Jef Czekaj is a children's book writer and illustrator who works and lives in Somerville, MA. Among some of his whimsical books you will find A Call for a New Alphabet, Hip and Hop, Don't Stop! and Cat Secrets. In addition to drawing and writing books, Jef is also a musician and presents at schools and libraries. I got a chance to catch up with Jef at cafe Rustica and he told me about how he ended up in this space, where he gets his ideas from, and how you too can pursue something as colorful and goofy as authoring children's books.
How did you get into making children's books?
It's kind of a backwards story. I really liked to draw when I was little. I used to make books all the time with cardboard, fold it, and just draw. By the time I got to high school I was a super shy kid and really self-conscious, so I didn't take art classes. I was also really interested in science. I had a super heavy workload and played violin so I didn't really have room for art classes. I still drew with friends and stuff, but I had stopped doing art.
By the time I got to college I didn't take any art classes. I was pretty shy so I was scared of showing my work and I didn't want to take studio classes that were three hours long, so I ended up majoring in linguistics. When I graduated I couldn't find a job, so I just started drawing again and once again, it was just for me when I was making mini comics and zines. And I started selling them.