Do you edit as you go? Do you have several drafts, or does it come out exactly how you want it?

It never comes out the way I want it on the first draft. It is always a long process. There is a lot of refinement. This applies both to my writing and my art.

I try to capture the spark or essence of an idea as quickly and as unfiltered as I can. I jot it down or scribble it out in a sketch. Then I think about. I ponder it in all sorts of ways. What does this idea mean? How could I present it in the clearest possible way? Will others understand it? Enjoy it? Care about it?

From there, I explore the idea. I bounce it off of family and friends. I write out possible plot paths. I sketch out possible character designs. Sometimes, I put it all away and let it germinate a little longer.

To give you an idea of how this works, The Spiderwick Chronicles was based off of an idea I had when I was 12. I made a field guide to dragons, trolls and fairies, and I never forgot about it.

In 2001, I was asked by my editor what my dream-project would be. I suggested this field guide. The story of Arthur Spiderwick—the character that created the guide—had grown over the years as I had periodically returned to the project. Eventually it evolved into the book series with Holly Black.

I took a similar route for the WondLa trilogy. The Search for WondLa is based on an idea I explored back in 1997-1998. That’s a nice long time to figure what a story is and what it isn’t. From then to the day it was released, I wrote and rewrote drafts, had friends give feedback and visually developed the world through my drawings. For me, one discipline fuels the other: the drawings inspire words, which inspire more drawings.

Other projects, like Kenny & The Dragon or The Spider & The Fly, came from a longtime love of classic literature. With both titles, I started with a fresh approach to a story (or poem) that many may be familiar with. The Spider & The Fly started when my editor sent over Mary Howitt’s poem. As I read those famous lines, my mind jumped to Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies and Chas Addams’ Mother Goose. I quickly sketched out my idea for the characters and setting and was on my way.

Kenny & The Dragon was a complete re-imagining of Kenneth Grahame’s short story The Reluctant Dragon. I wanted to re-tell the story in the tradition of old fairy tales that get re-told periodically so that readers of today may enjoy it. My hope is that someone else will tackle it years from now. Classic tales like that need to stay on kids’ bookshelves, no matter what form they are in.

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Never Abandon Imagination Tony DiTerlizzi: Never abandon imagination.

Imagination is a world of possibility that exists within each of us. It is what makes us uniquely human. It is our creative fingerprint that touches and influences the world around us. Imagination is essential to art and science; to innovation and prosperity. It gives us hope, calls us to action and leads to change.

Whether it’s fairies, dragons, robots or aliens, all of my children’s book characters are siblings born of my imagination – an imagination strengthened through years of encouragement from family, teachers and friends. While so many others abandoned it during their transition from childhood to adulthood, I fiercely held onto mine, hoping for a day when I could share it to inspire the next generation of dreamers. Innovators. World changers.

Imagination empowers us to envision and create a reality of what could be. We must hold it dear, foster it and never abandon it.