We asked Frank Asch some important questions. Maybe you have a few of your own?
Where were you born? And what was your family like?
I was born in Somerville, New Jersey in 1946. I had a brother and sister who were 7 and 10 years older than myself. We lived on a country road. I had a dog for a pet, her name was Rebecka. My grandfather who lived across the street had a small farm with cows and chickens. Though my father worked in a factory, his true ambition was to be a farmer and fix-it man. He kept a big garden and sold sweet corn out of the back of a truck.
Who were your heroes?
I’ve had lots of heroes in my life. My big brother was my hero when I was small. When I was a teenager I spent a lot of time with my Uncle Crecenzo who lived in New York City. As a kid, my T.V. hero was Roy Rogers. As a teenager, my music hero was Bob Dylan. In college, my children’s book hero was Maurice Sendak. My all time art hero is Billé Pickard Pritchard. He was my art professor and mentor.
How old were you when you published your first book?
I was in my early twenties. I had not yet graduated from Cooper Union where I received a degree in painting. At the time it was just a way to earn a little money. Little did I suspect that it would become my life’s work.
What’s your life like now?
I live in Middletown Springs Vermont with my wife, Jan. My son Devin is grown and lives in Hawaii. We have a big garden in the summer. Besides working on books, I host a group meditation every Sunday in my barn. I also play with some of the homeschooled kids that live nearby. Almost every year I write an interactive play for children for a summer festival here called Solarfest. It is performed in the forest and lots of children and their families attend. I also host a “ten minute play” festival in my barn where people who live nearby write and read their plays at a big party at our house.
What do you like about being an author/illustrator?
The best thing about being an author and an illustrator is that you get to match the words and the pictures so the book works as a whole, like a well written song. So many times I think the illustrator misses the essence of a story. That’s why I love James Thurber’s work. Even though he was half blind and couldn’t “draw” he always captured the whimsy of his writing.
Who is your favorite author?
That is a difficult question, but Jack London and James Thurber come to mind.
What sort of advice do you have for young writers?
Let yourself enjoy reading. It’s okay to get up in the morning and just read a book all day long if you like. Create time just to think. When I was a kid, I had a place I called my thinking tree. If you can’t find a place in nature where you can be alone, take something from nature like a rock or some bark or just an acorn. Create a space in your room where you can shut the door and just let your imagination run wild.
Have fun putting words on paper. In other words, whatever writing you do for teachers or to show someone else, also try to write some things just for yourself.
What’s your favorite food?
Where do you get your story ideas?
Students and teachers often ask me how I get ideas for my books. I once wrote a story for a McGraw-Hill reader entitled One Good Pup. Our dog Robi, who has since died, was definitely the inspiration for this loving tale. I used to take her out for a walk in the late afternoon after I was finished working for the day. She doesn’t wear a watch, but she seemed to know when that time would roll around each day and she would let me know that she was ready whenever I was for our walk together. Once when I was sick for a few days, I became very concerned for her. She wasn’t getting any exercise at all, day after day. She seemed to understand that I was ill, and would just lie at the foot of my bed patiently waiting for me to get better. I’ve had a lot of wonderful dogs in my life, but she is the smartest dog I’ve ever had. She knew so many tricks! She could sit, lie down, do push ups (going very fast from sit to lie down back to sit again), put her head down, give either paw, roll over, stay (even when tempted by a treat right in front of her), balance a dog biscuit on her nose and catch it on command, fetch, catch a frisbee (she wasn’t too good at that one), retrieve a specific toy from downstairs, speak, growl, and sing, though she would sometimes get these vocalizations a little mixed up. She was one good pup. We don’t have a dog now, so I play with my son Devin’s dogs, Elvis and Billie. Elvis is so obsessed with tennis balls Devin was thinking of renaming him Wimbledon. Billie is the new puppy in the family. They look alike, don’t they? ElvisBillie