Matt Phelan



Illustrator Matt Phelan joins LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author! He is the illustrator of many books for young readers, including Xanders Panda Party by Linda Sue Park, Floras Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall, and The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal. He is the author/illustrator of the award-winning graphic novels The Storm in the Barn, Around the World, and Bluffton. His latest books include his first picture book as both author and illustrator, Druthers (Sept. 2014), and Miss Emily by Burleigh Mutén (March, 2014). Matt lives in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.


How did you get started writing?


Being a children's book illustrator had been a longtime "dream job" of mine. In my late twenties, it occurred to me that if I put in some serious effort to become one, it would greatly increase my chances. After five years spent developing a portfolio, a review with an art director at a Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators conference led to my first book deal.


Who influenced you?


Charles Schulz, Bill Watterson, N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Ernest Shepard, as well as more contemporary artists like Lisbeth Zwerger, David Small, William Joyce, and Chris Van Allsburg.


Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?


 A big part of why I love children's books so much is the sheer variety of subject matter. I can follow a book about George Washington with a book about a bear, dive into the Dust Bowl, then draw a book about monsters. I'm always interested in something I haven't tried yet.


What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?


The only thing that you have complete control over is your writing or your illustration portfolio. Write or draw as much as possible and get as good as possible. There are many obstacles to getting published and a fair bit of luck involved, but ultimately it is your portfolio or sample writing that is the key to everything.


Where is your favorite place to write?


I have a studio in my back yard which is where I do all of my drawing and a fair amount of writing, but I can also write in a coffee shop if the mood is right.


What else would you like to tell us?


After illustrating ten picture books by other authors, my first picture book as both author and illustrator, Druthers, was released in September 2014.


Matt, thank you for spending six minutes with LitPick! Congratulations on the release of your first book as author and illustrator!