I first posted this picture on my Facebook page in May of 2016 with the caption, "staring at a blank page, beginning the long-sometimes painful-but always exhilarating-process of turning a spark into a story..."
I then struggled for two months only to create a hash of a story which I subsequently buried next to the many other "misses".
Having gone through this process many times, I know the best thing you can do sometimes is to put the story away in order to let it "ripen"...for a month...a year...sometimes ten. I probably have a hundred stories, or pieces of stories that I worked on for days, months, or in some cases years. Sometimes when I pull them out again, they will have indeed ripened. Other times...not so much-still rotten.
If there is one thing that separates an amateur from a professional, it is the massive amounts of time invested-with absolutely no guarantee of a positive outcome. It is understood going in that it often won't end well. iIt's a tightrope walk without a net.
That said, if you put in the work, learn from the gazillion mistakes you will make, and stay with it, you get better at generating ideas. You get better at fleshing them out. You get better at sensing whether you have something that is worth the investment of your time. You also start to love that tightrope.
So, the story I posted about last May-and buried last July...well, I dug it up last month, ripped out much of what was rotten (most of the story), and just put the finishing touches on a new version-and Sue likes it!!!! (which is always the first test). Time to send it off to my agent. I'll let you know if anything happens.
Arriving home late Tuesday night, I was greeted with a package containing an advance copy of ALLY-SAURUS & THE VERY BOSSY MONSTER. Having started the process of brainstorming ideas for this book 18 months ago, the feeling of holding the finished product in my hands is indescribable.
On Monday, the book trailer for Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster premiered on KidLitTV along with a wonderful writeup.
Book Trailer Premiere: ALLY-SAURUS & THE VERY BOSSY MONSTER
KidLit TV is proud to premiere the book trailer for ALLY-SAURUS & THE VERY BOSSY MONSTER by Richard Torrey, the sequel to the award winning ALLY-SAURUS & THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! Your kids will love the humor and fun in this book as well as the unique characters and illustrations!
See more by clicking HERE
The tiny tot–turned-dinosaur (in her imagination) is back, this time facing a new challenge: a domineering friend.
Ally, or as she likes to be called “Ally-saurus,” can’t wait to play outside. After brushing her straight black hair into pigtails and chomping on her breakfast (things dinosaurs do not particularly like to do), she roars and stomps to meet her friends. As in the first outing (Ally-Saurus and the First Day of School, 2015) Torrey uses rough crayoned markings to signify the characters’ innermost passions, an enormously effective visual device. Ally has pink dinosaur spikes down her back to go along with her pink “ROAR!”....
To read the entire review, click HERE.
Yesterday marked the passing of a legend, Frank Deford.
He was a brilliant writer and editor, a visionary, and a showman.
In 1989, I ended my first comic strip, Hartland and began doing editorial cartoons and story illustrations for the brand new sports daily-The National. Frank Deford was the editor.
It was great exposure, wonderfully challenging work, insane deadlines...but they paid VERY well...which is why they only lasted two years. To this day, it was the most fun I've ever had doing what I do.
Toward the end of The National's run, Deford asked me to create an exclusive sports comic strip-which I did. Days after getting editorial approval for the strip (called Benchwarmers), The National went belly up.
I subsequently changed the name of the strip to Pete & Clete and sold it to Creators Syndicate in LA.
RIP Mr. Deford. Thank you for the wild ride.
Read more about Frank Deford in the NY Times by clicking here.
Below is the brand new book trailer I have created for my book, THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE. It is the first trailer I've ever done for any of my 14 books.
My aim was to produce something simple and straightforward, allowing the children's expressions to help tell the story, precisely as I had done in the creation of the book.
Recently I was interviewed by Sara Grochowski for her wonderful blog, The Hiding Spot (a blog dedicated to books...the best hiding spot I've ever found).
I'm thrilled to share an interview with talented and very kind Richard Torrey, whose newest picture book, The Almost Terrible Playdate, is in stores now!
Hiding Spot: I feel the plot of the The Almost Terrible Playdate is one that everyone, no matter their age, can relate to. Was there a specific experience that inspired the concept of this book?
RT: The original idea for this book can be traced back to a day I watched my children and their friends draw with chalk on our driveway. It suddenly dawned on me that child’s play is really a series of negotiations-proposals and counterproposals.
“What if we do this?” “No, how about we do this?” “I know, how about we do this?”
What struck me was the fact that these negotiations never seemed to end. As long as the activity was going on, the negotiations continued. In other words, the act of negotiating seemed to be an enjoyable and integral part of the playing experience. I’ve wanted to do a book about the essence of play ever since. I guess you could say this book is a one-act play about playing....
CLICK HERE to read the entire interview.
What I Thought- I loved the story. The dialogue between the two characters are funny, and extremely realistic – Mr. Torrey really captures the sense of two very different kids playing together. The illustrations are unique as most of the page is taken up by a thought bubble, and the image inside the bubble looks as if it were drawn by a little kid – reflecting the imagination of a child. I also like the book because it is all conversation – there is no narration.
The Almost Terrible Playdate is an adorable little book about two children that can’t seem to get a long, which is very much how my boys can be some days. They are the best of friends, but let’s face it. They are two different people and obviously they want to play different things. Luckily in the end, it all works out and they compromise which is what happens in this adorable book....Read the rest of the review by clicking here.
14 days until the release of my next book, THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE. Yesterday it was selected as one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month of February. Today, Booklist published it's review, using words like charming, valuable, entertaining, and playful to describe the book!
THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE Torrey, Richard (Author) , Torrey, Richard (Illustrator) Feb 2016. 40 p. Doubleday, hardcover, $16.99. (9780553510997).
In squiggly colored-pencil and ink drawings accentuated with charming thought bubbles, Torrey captures the sprite antics of a mismatched play date. The story opens with a seemingly easy question—“What do you want to play?”—and a boy and girl propose games (which are quite gendered) on facing pages, foreshadowing their ensuing drama. The boy and girl alternate suggesting and rejecting ideas, and as their ideas escalate in intensity, both of the kids, in their color-coded, scribbled thought bubbles, creatively imagine the destructions of the other’s idea, which imbues the conflict with wit and charm. “What if I’m a ballet instructor and you’re in my ballet school?” asks the girl, while the boy imagines himself frowning while wearing a tutu. The boy’s suggestion elicits a similar response from the girl, and so it continues until they wonder whether they can play together at all. Playing alone is not as much fun, however, and as the story progresses, they learn a valuable and entertaining lesson about compromise. A playful and accessible introduction to cooperation. — Annie Miller
Today I received word that my new book, THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE has been selected as one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month for February. Exactly one year ago today, my brother-in-law Phil Harnick suffered a devastating heart attack. The completion of my book coincided with his passing.
I have dedicated the book to Phil's memory. It is a small gesture, but done with deep love and admiration, not only for Phil, but for his wife Janet, for their two beautiful children Cole and Ty, for his parents Yvonne and Jack, for my brother-in-law Jack and his family, and last but never least for his sister-my wife, Sue.
We all miss you Phil.
Before the snow hit this weekend, I did a book reading/signing at the Lake Grove Barnes & Noble, which included the unveiling of my new book, THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE. I'm pleased to report that it got a wonderful reception from the sizable gathering. A big thank you to Barbara Turney, the Community Business Development Manager for Barnes & Noble for arranging the evening, and to all those who interrupted their blizzard preparations to participate.
From School Library Journal's January issue:
TORREY, Richard. The Almost Terrible Playdate. illus. by Richard Torrey. 40p. Doubleday. Feb. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553510997.
PreS-Gr 1–Having a playdate can be the best, but agreeing on what to play is another story. Two children exchange ideas, but neither one is willing to compromise and accept the other’s suggestions.
When the girl posits that she is a wizard and that the boy is a frog-turned-pony on which her doll can ride, the boy is frustrated imagining himself a frog.
When the boy suggests they both be race cars competing for the title of Champion of the Universe, the girl imagines covering her ears at the deafening sound.
The story continues back and forth, until the action reaches a crescendo and the children resolve to play alone. That is, until they find a way for their ideas to coexist.
The art is consistent throughout, showing each child in black pencil outline with single-colored clothing and their ideas illustrated to life in the corresponding color of their clothes.
There are no background illustrations, so the eye focuses directly on the images each child is conjuring through his or her ideas.
Often the imagined self of the child is taking on the same pose as the real-life child while they are going back and forth.
VERDICT A clever story of dueling imaginations.–Matthew C. Winner, Ducketts Lane Elementary School, Elkridge, MD
To read the review on the School Library Journal website, click here.
My new book, THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE was just reviewed by Leonard Marcus in The New York Times Book Review. An expert in the field of children's literature and an author himself, Marcus strikes a somewhat scholarly tone, filtering out some of the joy and fun in the process. That being said, my new book was just reviewed in The New York Times!!!!!!
Marcus's take on my book begins:
“It’s fun to have fun,” as Dr. Seuss cautioned in “The Cat in the Hat,” “but you have to know how.” In “The Almost Terrible Playdate,” a boy and a girl of 5 or so who have not quite mastered the art lock horns in a cranky negotiation over what let’s-pretend scenario to play out. Not surprisingly, both children want to have their own way and both wish to be the hero of their story.
Click here to read the entire review, titled 'STRICTLY NO ELEPHANTS,' BIG FRIENDS AND MORE
I would like to call your attention to children's author, Susan Leonard Hill's wonderful children's book blog. Last Friday she featured my next book, THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE in a regular post she calls PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY.
In it she says:
This is a delightful story, told completely through dialogue and illustration (a good mentor text for writers who are working on similar stories.) The writing is spare and there is no written narrative – it’s all a conversation. The girl is completely sure that her idea is best, her game the most fun…and not surprisingly it gives her the starring role. The boy is equally convinced that his totally different idea is best, his game the most fun…and not surprisingly it gives him the starring role :) Anyone who has ever spent time around kids will recognize this dynamic. The children’s imaginative descriptions grow more and more elaborate as they try to convince each other, but it is not to be...
I invite you to read the entire blog post as well as Susan's other insightful pieces by clicking here.
There is not a more gratifying feeling than having someone you respect understand and like something you have created. I want to thank Susan for her very thoughtful post.
Today I received an advanced copy of my next book, THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE (Doubleday Books for Young Readers), which comes out next month.
From the Publisher's page: "Ideal for all families who have ever heard (or said!) the words “Why can’t you both JUST GET ALONG?!”, here is the story of two young children with VERY different ideas of what they want to play. What starts with an innocent question (“What do you want to play?”) soon veers hilariously toward chaos, as two children engage in the age-old struggle of princesses, ponies, and ballet vs. dinosaurs, dragons, and race cars. Which child will win? Or will both find a way to play nicely together?" Click here to read more from the post.
Wow, this is a big one for me. So happy to see this quiet book about a quietly-amazing dog make some noise. Although my books have always gotten good reviews, none has ever received any award. It feels good. Way to go Bob! Good dog! Click HERE to view the list.
While rushing to a lunch meeting with my agent and publisher last week I happened to walk past Macy's. This year's Christmas window display celebrates the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas. If you have the opportunity to get into NYC during the holiday season, and you're a fan of Peanuts, I urge you spend a little time fighting the crowds to see the display. You will be glad you did. Below are some of the pictures I took.
If you look carefully at the last shot you will see my big noggin reflected right smack in the middle of the window as I snap the picture.
50 years ago, I sat in front of our family's black and white TV with my brothers and watched the first airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The following year I watched again, only this time in color. I can still remember the first glimpse of that winter sky full of stars, the glowing snow, and those strange search lights in the background as Charlie Brown and Linus searched for the perfect Christmas tree.
But nothing compared to the glow of that single stage light shining down on the tiny figure of Linus as he delivered that profoundly powerful soliloquy on the true meaning of Christmas.
I have watched A Charlie Brown Christmas every year since....sometimes multiple times. I could watch it a hundred more and never tire of that scene. So quiet. So simple. So perfect.
Now 50 years later, this national treasure is woven into the fabric of the holiday season. Hard to imagine that Charles Schulz nearly nixed the entire project before it ever got started. Harder still to imagine that, once completed, there were many doubters, including the producer of the special, the sponsor, and the network that was about to air it.
According to the LA Times, "a week before the December 1965 premiere, it was shown in New York for CBS executives, who watched in silence. When the lights came up, one of the bosses told Mendelson (the producer), "Well, you gave it a good try."