Erik P. Kraft
Describe your latest project.
Miracle Wimp is the story of Tom Mayo, a kid in high school who gets put in wood shop instead of computer animation because his guidance counselor is a ding-dong and won't fix a mistake. Misery ensues. There's stuff about getting your license and trying to get a girlfriend, and apparently a lot of swearing. I didn't notice.
What is your favorite family story?
Not really a story, per se, but when she was a kid, my mother was so small that my uncle teased her by calling her "Teeny Renie with the tiny hiney." That will never stop cracking me up.
If you must have a real story and not just a nickname, there's the time I was a baby and I stuck a pea up my nose. My parents called 911, but in the meantime, my father thought about what he had always seen in cartoons, and threw a handful of pepper in my face. I immediately sneezed the pea out.
Introduce one other author/illustrator you think people should read, and suggest a good book by him/her.
My friend Viviane Schwarz both writes and illustrates (though, she has done some books with Joel Stewart as the illustrator). She lives in England, but since Walker publishes her in the UK, Candlewick has published some of her books in the US. Her newest book is Timothy and the Strong Pajamas, and you may have to [pre]order it, but it will be worth it, I promise.
What was your favorite story as a child?
For a book, there was Dooley and the Snortsnoot, a book about a giant who hasn't gotten giant yet, but he finds it in himself to protect his town from the Snortsnoot when it comes and tries to eat the local children. It was fun to read (or have read to you) because Dooley yells "fee fi fo fum" quite in bit in the hopes it will speed his growth. For a non-book story, my mother sometimes used to tell me about the time our dog got sprayed by a skunk as a bedtime story, which was always exciting because they poured tomato juice on him to try to get the stink out.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Well, I always wanted to be a writer, once I realized that was even a possibility. I would probably have kept writing my own stories regardless. I wanted to be a scientist of some sort for a while, until my math skills started to make it clear I wasn't really cut out for that. I've wanted to be everything from an archaeologist to a vet at some point. I get interested in things easily. I almost changed majors my senior year of college and became an entomologist, but in the end stayed an English major.
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
This has happened more than once, but it's always nice. Sometimes when I do school visits, at the end of the presentation there will be a student who may not have said anything the whole time, but I noticed that they were paying very close attention to what I was saying. Sometimes they'll hang around until the rest of the class is filing out of the room, and come up and very quietly ask me a question, or just say "thank you." I can tell they're the kid who maybe has trouble relating to the other kids, but there's a lot going on in their head. I want to think that I'm showing them that you can be that kid, and eventually the stuff you do that everyone thinks is weird, like writing stories and drawing weird pictures, could someday be something people really enjoy.
Tell us about your pets.
Well, for cats, there's Thurston, who is a 19 year old Maine coon (or at least part Maine coon, he looks like a little lion). He is very handsome and spends a lot of time looking at himself in the mirror. Then there's Sophie, who is a Calico and has severe mood swings. You'll be petting her one minute, and the next thing you know your hand is seriously bleeding. Rounding out the cats is Stevie, who my wife and I found in the street in front of our apartment. We thought she was going to be blind because her eyes were completely infected, but she has recovered fully. If you look closely you can see tiny scratches on her eyes where there are little scars, but it doesn't affect her sight at all. She wants to play with the other cats, but they are old and cranky.
We also have a dog, Mijo, who is a mutt of some sort. When I lived in Massachusetts, there was a group that went to Puerto Rico and rescued stray dogs there and brought them back to the Boston area, and we got him from them. We thought he would hate the winters because he's from a much warmer area, but he absolutely loves the snow. He and Stevie get along great, and my theory is that they can bond over their old lives on the street. If people aren't familiar with the word "Mijo" (which is Spanish slang for something between "my son" and "little guy") they have misunderstood his name to be many things, including "Meeno" and "Neil."
Name the best Simpsons episode of all time, and explain why it's the best.
You definitely have to go back to the Conan O'Brien years, and then it gets hard to pick just one, because so many have their moments. It could very well be the Mr. Plow episode, as you've got a naked Barney chasing his diaper down the street yelling "come back, diaper!" then wondering how today could get any more humiliating, rounding the corner and saying "Oh hi, ma!" You've got Linda Rondstadt singing "Mr. Plow no es macho," Adam West being creepy, and you learn that the $10,000 bill has all the presidents on it (Jimmy Carter is passed out on the couch). The opening scene is a Little Nemo parody, and Homer lies about Moe's being a bar, and instead says it's a pornography store. It's pretty action-packed.
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Erik P. Kraft is an award-winning author of books including Lenny and Mel's Summer Vacation. He lives in Williamsburg, NY, and when he's not writing children's books, he plays in a band and performs stand-up comedy.