Jason Dorsey’s new children’s picture book, I Remember Running Through The Woods, is coming out in January. At Sunnyshore Studio’s “Christmas in Miniature Show” a poster displayed Jason’s projected books in this 12 book series.
We caught up to Jason this week. Here is our interview with the author/illustrator of the ambitious I Remember children’s book series.
Sunnyshore Studio: When did you first dream of the I Remember children’s picture book series?
Jason: Our family moved to Indianapolis, IN in 2002. In 2003, I must have been missing my dad and the fishing waters of the Puget Sound, so I began to sketch a draft of what became I Remember Fishing with Dad. Being who I am, it was not long after those early sketches that I conceived of a twelve book series with each book starting with I Remember.
Sunnyshore Studio: I Remember Fishing with Dad wasn’t published until October of 2015. Why did it take so long from conception to publication?
Jason: Mainly because I had no idea what I was doing. I had never written a children’s picture book before so I had a lot to learn about storytelling and illustration. I went to children’s book conferences, hired children’s book coaches, and submitted the manuscript again and again. In fact, by around 2013 I had given up. I still view it as a minor miracle that an old friend named Shelley Huston, who ran a small publishing company, reconnected with me and published the book. I tell this story in my post “A Tale of Many Rejections.”
Sunnyshore Studio: What is your vision for this series?
Jason: I want to tell stories that both delight and instruct. I want children and adults to enjoy the stories and the artwork that goes with each story. But they are more than just a collection of stories about a boy growing up on an island. Each story explores a universal theme, and, I hope, provides some insight to it. I Remember Fishing with Dad explores the significance of the father-son relationship. I Remember Running through the Woods, uses the ever-changing woods to talk about how to deal with change.
Sunnyshore Studio: Why do you start each book with “I Remember”?
Jason: Because I want to emphasize how very important the memories of childhood are and because I want to encourage the making of “sacred memories.” In our childhood time moves slow and the memories we make go deep into who we are, shaping us, and even, as the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky puts it in The Brothers Karamazov, the “instrument of our salvation one day.”
“Let us never forget how happy we were here, when we were all together, united by such a good and kind feeling…My dear children, perhaps you will not understand what I’m going to say to you now, for I often speak very incomprehensibly, but, I’m sure, you will remember that there’s nothing higher, stronger, more wholesome and more useful in life than some good memory, especially when it goes back to the days of your childhood, to the days of your life at home. You are told a lot about your education, but some beautiful, sacred memory, preserved since, is perhaps the best education of all. If a man carries many such memories into life with him, he is saved for the rest of his days. And even if only one good memory is left in our hearts, it may be the instrument of our salvation one day.”
These lines have been an inspiration for this series from the beginning.
Sunnyshore Studio: These stories are about a boy growing up on an island. Camano Islanders will recognize the island as there own. Why did you choose to base the stories on Camano?
Jason: I believe place matters. Since most of my “sacred memories” took place on Camano, I’m basing the stories in my place (though I never mention the name of Camano). The story lines are built on memories that other northwesterners share: like salmon fishing, playing in the woods, bringing in the hay, picking wild blackberries. In fact, a few weeks ago at the “Christmas in Miniature” show, I had a long conversation with a couple who grew up blackberry picking like I did. It is amazing at how similar our experiences were. The same can be said of fishing, and so on. Yet, even though the story is based in the northwest, the themes are universal and, I hope, accessible to everyone.
Plus I like maps in stories. So this gives me a chance to put maps in each of my stories.
I hope by celebrating a specific place, I can encourage people to value the places in their lives too!
Sunnyshore Studio: One of the special aspects of this series is that your dad partnered with you to illustrate the first two books. Why did you choose to do this?
Jason: For the first book, I Remember Fishing with Dad, I thought it would be cool to have my dad illustrate the book with me since it is about the father-son relationship and since he lived the story with me. Plus, I really wanted, and needed his help to make great illustrations. In 2006 we spent a week painting what would be the first round of illustrations for the book. We had to redo many of these in 2015. So it was quite a process.
I tried to illustrate I Remember Running Through the Woods by myself. But I was running out of time, and I asked Dad to help again. He graciously agreed, and really helped to bring the book to life artistically. Here are a few examples of his great work.
Sunnyshore Studio: These aren’t your normal children’s book illustrations that are more, how should I say it, child level art. These are more serious watercolors.
Jason: Part of my vision was to use high quality, serious watercolors for the illustrations. I hope to inspire a few youngsters to perhaps take up the paintbrush themselves.
Sunnyshore Studio: I Remember Fishing with Dad was published by Just Dust Publishers. Why did you choose to have Sunnyshore Studio by the publisher for I Remember Running Through The Woods?
Jason: A couple of reasons. First, Just Dust Publishers closed there doors. Second, by publishing through Sunnyshore Studio we cut out the middle man and keep our costs down. Sunnyshore Studio has published a number of books over the past three years, and has “cracked the code” so to speak of the editing, graphic design and layout of publishing. So we decided to keep it in house.
Sunnyshore Studio: Since your first sketches (2003) to today (2018), you’ve only published two books. What makes you think you can publish 10 more? And which book is next?
Jason: Well, like I said, we’ve “cracked the code” by publishing the books in-house. This allows us a little more freedom and flexibility. Hopefully we can get on a roll and publish a book a year. That’s the dream at least. And I like “big dreams”, they inspire me. I’m not afraid to fail.
I’m not sure what book will be next. I’m currently writing I Remember Haying at the Farm. This book will explore the importance of hard work, of family members/families working together as a team, and or working on their relationships with each other. The work of keeping up a farm, specifically of the annual summer bringing in the hay ritual, is the context to explore this theme. I have great memories of haying with my cousins.
Sunnyshore Studio: When is I Remember Running Through the Woods going to be released?
Jason: You should know that, since you’re the publisher of the book! The printer tells me that it will be ready to be picked up by mid/late January. If people are interested they can pre-order their copy here: