Author Interview -- Rick Walton
October 1, 2003
Rick Walton was born in Provo, Utah, and has lived in a wide range of exotic places--from Draper, to Sandy, to Kearns, to Springville. He now lives, once again in Provo, with his wife and five kids. He is the author of over fifty books for kids.
1--Why did you decide to become a writer?
I've always loved creating. When I was in junior high I began writing silly things, just for my friends. In high school I grew more serious. My first thoughts of writing for kids came in my high school A.P. English class. I had written a story for the class, and turned it in, and when it came back, my teacher, Joyce Nelson, had written, "This would make a good children's book." I bounced around for a few years, trying out several other career tracks, but writing all the while. Finally I decided that I wanted, more than anything else, to write. So I quit my job (my wife had a good job as a computer programmer), and just wrote.
2--Who is your favorite character that you have written?
Hard to say. The bunnies are adorable (thanks to the illustrator, Paige Miglio). I like Bertie's feistiness. Bull...frog is one of my favorite read-alouds. Mrs. McMurphy, who will show up next year in MRS. MCMURPHY'S PUMPKIN (HarperCollins), has a no nonsense approach to threats, which I quite like. I guess I like all of my characters for different reasons. That's why I created them.
3--If you could change one thing about being a writer, what would it be?
I would like the publishing world to use technology better to streamline the submission process. It just takes too long. You send in a story, and then wait months, only to get rejected. If I'm going to get rejected, I want to know fast, so I can move on.
I'd also like to see more outlets for people's creative works. There's a lot of good writing going unpublished and unnoticed because the economics of publishing makes it unprofitable to publish it all. I think eventually technology will solve this, too. (I put some of my favorite unpublishable stuff on my website.)
4-- Do you remember the very first piece of fiction you wrote?
The earliest creative writing I remember was my contributions to an impromptu class project in a ninth-grade honors English class. We were studying the Donner party, and someone started a sheet of paper going around, where everyone added their own topical contributions. We had cartoons, poems, song parodies, jokes, quotes, all sorts of funny stuff, all on Donner party themes. Gross stuff. Perfect for junior high. My first published work was a quote in Murphy's Laws Book III: "A fool and his money are soon elected."
5--Who are your favorite authors?
Anyone really funny. I like Jon Scieszka, Daniel Pinkwater, Roald
Dahl, Dave Barry, Woody Allen, Monty Python, Robert Sheckley, Lemony Snicket, Robert Benchley. I collect humor. I'm also a huge fan of comic strips, which I also collect.
6--Do you have any specific goals as a writer?
To become as good as I can with the talents I have, to have fun with my writing, to innovate, to push creative (but not moral) boundaries.
7--What was your favorite book as a child?
I read a lot of mysteries and humor. Two of my favorite series were the Oz series and the Freddie the Pig series.
8--What are you working on now?
I'm working on a homonym book for Gibbs Smith, a sequel to Bertie Was a Watchdog, some mini-mysteries (I have a collection coming out next year from American Girl), an upgrade of my website, and several top secret projects that I dare not speak of.
9--Do you ever write about UT?
Not specifically, though I do have Utah settings in mind when I write. When I wrote the American Girl mini-mysteries book, I was thinking of the neighborhood I grew up in Draper.
10--What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
The three R's--risk, rejection, and writing. It's a risky career, where paychecks are not guaranteed. You get rejected all the time, and it's never easy. And sometimes it's just hard to sit down and write--at times like that my house is spotless, as is my computer screen.
11-- What is the easiest thing about being a writer?
The schedule. I love being my own boss, setting my own schedule, working according to my own rhythms. I don't have to work forty hours a week on someone else's schedule. Instead I get to work eighty hours a week, but it's on my schedule.
12--What good advice do you have for people who want to be writers?
There are no shortcuts. It's hard work. You need to read a lot, study a lot, and most important, write a lot. There are a lot of people willing to help you, but they'll only help you as far as you help yourself.
For more about Rick, check out his website at www.rickwalton.com.
UCWI Interviews children's author-- Rick Walton.
This interview first appeared in the UCWI Newsletter