Stephen Shaskan is one of Family Fun Twin Cities’ favorite authors. He is super fun and very creative and has written some entertaining picture books. He is married to Trisha Speed Shaskan who is also a children’s author. She and I have spoken at length about books that would be good for my children to read. She is knowledgeable and a lot of fun herself.
On Saturday, February 15, from 2:00 pm-4:00, you can have the chance to meet them and learn from them. Mounds View Public Library is hosting a FREE Comic Book Workshop that will be led by this talented couple.
But let’s give Stephen a chance to introduce himself and his wife.
What can you tell us about yourself?
Since graduating with a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 1992, I have been working with children as an art teacher, educational assistant, and early childhood educator. The kids that I work with inspire my art and writing.
How many books have your written?
I have written and illustrated many ideas for books, but currently only two have been published. I wrote and illustrated A Dog is a Dog (Chronicle Books, 2011) and The Three Triceratops Tuff (Beach Lane Books, 2013). In 2009, I illustrated Art Panels, BAM! Speech Bubbles, POW! Writing Your Own Graphic Novel, which was written by Trisha Speed Shaskan (my wife). I’m currently working on illustrating a book that Mem Fox wrote titled A Cat Called Kite, and I recently sold a book to Scholastic that I wrote and illustrated titled Little Choo.
I grew up in Syracuse and Albany, New York. But I have lived in Minneapolis for over 20 years. I moved soon after graduating from college.
Have you always wanted to write children’s books?
When I was young, I wanted to be an architect, but didn’t want to do all that complex math stuff. I just wanted to design cool buildings. I decided to focus on becoming a comic book artist, but was steered off track by my high school art teachers. In college, I was an illustration major, but I started to focus on fine arts: painting, sculpture, and screen-printing. When I finished art school, I just wanted to be a musician. I moved to Minneapolis and formed a band with friends, and began creating poster designs for my band and other events around town. I also self-published my own indie-comic called Saint, which if anyone finds it, it will be the equivalent of finding a high schooler’s diary: so embarrassing! I worked on single panel comics called Planet Schmuck, which featured kids doing silly things. I sold these at local art fairs. Meanwhile, I worked with children and read so many great picture books. Inspired, I started to focus on creating picture books of my own. Picture books and comics are similar because both forms tell stories with the combination of writing and illustrating.
What are some of your hobbies?
My biggest hobby is playing music. Besides playing guitar and singing/writing kid’s songs, I also play keyboards and bass, and love to mess around with all different types of music. I’m no longer in a band, but Trisha and I sometimes play together. She plays the drums.
Who is this lovely lady you are married to?
Trisha Speed Shaskan and I have been married for 13 years. We met at an elementary school: she taught writing/stories and I taught art. We both used picture books in our classes. Trisha had always wanted to write for children and has written over 40 books for Picture Window Books. Without her, I would not be in this business. We currently have a couple of projects that we are working on together.
It’s great! We both benefit from each other’s knowledge of the business and craft of writing for children. We are constantly helping each other navigate this world. I am extremely grateful for having such a fantastic editor right here in my own house! She helps me not sound like an idiot. Trisha has even edited this interview for me. In fact she told me to edit this part out, but I chose not to.
Tell us about the Comic Book Workshop you are teaching.
The Comic Book Workshop is a free 2 hour-long workshop for 7 to 13 year-olds that is open to the public. You can register at the library or at the library’s link online. Supplies will be provided (paper, pencils, markers), but kids are encouraged to bring their sketchbooks or journals if they have one, and any special writing or drawing tool that they use.
What will we learn?
This workshop is to getting kids started on creating a comic character, whether it’s for a comic book, graphic novel, or comic strip. Trisha will lead the class in a writing exercise that will help kids create an interesting and original character. I will give tools to help kids draw these characters from different views and with different expressions.
Do you write comic books?
Trisha and I are working on a graphic novel together. I just received a Minnesota Artist Initiative Grant to work on it!
Creating comic characters is no different from creating characters for any type of writing. We focus on the comic side because it has both writing and illustrating.
Anything else you want to tell us about the workshop?
You don’t have to be a great artist or writer to be in this class. You just have to want to draw and write. This class is meant to be fun. And we hope kids have as much fun being in the class as Trisha and I have teaching it.
Comic Book Workshop
Mounds View Public Library
Saturday, February 15, 2014
2:00 pm-4:00 pm
images courtsey of the Shaskans, used with permission