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by Jason Kirschner

If you can stick with this post all the way to the end, you’ll find my little bio where it is clearly states that “author/illustrator” is not my day job. Most days I get up a little too early for my taste, and head into Manhattan where I work as a set designer for television. Mostly, I work in talk shows, having spent the bulk of my career doing late night shows like Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Late Show with David Letterman. When the taping wraps, I go home, kiss my wife, pat my kids on the head and head up to my attic studio where I make books for kids.


Sometimes (almost never) I’m asked how the day job informs the night one. What have I learned working in TV that applies to making books?

cheeriosSense of humor is one answer. I think I’m irrevocably scarred … sorry skewed—(either works actually) from years of designing weird sets and goofy props. Late night humor and the way the writers craft their comedy has had a big influence on me.

On the illustration side, I’m heavily influenced by the way the camera is used to shoot a scene. I try to set up scenes in my books using time-honored camera shots like using wide establishing shots to set a scene or close-ups for comedic moments.

mrphimselfI think the biggest takeaway has to do with pace. I’ve got one book out on the shelves (go get yourself a copy) and more to come but I still can’t get over the difference in pace between writing/illustrating a picture book and making a daily television show. It really messes with me.

At my day job, I get multiple scripts a day that I need to break down, sketch out, draw up, and then source any necessary props or create them from scratch. Every day. We produce a show, sometimes two, every day. And then we come in the next day and do it again. What this all means is that there’s very little time to plan and strategize. When I’m handed a project, I make a plan and I go. It really trains you to problem solve and think on your feet. There’s no rehashing. There’s no switching direction midstream. There’s just a steady march towards getting the set or prop to stage for rehearsal and, later that day, the show. That same afternoon we tape a show and it’s over. My set or prop gets used on air and then…Done. Whole new show tomorrow. You move on.

Having worked this way for so many years might explain why the open-ended, no time-limit, move-at-your-own-pace process of creating a book is difficult for me sometimes. So much time to rethink and revise. Don’t get me wrong. I see the benefit of it all but I sometimes think too much time is… well… too much time.

So, when I find myself going in circles on a manuscript or illustration, or endlessly staring at a blank page, I implement day-job rule:


Do it in one day. Get it done TODAY. Pick a path and move forward. Whether it be an outline, a picture book manuscript, or a chapter of your novel — see it through to it’s conclusion. Get it to stage before showtime.

Ultimately, you might choose incorrectly. You might not love every sentence you write that day and I’m certain there will be details you’d like to change. If you picked the wrong story path, you’ve at least narrowed down the possibilities of where your story goes. You certainly wont be staring at a blank page. That’s progress.

The beauty of this is, unlike my day job, the show is not over and done at the end of the day. You do have tomorrow to edit and revise. For me, the best making-a-book timeline is a mix of the two. Hurry up and get it done and then slow down and take your time to make sure it’s perfect.

If you find yourself stuck on your latest project, give it a try. Set yourself an end-of-day deadline and pretend there’s a national tv audience and a grouchy host waiting for your work. I can almost guarantee some progress by day’s end.

jk-headshot-small-bwHere’s the bio I told you about at the beginning. I knew you’d make it.

By day, Jason is a set designer for television, with credits that include Harry, The Meredith Vieira Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and The Late Show with David Letterman. By night, Jason is an author and illustrator of children’s books. You can find his debut picture book, MR. PARTICULAR: The World’s Choosiest Champion on shelves in bookstores everywhere. See Jason’s work, both illustrations and set designs, at Follow him on twitter @jason_kirschner. You can also read more of his blogs and some of his friends’ at


Jason is giving away a copy of his debut picture book, MR. PARTICULAR.


Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!

Every year the NJ-SCBWI conference holds a Juried Art Show for illustrators. Back in 2013, the theme was “Down the Rabbit Hole”. I strolled the exhibit and stopped in my tracks at this image:

rabbit hole v5f

How marvelous is this? It immediately reminded me of Jill Barklem’s Brambly Hedge series, with field mice living in homes carved into the trees.

These bunnies were so busy in every room of their carrot cave, so much motion and expression and general giggly cuteness. Just delightful. The illustration made me smile. I took note of the illustrator’s name, Jason Kirschner, and vowed to seek him out that weekend.

I’m always looking for talented new illustrators. After all, an illustrator makes my words and characters come alive. They make me look good. I want the best artists to break into the business so that one day I might be able to work with them.

I’d like to think that Jason and I hit it off. We became friends. (Note: I did fall at his feet. Literally. But quite by accident.) He won the Juried Art Show in the unpublished category and became noted as an up-and-comer. He soon landed an agent. And I am so pleased that his debut picture book, MR. PARTICULAR, will be published next month…and that he’s chosen to premiere the trailer right here, right now!


mrparticularPicky kids everywhere, rejoice! Your choosy champion is swinging into action–as long as there’s nothing sticky or gooey in sight. In Jason’s hilarious debut, this discriminating daredevil wants to save the day, but he’s got a few rules and restrictions to work around first. Any kid who pushes peas around his plate is gonna relate.

The story is funny and soaked to the core with truths about particular kids. We all know them and their demands. Why it took so long to recognize them in a picture book, I’ll never know. But, luckily, MR. PARTICULAR was a 2013 PiBoIdMo idea!

Here’s the proof:

piboidmo 2013 list

The other interesting thing about Jason, besides being a former Art Director for Late Night with David Letterman, is that he has twins. And those twins provided the voice-overs for the trailer. I decided to ask the talent a few questions…

Mr. Particular is one persnickety person. How did you prepare for this challenging role?

[Abe]: I am already persnickety, so I didn’t have to do any preparing.

Your fans will want to know, as twins, are you anything alike? Who is the more particular of the pair?

[Syd]: Abraham is more particular and some similarities are that we both like to go swimming and we both love pizza and ice cream cake and finally we both LOVE Harry Potter.

Why do you recommend kids and parents read Mr. Particular?

[Syd]: Parents might want to relate Mr. Particular to their kids and kids might want to read Mr. Particular because there are some funny parts and some exciting parts which makes it more fun to read.

[Abe]: The parents might want to read Mr. Particular to their kids so that they can teach them that it is okay to be particular.

mrp interview

Congratulations on MR. PARTICULAR, Jason, and on having such smart and funny kiddos.

Everyone, be on the lookout for this particular picture book on May 10th from Sterling!


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