Meet Will Terry, author/illustrator, expert on ebooks

Here's another awesome guy on the picture book scene you just have to meet...WILL TERRY. I actually met Will back in my college days. He was one of my sophomore year illustration teachers...kind of an intro to illustrating class. He was a young guy, not too long on the scene, but had already made a name for himself in editorial illustration as well as the picture book market. I really liked him as a teacher. He says he pretty much shouldn't have been teaching, but I learned a lot about working as a freelancer, working in the industry, and about good design from "Professor" Terry (I never called him that of course- I'm pretty sure we all just called him "Will").  He was down to earth and cool. He made us all want to work as illustrators.

After graduating and getting into my own career, Will and I are no longer be student/teacher, but are friends and colleagues. It's great to connect with other illustrators and vent, bounce ideas, or just hang out  away from the dungeon studios in our basements.

And anyone looking for tons of info, how-to's, and tips on illustration and ebooks, Will has the answers. Check out HIS BLOG for more information than you can imagine.

So, without further ado, here's Will Terry...

You've mentioned on your blog and video interviews that the public school system pretty much failed you growing up...they often have a hard time with kids who creatively "color outside the lines." It's really sad that more and more, the arts are being removed from education. That whole discussion aside, what was your path to becoming a children's book illustrator?

I really wasn't good at anything else and so I was always painting or drawing as a kid. In H.S. I was never the best but always took art class. I crawled through the sewers to sneak into college - I had to go to community college to raise my GPA with easy classes. Then I was let into BYU on academic probation. I didn't really think I would become a professional illustrator but I never stopped trying. Cliche as it may sound - I was the little engine that could. One little chunk at a time- even pushing past the part where I was put on probation in the illustration BFA because my stuff just wasn't cutting it. My first mailers to attract freelance work were horrible - when I look at them now I can't believe anyone ever gave me my first assignments. But - probably the most important quality I did have was never being able to settle for what I was currently capable of. I was always looking to improve. I would say that what I lacked in raw talent I made up for with hard work. 

I didn't know it then but I was destined for children's books because I love creating cuter softer illustrations that tell a story. So now I find myself right where I want to be.

Others may not know that you have also tried out other ventures in your life, but have come back to being an illustrator. What brought you back? 

Yes, I've tried various other money making projects and careers - trading futures, selling trading systems, and almost became a California Corrections Officer (prison guard) YEAH - THAT'S RIGHT!!! What I've realized is that I'm miserable when I'm not creating art -and being miserable at what you do makes you ineffective and mediocre. And mediocre is a recipe for getting fired or losing really big...aka being a big loser. 

Your wife works, you have a few kids (preteen on up?), and you are the "stay-at-home dad." How do you juggle work and home? Do you have set work hours or are you more "go-with-the-flow?"

Actually my wife lost her job when she contracted an auto-immune disease so she's at home now. With the loss of her income I really had to step it up in the earning dept. I won't say it's been easy but we're making it. This prompted me to make some video tutorials that I could sell from my website Sales were so good that I partnered with a friend to create where we not only sell my videos but also tutorials from other artists. 

I've never been the type to set a schedule - not that that's a bad way to do it but for me I'm motivated enough to work whenever I can. Distractions have never been a problem so if the kids need something or my wife needs me to run errands it doesn't bother me to close up and re-open later. It was harder when my kids were babies but my wife was healthy then and took care of most of day to day. Not that I didn't change my fair share of diapers - diapers never bothered me that bad - guys! - get used to it - it's just poop - someone had to change your diapers so get over it!
You have had a lot of success with your ebooks, "Tickle Bugs," "Pollywog to Frog," and "Monkey and Croc." Do you plan on making more? What are the pros and cons of an ebook and what makes a successful ebook (in your opinion)?

I'm so in love with the idea of creating my own apps/ ebooks for children! I'm working on three apps right now and the idea of incorporating sound and light animation is really fun. Not that illustrating picture books isn't fun it's just different and I still love static images that really challenge me to incorporate the suggestion of movement. Making apps is neat because now I'm free to dream up new ways of telling stories. 

I believe that with all the current competition and future competition you have to be extremely creative with what you offer the world. It's going to be really hard to stand out so if your just swaying to the music like most people you'll get lost in the sea. It's the person who's break dancing to "Stairway to Heaven" that's going to get noticed. Laughed at? perhaps, but talked about - and that's what you need to be successful.
Any words of wisdom to the readers?

The world is changing faster than you or I can perceive. These changes are scary for most of us but through change comes great opportunities. It's our attitudes that will allow or prevent us from exploiting these opportunities. Some people only see the spilled milk. Others see an opportunity to drag their fingers through it and make art worth talking about.

I didn't ask Will about this, but I know he recently started a Kickstarter project. It's pretty cool. Check it out here.

And Thanks, Will...for everything!

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I'm a freelance illustrator working in the children's book industry. I love kids and raising my own 4 children. They are the inspiration and the passion behind all I do in art and in life. See my website at

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