Mo Willems Interview, May 2011

Mrs. Pegeen Jensen’s first graders at Saddlewood Elementary in Albany, NY asked these questions about City Dog, Country Frog for author Mo Willems.  Mo Willems graciously replied.

Does City Dog have owners?

I sure that, from a human perspective, he does.  City Dog, however, would not think so.

Why didn’t you tell what happened to Country Frog?

I write stories, not instruction manuals.  The key to a good story is that it takes ideas from the creator and from his audience and puts them together.  I need your ideas to make a story interesting.

Why did you want the season words to be in different colors?

Good eyes for noticing that.  Each season has a flavor.  The colors of the letters reflect and re-enforce that.

How did you get the idea for this story?

I got the idea for this story from a house.  After living in a very big city for many years, my wife and I purchased a small country house where we spent the weekends with my daughter and dog.  I was constantly amazed by how much the landscape changed from week to week, which got me thinking about how time happens.  Then, while watching my dog gallivant around the hills, I thought about “dog years”.  Then, I thought if there are “dog years” there must be “frog years” too.  It looked like I was just sitting on my porch watching my dog, but I was really writing a book.

How long did it take you to write City Dog Country Frog?

I spent several years on this story, both writing and drawing it.  Once I decided that it would be best for Jon to do the drawings instead of me (and he agreed!), I spent a few weeks polishing up the story with him in mind.

Are you going to write more City Dog stories?  What are you working on now?

I can’t imagine creating another City Dog story.  The book I’m working on right now is top secret, but I can tell you that there is going to be a brand new Pigeon story published next year.

How did you get hooked up with Jon Muth as an illustrator?  Did you know Jon Muth before?

Jon is a friend. As the writing of the story progressed I came to realize that this book was the right thing for his particular style of drawing and painting.  So, I called him and asked if he was interested.  Jon thought about it for a long time before he said he would make the illustrations for the story.  I was relieved.

How does it feel to be a writer and not the illustrator?

Weird.  I am used to changing words (and taking out words) to match new ideas I have when drawing right until the very end.  With this story I had to let go and trust Jon to make my words work. It was exciting when the paintings arrived!

Mo Willems

May 2011


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