Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Interview with Arthur Wooten, Author of Wise Bear William: A New Beginning, a book to help us keep the holiday magic alive throughout the year

Wise Bear William: A New Beginning
Wise Bear William: A New Beginning, a book by Arthur Wooten with illustrations by Bud Santora to help us keep the magic of holidays alive throughout the year

An Interview with NYC Author Arthur Wooten

I met Arthur Wooten at the 2007 BEA [Book Expo of America] in New York City. He offered me a copy of his then-new book On Picking Fruit and signed it “Pick wisely.” Since then I’ve become a fan and read (almost) all of his books, including Fruit Cocktail (the sequel to On Picking Fruit) and Birthday Pie. I find the read appealing, quirky, funny, and rich.

Arthur Wooten, Author
What makes Wooten’s work even more attractive is that it’s fiction that rings true as a slice of life, of the reality surrounding us. And that’s still true with Wooten’s latest work, Wise Bear William: A New Beginning.

The children’s book combines Arthur Wooten’s writing with Bud Santora’s illustrations to recreate the magic—the one reminding us of our childhood, of a time when we believed that magic could truly happen. I first read A New Beginning right before this past holiday season (2011). Therefore, with Christmas on my mind, the read and illustrations recreated the magical setting of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Yet, looking deeper, the story of Wise Bear William: A New Beginning is not a Christmas story, although it can very well be one, and it’s not only a children’s story. The truth is that Wise Bear William: A New Beginning is a timeless story for children of all ages.

The book brought back childhood memories of my own, also a few tears and smiles. If this is only A New Beginning, readers may need lots of tissue boxes for the upcoming books. I talked to Arthur Wooten about his new book and upcoming projects. Here’s what he had to say:

Alina Oswald: How did you come up with the idea for Wise Bear William?
Arthur Wooten:
I was given a stuffed bear made out of my grandfather’s World War I army blanket, which I named Blanket Bear. I always wondered what memories were woven into this toy. Bud [Santora} and I debated whether to write a story about [the bear] or [make him] part of a larger cast. Eventually, Wise Bear William was created. Along his journey he meets Old Teddy Tartan who is actually Blanket Bear.

AO: Could you briefly share the story behind the making of the book?
Bud [Santora} and I collaborated on this project from the very beginning. We went back and forth, inspiring each other. As Bud [Santora] created illustrations for the text, the story would actually shift, evolve, and grow. Before the title went “live,” I truly meditated on every single word chosen in the story. A New Beginning is a large story written with very few words. And children hand onto every [written word, so I made sure] everything was perfect—good storytelling without preaching and never talking down to the children.

AO: Williams’ story is rich and deep, a true lesson in life, one that helps us maintain the “holiday spirit” throughout the year. Don’t you think?
Yes, it would be wonderful if we could maintain the holiday spirit throughout the year. The story doesn’t take place during the holiday season, but it certainly has that spirit and anticipation. Plus, for one character in particular, years of hard service are paid back big time. And what a present it is!

AO: Could you explain how you chose the illustration and the font?
Bud [Santora]’s work really is lush and full of depth. Every time you look at an illustration you find another little nuance. It may be a picture, a shadow, a mouse [or] a spider web. It’s truly magical.

The font... We kept trying every font we could find. We also designed the total interior and exterior of the book. For example, Bud [Santora] created the “wise owl” wallpaper print you see on the background of each page, as well as the frame for each illustration or page of text.
Bud Santora, Illustrator

AO: What came first, the words or the illustrations?
The words came first. But as the illustrations evolved, the storyline would shift. It truly was a collaboration. Often, a publisher pairs up a writer with an illustrator. And generally, the artist follows the path of the writer. But Bud and I were able to create side-by-side.

AO: How did you choose the names of the toys in the attic?
I’m not quite sure how the names of the toys evolved. [Choosing the name] for each toy was very simple, organic but also revealing.

AO: This book is A New Beginning. Any plans for future Wise Bear Williams books?
We do plan on publishing more Wise Bear William books. Actually, the first draft manuscripts are all done. Now Bud just has to catch up with me.

Author’s Note: Arthur Wooten’s next novel, Leftovers will be coming out in February, 2012 to tell “a romantic dramedy” taking place in 1955, about “a divorced and destitute suburban housewife who find self-esteem, financial security and true love selling Tupperware.”

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