Author/Illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka on “Hey Kiddo” | Connecting Point | Nov. 8, 2018


>>NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING
AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR JARRETT CROW-ZOS-KA, WHO YOU MIGHT BE
FAMILIAR WITH FOR HIS GRAPHIC NOVEL, “LUNCH LADY’ OR HIS
PICTURE BOOKS, SUCH AS MAX FOR PRESIDENT, HAS A NEW GRAPHIC
NOVEL OUT ENTITLED, “HEY KIDDO”” THIS STORY IS A PERSONAL ACCOUNT
OF HIS CHILDHOOD, IN WHICH HE DESCRIBES THE HEARTACHE AND
DIFFICULTY OF LEARNING HIS MOTHER WAS ADDICTED TO HEROIN.
IN THE BOOK, HE TALKS ABOUT HIS OWN ANGER AND HOW ADDICTION
AFFECTS FAMILIES. CROW-ZOS-KA, WHO LIVES IN
NORTHAMPTON, SAT DOWN WITH CONNECTING POINT’S CAROLEE
MCGRATH TO TELL US MORE ABOUT HIS LATEST PROJECT.
>>HEY KIDDO WAS A GRAPHIC MEMOIR AND IT’S TOLD THROUGH
SEQUENTIAL ART SO PANELS AND WORD BALLOONS AND IT’S TOLD —
IT’S TOLD WITH THE WORDS AS WELL AS THE PICTURES.
>>IT’S A SERIOUS TOPIC, THOUGH, AND IT REALLY DEALS WITH FAMILY
ADDICTION. TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR
STORY.>>SURE, I GREW UP IN WORCESTER,
MASSACHUSETTS, AND MY MOTHER — MY MOTHER WAS ADDICTED TO
HEROIN, WHICH I WOULD LEARN LATER IN MY CHILDHOOD AND SO SHE
ONLY HAD CUSTODY OF ME FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS UNTIL HER
PARENTS, MY GRANDPARENTS, STEPPED IN SO JOSEPH AND SHIRLEY
RAISED ME WHEN I WAS JUST BEFORE MY THIRD BIRTHDAY.
THEY TOOK ME IN AND THEN GAINED LEGAL CUSTODY OF ME AND SO FOR
MANY YEARS I WOULD SHARE THAT STORY AND THEN PEOPLE THOUGHT IT
WAS EASY IN AND OUT AND YOU HAD THESE GRANDPARENTS AND WE IMAGES
OF GRANDPARENTS BAKING COOKIES AND THEY WERE WONDERFUL PEOPLE
BUT THEY WERE AS HUMANS ARE COMPLICATED SO HEY KIDDO IS
ABOUT GROWING UP GRAPPLING WITH MY MOTHER’S ADDICTION.
DEALING WITH MY GRANDPARENTS, YOU KNOW — WHILE — IN THEIR
LIVES LABELED AS ALCOHOLICS THEY CERTAINLY DRANK A LOT AND THEY
DRANK THEIR DRINKS STIFFLY AND TO EXTREMES AND ALSO MY BIRD
FATHER I DIDN’T MEET UNTIL I WAS 17, SO IT’S ABOUT SORT OF
GETTING A HANDLE ON ALL OF THAT WHILE YOU’RE GROWING UP AND HOW
FOR ME PERSONALLY LIKE MY GO-TO THING WAS ART, I LOVED DRAWING,
I LOVED COMICS SO IT’S ABOUT HOW ART CAN HELP YOU ESCAPE YOUR
REALITIES. ART CAN BE YOUR SAVING GRACE AND
THIS BOOK IS ABOUT FAMILY AND HOW FAMILY TAKES MANY FORMS AND
MANY SHAPES AND HOW FAMILY ISN’T PERFECT BUT — I THINK IT’S THE
THRILL FOR MY BOOK WHILE THESE PEOPLE WERE VERY COMPLICATED, MY
MOTHER INCLUDED, OF COURSE, I WAS LOVED.
I WAS LOVED VERY MUCH AND I THINK THAT COMES THROUGH ON THE
BOOK AS WELL.>>WHY WAS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR
YOU TO GET THAT MESSAGE OUT AND SHARE YOUR STORY AT THE TIME.
>>WELL, IT’S A STORY I’D BEEN THINKING ABOUT WRITING SINCE I
FIRST GOT PUBLISHED. SO MY FIRST CHILDREN’S BOOKS
WERE PUBLISHED IN EARLY, 2001 WAS MY FIRST BOOK.
IT WAS PUBLISHED AND I ALWAYS TOLD STORIES THROUGH WORDS AND
PICTURES AND I ALWAYS THOUGHT MAYBE I WOULD SHARE MY STORY
THROUGH WORDS AND PICTURES, MY UPBRINGING AND IT WAS ALSO IN
THE BACK OF MY MIND BUT IN 2012 I GAVE A — I WAS HOME ON A
AFTERNOON, OCTOBER OF 2012 AND THE PERSON WAS PRODUCING THE
TEDX TALKS IN HAMPSHIRE COLLEGE GOT IN TOUCH WITH ME AND SHE
CALLED HOUR HEADLINER CANCELLED WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO FILL IN?
NOW WAS THIS THINKING WAS THIS NEXT WEEK OR POSSIBLY TOMORROW
BUT SHE WAS TALKING ABOUT THAT NIGHT SO I HAD ABOUT 4 OR 5
HOURS TO GET MYSELF OVER AND GET OVER TO HAMPSHIRE COLLEGE AND
DELIVER SOME SORT OF PRESENTATION.
MY WIFE GINA ENCOURAGED TO TALK ABOUT MY UPBRINGING AND IF
SOMEONE SAYS IF YOU CAN GIVE A TED TALK AND YOU DON’T HAVE A
TED TALK IN YOUR DRAWER READY TO GO AND SHE TALKED ABOUT MY
UPBRINGING AND THAT TED TALK ENDED UP GOING ON TO THE FRONT
PAGE OF TED.COM. IT WENT VIRAL.
IT’S BEEN VIEWED OVER A MILLION TIMING AND AFTER THAT FACT,
EVERY SCHOOL I WOULD VISIT — ‘CAUSE I VISIT SCHOOLS WITH MY
CHILDREN’S BOOKS, EVERY SCHOOL I’D GO TO THERE WOULD BE AN
ADULT WHO WOULD PULLED ME ASIDE WE HAVE KIDS AT THE SCHOOL THEY
ARE JUST LIKE YOU. EITHER THEY HAVE A PARENT WHO’S
INCARS RATED OR DEALING WITH ADDICTIONS AND CERTAINLY THEY’RE
DEALING WITH HOME LIVES THAT AREN’T YOUR SORT OF
FAIRY-FAIR FAIRY-TALESQUE HOMES.
IT WASN’T IF I WAS AT SCHOOL, IT WAS FREE OR REDUCED SCHOOLS FOR
HUGE TUITION FEES THE PROBLEM WAS EVERYWHERE.
AND I FELT LIKE THIS WAS A STORY I NEED TO WRITE AND I HAVE ALL
OF THESE READERS FOLLOWING ME ALONG WITH THEIR CHILDREN’S
BOOKS AND NOW IN THEIR EARLY 20s AND I HAVE A VERY UNIQUE WAY TO
TELL THE STORY AND SO ALL OF THAT CAME TOGETHER FOR ME TO
REALIZE THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN AND IT TOOK A WHILE BECAUSE ALSO —
ASIDE FROM THE AMOUNT OF THE WORK THAT GOES INTO WRITING AND
ILLUSTRATING A GRAPHIC NOVEL, JUST GAINING THE COURAGE TO TELL
THE STORY, I REALIZED — IF I WAS TO WRITE THIS, I COULDN’T
PULL ANY PUNCHES. I HAD TO PUT IT ALL OUT THERE
FOR ALL TO SEE.>>AND I WAS WONDERING, YOU
KNOW, A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE A CHALLENGE LIKE YOU HAD GROWING
UP, YOU KNOW, SOMETIMES FOLLOW WHAT THEIR PARENTS DID.
YOU DID NOT. HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO KIND OF
CHOOSE A DIFFERENT PATH THAN YOUR MOM?
>>WELL, FOR ONE THING, I ALWAYS LOVE TO DRAW AND SHE ALWAYS
LOVED TO DRAW AND SHE WAS VERY TALENTED AND ALL THE DRAWINGS
SHE KNEW FOR ME SHE DREW FROM PRISON.
SHE DIDN’T DRAW THEM AT THE KITCHEN TABLE WITH ME.
WE WOULD DRAW PICTURES BACK AND FORTH AND SEND LETTERS BACK AND
FORTH WHILE SHE WAS IN INCARCERATED AND I REALIZED AT A
VERY YOUNG AGE THAT SHE HAD BEEN GIVEN THIS GIFT AND SQUANDERED
IT SHE DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING TO DO WITH THAT, AND THERE WAS THAT
PASSION THAT I HAD AND I WAS SURROUNDED BY SO MANY CARING
ADULTS. YOU HAVE — I HAD THE ADULTS IN
MY HOME THAT CARED FOR ME, AND I WAS SURROUNDED BY SO MANY ADULTS
AT MY SCHOOLS AND MY TEACHERS THAT WOULD ENCOURAGE ME.
I HAVE AUNTS THAT ARE LIKE SISTERS WHO WOULD ENCOURAGE ME
OR MY NEIGHBOR’S MOM WOULD ALWAYS ENCOURAGE MY GIFT OF
DRAWING, AND SO BECAUSE, YOU KNOW — AS THEY SAY IT TAKES A
VILLAGE. I HAD A VILLAGE OF ADULTS WHO
BELIEVED ENEMY, I WAS — BELIEVED IN ME, I WAS ABLE TO
TRANSCEND IT.>>DID YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT
PERSPECTIVE WRITING IT, YOU KNOW, LATER — NOT YOUR LATER
YEARS BUT AS OPPOSED TO WHEN YOU WERE 22.
>>ABSOLUTELY.>>WRITING IT SO MANY YEARS
LATER. DID YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT VIEW
BEING MARRIED AND HAVING CHILDREN?
>>WELL, CERTAINLY, YOU KNOW, TIME HELPS US GET A BETTER
HANDLE ON THE SCOPE OF THINGS, RIGHT?
SO A COUPLE OF THE THINGS HAPPENED, AGE HELPS ‘CAUSE YOU
GET A MORE MACROVIEW OF ALL OF THIS HAPPENING.
BUT I BECAME A PARENT, RIGHT? SO WHEN I BECAME A PARENT AND
I’M LOVING ON MY BABY SO MUCH AND AS MY KIDS AGED AND I GOT TO
BE THERE FOR EVERYTHING I FIGURED HOW DIFFICULT IT HAD TO
BE ARE FOR MY MOTHER TO BE SEPARATED FROM ME.
YOU’RE A KID AND EVERYBODY IS LIVING IN YOUR WORLD AND THERE’S
HEROES AND VILLAINS IN YOUR WORLD WHEN I GOT OLDER AND I HAD
MY KIDS IT DEFINITELY GAVE ME MORE EMPATHY FOR MY MOTHER
IRONICALLY AS I STARTED HAVING KIDS SHE STARTED GETTING IN
TROUBLE AGAIN AND SHE STARTED USING AGAIN AND HER RELAPSE SHE
JUST COULDN’T HELP HERSELF. I KNOW IN HER HEART WAS PURE
LOVE AND PURE JOY BUT HER MIND AND BODY WAS NOT IN SYNC WITH
THAT BUT IF I HAD WRITTEN IN MY EARLY 20s IT WOULD BE BLACK AND
WHITE HERE’S THE HEROES, HERE’S THE VILLAINS.
IT’S ALL SHADES OF GREY ALL COMPLICATED FOR THESE PEOPLE.
>>FOR KIDS WHO ARE GOING THROUGH WITH LIKE YOU WENT
THROUGH, WHAT DO YOU SAY WITH THEM WHO ARE STRUGGLING ALL
THEIR SEPARATE EMOTIONS.>>I ENCOURAGE KIDS THERE’S SO
MANY KIND OF INTELLIGENCE. WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY WHERE WE
HAVE TO TAKE THESE STATE TESTS BUT THERE’S SO MANY WAYS TO BE
TALENTED AND SO MANY WAYS TO BE INTELLIGENT SO I HAD ARTIC
INTELENS. ONE MIGHT HAVE MUSICAL
INTERINTELLIGENCE, ONE MIGHT HAVE INTERPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE,
ONE MIGHT GROW UP TO BE A MUSICIAN, AND THE OTHER MIGHT
GROW UP TO BE A GUIDANCE COUNSELORS.
FIND IT AND THAT CAN BE YOUR TICKET OUT OF HERE.

2 thoughts on “Author/Illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka on “Hey Kiddo” | Connecting Point | Nov. 8, 2018

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *