Mrs. Kondrick’s from 4th graders at Ripley Central School in Ripley, NY shared these questions with Rick Walton, author of the NYSRA Charlotte Award nominated I Need My Own Country, and Mr. Walton graciously responded.
1. What inspired you to write I Need My Own Country?
When I was a kid I used to build cities in my sandbox, in my yard, in my mind. I live now in a large, interesting yard. There are lots of trees, hills, grassy areas. It’s almost like it is its own little country. So I started thinking. If my yard were a country, who would live here? What would the rules be like? What would the culture be like? What would happen here? And I had so much fun imagining my own country, based on my yard, that I thought, maybe I should write a book for kids about how to create your own country. I mentioned the idea to an editor friend of mine, who liked the idea, but suggested that it be a picture book and that it tell a story. I liked her idea, so I started working on it. I soon realized that the book was going to be about more than just how to have fun making your own country. It was also going to be a basic primer on how governments work, a book on imagination, and a book on getting along with other people, especially members of your family. As I thought about the book I decided it would be interesting if the words were simple instructions on creating your own country, but that the human story was told in the illustrations. So I thought, what steps would I take if I were creating my own country? And how could each of those steps be mirrored in the human story that was told in the illustrations? I came up with a general plot for the illustrations, and Wes added a lot of good ideas to it, and the book was born.
Pictures of Rick Walton’s Country
2. Why did you choose to use pets and stuffed animals instead of people (lots of brothers and sisters)?
One reason I like to create my own worlds in my mind is so that I can make them how I want. I especially like doing this when times are tough and I want to escape. Sometimes we all feel like we want to escape. Usually this is when we feel like we don’t have much control over our real lives. The girl in the story is upset with her family, upset that nobody believes her, that she got into trouble. She feels like she doesn’t have control. So she decides to build a world where she does have control. That’s why she has pets and stuffed animals as her citizens. She knows she can control them (most of the time). Brothers and sisters are harder to control.
3. How many books have you written? What are some of your favorites?
I have had about 100 books published. I have lots of favorites, but some of them are Bertie Was a Watchdog, Mr. President Goes to School, Frankenstein: a Monstrous Parody, and Once There Was a Bull… frog.
4. Did you always want to be a writer? What else have you done?
I have always loved to imagine and to create things, but I didn’t start thinking about becoming a writer until I was a teenager. Besides writing I have taught school, designed educational software, and cooked in a restaurant. I also like to travel, play the guitar, and learn about pretty much anything and everything. The world is an amazing, fun place. There is always something to do and to learn.
5. How did your friends, parents and/or teachers help you to grow up to be a writer?
My parents were teachers. Books and education were very important to them. They read to us all the time, and let me read whenever I wanted. And I read a lot. They took me to the library often. And if I wanted to buy a book, they would let me. They never said no when I wanted a book.
When I was in high school, Miss Nelson, my English teacher, told me that a story I had written for her class would make a good kids book. That put the idea of becoming a writer into my head.
I have also had a lot of creative friends. When I was with them our imaginations went wild. And when I began thinking seriously about becoming a fulltime writer I began to meet lots of other people who liked to write. Many of them became my friends and we help and support each other.
Rick Walton, May 2013