2015 Conference Faculty: Tom Lichtenheld

Meet the faculty of the 2015 Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference. We've asked all our faculty members to answer 4 quick questions so we can get to know them better.

Tom Lichtenheld

Tom Lichtenheld

Kicking off this series is best-selling author/illustrator Tom Lichtenheld.

Tom is a children’s book author and illustrator. He doodled his way through school then worked as a sign painter, set designer, printer and advertising art director. After a successful career in advertising, he gradually made the switch to creating children’s books.

Tom’s books, many of which are New York Times bestsellers, are consistently praised for their humor, expressive characters, and rich – sometimes hidden – detail. He’s known for creating books that appeal to children and adults alike, and his wide portfolio of books offers something for every age.

Slated for 2015 release are STICK AND STONE (in collaboration with Beth Ferry), I WISH YOU MORE and FRIENDSHAPES (both in collaboration with Amy Krouse Rosenthal).

Tom lives in the Chicago area. In his spare time he likes to get other peoples’ kids all wound up then send them home to their parents. For more information, visit TomLichtenheld.com.

What attracted you to children’s books?

Dumb luck. I had no intention of getting into children's books until my 7-year-old nephew asked me to draw a picture of a pirate for him. I sat down to draw a pirate and ended up with 20 pages of silly pictures and "made-up facts" about pirates. I bound it all together, burned the edges (like any good pirate book), and sent it to him. A number of people saw it and suggested I try to get it published, so I did, and after three years of polite rejection letters, it was published by Simon & Schuster. 

What’s the best part of your job?

These are some of my favorite things; coming up with conceptual images, solving story problems, collaborating with people smarter than me, connecting with kids, experimenting with different art mediums, meeting other authors and illustrators.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

I love creative challenges, but I presume you're asking about the other kinds of challenges – the kind I don't love. These are some of my least favorite things; computer problems, re-doing work that's already been approved, contracts, anything business or math-related. 

What’s the best piece of advice you were given that helped drive your career?

A few things come to mind, all from my days in the advertising business:

- Be nice to everyone; from the loading dock to the corner office.

- Do your conceptual sketches small. If you can't see the idea when it's small, maybe it's not an idea.

- Something my boss said to me when I was griping about a difficult assignment: "Tom, if was easy, we would have asked someone else to do it."

Come see Tom at the 2015 Austin SCBWI conference, March 7-8.