I was a kid...so, thus, my audience has remained the same.

RW: Authors are often told to find their own voice. Artists, to find their own style. How difficult was it for you to do these things? 
RH: VERY difficult. I have always felt that people won't get me, or that I have to model my writing after something safe. It wasn't til after I adopted the mantra that "the right people will get me" that I stopped worrying about apologizing for the way I write and just write what I think is clever or heartfelt and trust that others will see what I am trying to accomplish. As for drawing - the same thing. I have been so jealous of other artists my whole life, one day I gave up on trying to be others and the next thing I know, folks are recognizing my artwork in galleries and magazine covers and it hit me that the best compliment you can give an artist is when their work becomes as recognizable as their handwriting or face.

RW: What do you love most about what you do? 
RH: I love drawing and writing and spending time being creative...but what I love more is going to schools and libraries and talking to students and families and educators and inspiring others. I guess I really do like being in the limelight, but it's very rewarding to feel like people appreciate what you have to say. I love that part. Oh, and getting hugs from kids. It's pretty cool when you know your fans like you lots.

RW: Authors often write stories that are never shown to anyone, or that fizzle before 'the end'. How did you know that Little Steps was a story that needed to be told? 
RH: This story evolved. It started as a very literal story about something bad I experienced, told thru a "clever" metaphor with a cat. When I realized I was way more obvious than clever, I decided I should play it safe and dial it back. Then the story became a story about a robot that was malfunctioning...again...way too obvious. I did tons of work on both of these projects before coming to this epiphany that I was way over-the-top. The story that became Little Steps was really ideal because this way I could tell my story in a universal way that was applicable to anyone's life or specific situation. If I did my job right, the message will come through for people and they can apply the feelings they get from it to their own personal journey.

RW: Where can Little Steps be purchased? 
RH: Hipphop.com is the most direct route because then you can get them personalized, but I will soon have Little Steps available thru the same distribution channels that the big boxes use so it can be ordered from any bookstore.

RW: Can you tell us what you're working on now? 
RH: Seriously? I'm just trying to unlock all the achievements on Batman: Arkham City. I also write dorky ukulele covers of songs from the show Adventure Time. I'm on a very structured schedule.

Thanks for stopping by, Ryan! I wish you crazy success with Little Steps!

*In case you missed it, Little Steps can be purchased here. 

My Personal Endorsement of Little Steps

I am the proud owner of a brand new, shiny, and perfect Little Steps. And lookie here, if you order from Ryan, you even get a nifty personalization! You'll be the envy of all your friends, plus you'll have a beautiful book of your very own. Honestly, even though there is a very positive message in this story, it's the illustrations that just plain make me happy. I want a signed print of the "Hatch!" page. (cough cough, are you seeing this, Ryan?) It is delightful and exuberant and you'll have to see it for yourself. Besides the "Hatch!" page that I'm in love with, I'm also a huge fan of the overall color palette for this book. Bright greens, vibrant pink, purple and turquoise. Dee-licious! I hope you'll check it out.
That cool personalization I was talking about.



  1. Congratulations, Ryan, and thanks, Sarah, for a great blog!

  2. Thank you for leaving a comment, Suzanne. Glad you enjoyed the post. :)

  3. Congratulations Ryan. Your work looks kidlicious!!