About a year ago I stumbled across something called An Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton. I’ll get right to the point: it is, in fact awesome.
I liked it enough to buy a copy myself, and recently I wrote to Clayton to ask him about the book and a new venture of his, the Awesome World Foundation.
An Awesome Book is a little book with wildly colorful illustrations and a poem about dreaming big, like dreaming about “rocket-powered unicorns” instead of owning matching silverware.” Clayton wrote the book initially for his own five-year-old son and decided to have it printed up. Yeah, I suppose it could be considered a little cheesy, but in the end Clayton’s sincerity and sheer joie de vivre won out over my cynicism.
You can read the entire book online — and you should, right away — but I thought it was worth buying a copy for myself and my family. I’m considering buying a few more to give as gifts, too, because I think they’d be perfect for all sorts of people: little kids, high school graduates, newlyweds, your own parents.
But recently I learned there’s an even better reason to buy a copy: Clayton has promised that for every book purchased, he will give a book away. He recently went on a book tour around the country, and had a great time reading to people and giving copies of his book away. He started the Awesome World Foundation and is excited about giving his book to schools, charities, and anywhere there are kids who want books. (The website has a short video about the foundation and how it got started.)
So far, An Awesome Book is on pace to sell about 20,000 copies in 10 months, and is hoping to hit 25,000 by the end of the year. Which means Clayton will be giving away 25,000 copies of his book in the coming year.
Keep reading below for my interview with Clayton.
GeekDad: I saw that you initially wrote An Awesome Book for your son, so I know you’re a dad. I think this is a question we always ask our interview subjects: would you qualify as a “GeekDad”?
Dallas Clayton: Is it bad to say I don’t consider myself a “geek dad”? I mean that’s probably a huge step in the wrong direction — away from the target audience of this blog — but in all honesty I don’t think I’ve ever really been so completely obsessed with something to fully geek out on it. I always relate geeks to a certain character trait that involves a lot of patience and dedication to a task, to the point that you can become enveloped by it and lose all perspective of what everyone else thinks is cool. I feel like my mind moves around too much for things like that — beaches, games, strangers to meet — there’s so many rad things to look at I can never fully focus on one long enough to achieve geek status.
GD: Well, considering your other awesomeness, I guess we’ll let that slide. So, what sort of hobbies do you have?
DC: Being rad. Having fun. Trying new things.
GD: You say on your website that what you do is “writing for adults and the companies adults run, drawing pictures for those adults, and reading things out loud” … what exactly is that?
DC: Well that’s when I’m not writing for children… In Los Angeles a lot of times people live a sort of dual life working on the projects they love while also working on the projects that help pay the rent. Best case scenario, you get to do both of those things at once. I’ve tried to keep things at a pretty even split for the past few years and it’s worked out very well. In doing that you often end up making really strange things for really adult companies. For instance, after finishing An Awesome Book , Spike Jonze got in touch with me because he liked the book and my blog and asked if I wanted to help put together a blog project for the release of Where The Wild Things Are. Of course I said yes, and we made this really rad project called We Love You So and therein lies the perfect merger of doing rad things, paying rent, and working with adult companies (in this case Warner Bros.). I guess that’s what I meant by that quote. Also I read stories out loud to people.
GD: Did you get started doing your more whimsical, kid-targeted drawings/poems after your son was born or have you been doing that for even longer?
DC: No, those were definitely a direct result of having a kid. A pretty default parent thing to do, I know, but I really wanted to write something for him while he was still young and impressionable.
GD: Why do you look so sad in the photo on the “About” page on your website?
DC: Hahaha. Everybody says that. Honestly I think it’s just my lips. I’m not sad at all but my friend took the picture and all the smiling ones we took looked weird. I’ve thought of changing it several times but girls think it is cute, which is pretty much how I gauge whether or not most of the things I am doing are worth doing.
GD: What inspires you? What makes you tick? How do you keep your childlike perspective on life?
DC: I get inspired by my friends and by people who are making things that are just so solid that you can’t imagine anyone looking at the end result and being upset by it. Anyone who has every done something on their own and had it succeed. My son. People who are doing really hard work because they love it and it makes them happy. Thinking about most of those things help me keep pretty keen and young in spirit.
GD: Anything you’d like to add about your Awesome World Foundation?
DC: Yes, I just want people to feel free to share. Tell others about it. Right now it is a very small and very young thing. I am super proud of it and kind of want the whole world to know about it. For every book sold we will give one away to children all over the world!
GD: What’s a typical day in the life of Dallas Clayton?
DC: Hopefully I never have a typical day in my life.
And Clayton adds, if you have a school or charity that you feel is in need of books feel free to contact him at dallas [at] dallasclayton.com.
All images by Dallas Clayton and used with permission.