You may know Tory Woollcott as the author of Science Comics: The Brain. When we talked with Tory, she shared her favourite drawing tool, and you might be surprised at her answer! She also explained how writing and drawing is kind of like making a great pizza. Who knew?
Now let’s get to know Tory Woollcott!
What were your favourite books when you were a kid?
When I was a kid I had severe dyslexia. I didn’t really learn to read, on my own, until I was 12. What I loved were comics. Astrix. Tin Tin. Batman. Calvin and Hobbes. Garfield was fantastic because it was so short. The comics were only three to four panels, so I could start to figure out the story. I was finally able to work with some amazing teachers who understood dyslexia and how to help. That’s when I discovered R.L. Stine. The Goosebumps books were the first books I was able to read independently. I hadn’t even realized that was something I could do! But I remember this R.L. Stine book called Welcome to Dead House, and that was the first book I read 100% on my own. As soon as I read that one book myself, everything changed.
What do you like about writing and illustrating for kids?
It’s so much more fun. Kids are hilarious 100% of the time. When a kid says something funny, it’s always funnier than when an adult says it. When a kid creates something scary, it is always legitimately scary. Kids haven’t learned to censor themselves. Their work is so much more free and fun.
What were some of the challenges of working on a science comic about the brain? Was it different from other books you’ve worked on, especially being nonfiction?
I wasn’t expecting it to be so different. First of all, I didn’t illustrate Science Comics: The Brain; I was the writer. With my approach, I always outline everything like crazy. I usually do research around my outline, but this time my outline changed as I did more research. Even though part of my education was in biology, much of what I thought I knew about the brain wasn’t even true! I discovered that the brain is actually a tool to interpret the senses.
Writing this book took my traditional writing process and flipped it on its head. I found out it’s really important to read a lot before picking up the pencil.
What was it like having someone else illustrate?
This was definitely a challenge. I’m a classically trained scientific illustrator, so I had some very specific ideas about the illustrations, even though I wasn’t going to be doing them. I didn’t get to choose the illustrator, the publisher did, and I was unsure about how it was going to work. Well, Alex Graudins was amazing. She was the most professional person I’ve ever worked with. Comics are such a good place for control freaks. If you like to be the boss of everything you do, comics are the place for you. But what I learned from this book is that comics can be either collaborative or solo. Working on Science Comics: The Brain changed my perspective from wanting to work totally solo to being pro-collaboration.
What do you like to draw the most?
I like drawing faces with different feelings. Extremely happy or extremely angry. All the emotions. Shapes with faces.
What is the most important tool you use when you are drawing?
What advice do you have for kids who are interesting in writing and drawing?
Just do it. I heard this great quote once that your taste develops before your ability. You can eat a piece of pizza and know you love it before you are able to cook. The same thing is 100% true for comics. You are able to read and enjoy a really great comic before you are able to create the art yourself.
If you are expecting to be able to start working on a comic and have it come out the same as the ones you love, you’re going to be frustrated. But you can’t give up! Remember: You have to make a bunch of pizzas before you make a really great pizza.
Thanks Tory for an insightful interview and now we know what pizza has in common with writing and drawing!