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Write What You Know? Why’s a Single Guy in his 20s Writing Children’s Books?

One of the first pieces of advice many writers get is to “write what you know.” My father said this to me, my teachers, and even some of my writing friends. But this whole “write what you know” mantra can be misleading, and if we stuck to that our topics would be pretty limited and that’s why need to get out of our comfort zone and mix things up a bit.

That’s what Adam Rubin did. Rubin, at the ripe age of 29, is the creative director of a New York-based digital agency  Firstborn. As a writer, he could have gotten artsy and geeky and write something about design and technology. But Rubin likes to shake things up and it turns out that he wrote a successful children’s book.

In his interview with Digiday, Rubin explains how he entered the advertising industry with a BFA in Advertising Design, but admits that he’s more verbal than visual. So how did a white, single guy come about writing children’s books?

It appears that Rubin stumbled onto the genre by accident after he met illustrator Daniel Salmieri. The two joined forces and met with an editor who was impressed by their work and— voila—contracts were offered. The first book, Those Darned Squirrels, was published in 2008, which amassed terrific reviews and won the Rubin and Salmieri partnership some awards. Four books and more to come, Rubin and Salmieri are keeping the wee ones and their parents, busy reading, giggling and wanting more.

But back to the main question, how did this hip ad guy come to write kids’ books? Rubin is a self-admitted cartoon lover. His favorites range from the classic Looney Tunes to the cynical Calvin and Hobbes. His writing, though, tended to lean more to the R and X-rated, but after meeting Salmieri, who aspired to be a picture-book illustrator, Rubin knew that if they were to work together, he’d had to bone up on the genre. With his library card in hand, Rubin read numerous children’s books to reacquaint himself with the medium. What Rubin discovered was that most of the books were either treacly sweet or simply dull. And with that research under his belt, Rubin decided to write something that was funny.

What did Rubin learn in writing his books? The number one lesson: not to talk down to kids. His MO is to come up with a premise that’s amusing to all audiences and then tones down the language so children can easily understand it.

To read Digday’s interview with Adam Rubin, go to How a Childless Creative Director Came to Write Children’s Books.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s science fiction, fantasy and humor books, short stories and articles. A frequent contributor to blogs like SFSignal, Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and To Be Read, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat under the hashtag #sffwrtcht on Twitter and blogs about writing and creativity on his own blog at www.bryanthomasschmidt.net/blog. Connect With Bryan On Google+

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