May 6, 2011

NaPiBoWriWee Day Six: Guest Author Blog – Don Tate

Meet 2011 NaPiBoWriWee Guest Author/Artist Don Tate!

Welcome  DON TATE, our guest author/artist  for 2011 NaPiBoWriWee Day Six!

(From Don’s website bio): “Don Tate is the award-winning illustrator/author of more than 25 trade and educational books for children. His books include Ron’s Big Mission (Dutton, 2009), a Junior Library Guild spring 2009 selection; I Am My Grandpa’s Enkelin, written by Walter Wangerin Jr., published with Paraclete Press in December 2007; Sure as Sunrise: Stories of Bruh Rabbit and his Walkin’ Talkin’ Friends (Houghton Mifflin, 2004), which received starred reviews from Booklist Magazine and School Library Journal, as well as a 2004 Aesop Accolades award, and a Texas Bluebonnet Award, 2006 – 2007; Summer Sun Risin’ (Lee & Low Books, 2002), a Bank Street College of Education as “Best Children’s Books of the Year for 2002″ and recipient of the Children’s Crown Award, 2003 by the National Christian School Association Master List; and Say Hey: A Song of Willie Mays (Jump at the Sun, 2000). His other trade picture books include Black All Around! (Lee & Low Books); The Hidden Feast (August House, 2006); The Legend of the Valentine (Zondervan, 2002), which is also a Christian Bookseller’s Association best seller; She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story (Harper Collins, 2010). In addition to illustrating, Don is an author. It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Taught Himself to Draw is a Lee & Low New Voices honor winner and will publish in 2012. In addition to children’s books, Don also licenses his art to product manufacturers. KIDZ is a line of juvenile bed and bathroom products that includes wallpaper, light switches, wall art and drawer knobs. He also has a line of children’s textile/fabric available at specialty fabric shops, which feature his designs. My Peepz, a group of African American characters, is marketed to ‘tweeners and has been a hit in the calendar market. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Don currently resides in Austin, Texas where he works full-time as an illustrator/graphics reporter for the Austin American Statesman. Don lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and son. In his spare time, Don is a gym-rat, having competed (in better fit days) in natural, drug-free bodybuilding.” F0r more information, visit his website:

Don graciously agreed to autograph a copy of She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story (Collins 2010) for this year’s prize giveaway. Thank you, Don!

(Keep reading for the rest of our Q&A with Don Tate after the jump…)


– If you weren’t a writer/artist, what would you be?

A professional bodybuilder. When we were children, my dad gave my brother and I a book written by Lou Ferrigno. It was a book on bodybuilding, diet and exercise. Not exactly 10-year-old reading, but my brother and I couldn’t put the book down. We wanted to lift weights and look like the Incredible Hulk – green and all?

We couldn’t afford to buy a bench press and weights, so our mom’s coffee table had to suffice. We made our weights from empty milk jugs filled with water or bags of pennies. Weightlifting didn’t do a thing for my broomstick body, but my brother, who was athletic, started to grow muscles. He continued to lift weights, and when we grew up, he went on to compete in natural bodybuilding. I’d pretty much given up on my Incredible Hulk dreams, until the night of my brother’s competition. He won Mr. Iowa. It was a natural, drug-free bodybuilding competition, so competitors we’re kinda skinny. Just my kinda competition. I was bit by the bodybuilding bug.

Three years later, I won my first bodybuilding trophy. It was one of the best nights of my life.

– That is so cool, Don! You are my new Hulk! :) So… Tell us about your first published book – what inspired the idea? How long did it take to write? Any fun details about the road to your first book’s publication?

My first authored book, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, will publish with Lee & Low Books next spring, 2012. The story won the publisher’s New Voices award in 2005. When I visit schools, I tell kids about my path to becoming a published author. I talk about and how, before I’d written  that first book, I was afraid of words. I didn’t consider myself a word person. I didn’t think I spoke well — much less, could write well. My grammar was bad, and I my use of punctuation was all mixed up.

But I decided to give writing a try, and I loved it just as much as I loved illustrating. I started writing every day in the form of a blog, and with each day I became more confident. I learned about voice, the unique way a character speaks, and I began to respect my own voice, my unique way of speaking. So I was way delighted when my story won Lee & Low’s New Voices honor, and when my editor complimented my unique voice.

– Congratulations! I’m excited to hear that you have discovered your writing voice in addition to your artistic voice. :) So now that you are a published WRITER as well, where is the best place for you to write your books?

I write in the same studio where I create my art. And I have to write alone because I tend to talk out loud as I write. I have to hear my voice, which could get a little weird if I found myself writing in a coffee shop.


Thank you so much Don for your generosity in answering our questions. For NaPiBoWriWee participants, you might win an autographed copy of Don’s She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story at this year’s drawing, too! We look forward to your comments on Don. Until then… Happy Writing! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT!

4 Responses to “NaPiBoWriWee Day Six: Guest Author Blog – Don Tate”

  1. Dana Carey says:

    It’s reassuring to read how you came to find your writer’s voice and to trust it. Can’t wait to read your work and check out your illustrations.
    Thanks Don & Paula!

  2. Robyn says:

    I talk out loud as I write too. So I’m in my home office or my son’s room. (He doesn’t mind my weirdness.) :-)

    Thank you Don.

  3. says:

    Nice post, having fun with the challenge, I hope to have all 7 stories fleshed in on time.

  4. Lynda Shoup says:

    What a great inspirational post! Like that Lou Ferrigno books inspired you changing your path, I can imagine the message you deliver at school visits making a difference to kids.

    The image of you talking to yourself in a coffee shop made me laugh. Guess it’s just as well you save the writing for your studio space.

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