Srikar, age 10, and Laasya, age 9, interview Ruby Roth, a Los Angeles-based artist, author-illustrator, activist, and former teacher about her newest book, Bad Day.
S&L: What was your inspiration for the book Bad Day?
RR: I think the world is in need of some fixing. My motto in my children’s book work is “Love deeply, think critically, act responsibly,” and each book is about different ways we can make the world a more sound, healthier, peaceful place for everyone. Bad Day is about starting with ourselves and our very own minds. If we can find ways to be peaceful inside, even when we have problems or overwhelming feelings, then we will be able to treat the outside world with more care and respect.
S&L: What made you want to become a writer after being a school teacher?
RR: My students! We were having very awesome conversations about all kinds of things—animals, health, feelings, family, food, the ways that different people around the world choose to live, the environment, and our planet. All their questions led me to search for books that I could bring into the classroom for even more conversation and learning. But I couldn’t find the exact kinds of books that I was looking for: ones that spoke to kids like I spoke to my students—in a very honest and open way about important issues. I was already an artist, and so I decided to write and illustrate the books I was looking for!
S&L: How did you get through being rejected by publishers during initial days of writing?
RR: Being rejected can be really sad and frustrating. But it’s not the end of the world! Being rejected was kind of like a test to see how much I wanted to reach my goal! And I passed, because the rejection letters didn’t stop me from trying. The more publishers said no, the more I thought of reasons why it should be published—that way, I got stronger every time I was rejected. It was a very good life-lesson. You will surely find some bumps in the road on the way to meeting your goals. But that shouldn’t stop you.
S&L: Did you have any experiences when you were growing up that motivated you to write books such as Bad Day?
RR: Yes! When I was little, I found out I had Scoliosis, which means that my spine curved side-to-side in an S-shape. I had to wear a hard back brace (like a cast) for 13 years starting at age 6, all day long, every day. You can imagine, it was difficult and I felt sad, scared, frustrated, and very uncomfortable a lot. I had to learn to manage my feelings so that I could still have a happy life AND continue to face my challenges. Bad Day is about the overwhelming feelings that all people experience. Hennie, the main character, learns to take a pause and name his feelings, and he realizes it’s okay to feel bad–he calms himself, and remembers that he’s strong and in charge of himself.
S&L: How do you feel about having 160,000 followers and 2 million views for your clips ?
RR: It is very wonderful to connect with people all over the world who want to make our planet a better place.
S&L: Bad Day encourages kids to take responsibility for their own wellbeing, and even further, to find strength and happiness in the process. However, Glamour called your work “an explosion of controversy”…. Why?
RR: Some adults think that kids shouldn’t be included in conversations about serious topics. Some of my previous books were the first of their kind in children’s literature to talk about the way our habits affect animals and the environment. I like to speak with kids about important issues that affect the world because you have opinions and ideas, and I want kids to be part of the solutions.
S&L: Can you share details about your journey from teacher to popular author?
RR: I was always going to be an artist when I grew up. I started drawing the minute I could hold a pencil. And as I grew up, I wanted to make art that had a purpose besides just expressing myself. When I was an art teacher, I realized that making children’s books was a very smart way to create art that could change people’s lives. The books I had as a kid made big impressions on me–I remember them to this day. I still keep Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson on my nightstand.
S&L: Approximately how much time did it take to write the first book ?
RR: The first book took more than a year to plan, write, research, and illustrate. And then came the book design—putting together the paintings with the text and making a book cover, front and back.
S&L: How did you come up with characters in your books?
RR: Most of the time, they come to me when I’m sketching. I draw a lot when I have an idea to see what comes out. If I want to draw a giraffe, I draw many giraffes. If I want to draw a boy, I draw many boys…and usually a character I like appears!
S&L: Why did you choose themes about kids?
RR: I think kids are very powerful. Your choices are important because YOU are the present and the future of the world. And if I can give you some things to think about, and we all work on making the world a better place, then I’ve done at least a little something.
Featured on Today, FOX, CNN, and other major media, Ruby Roth is a Los Angeles-based artist, author-illustrator, activist, and former teacher whose groundbreaking picture books were the first of their kind in children’s literature. They have received international attention and today, have been translated into multiple languages.
Weaving art together with health, wellness, the environment, and society at large, Roth’s work connects the dots between our personal choices and the public realm, showing how our habits can change our lives—and the world we live in. Bad Day is Roth’s fifth picture book and her first on issues of emotions and neuro-diversity.
Roth holds degrees in art and American studies and speaks at conferences nationwide. Her life- long research into health and nutrition, psychology, and social justice is reflected in her work. She is a source of inspiration for 160,000+ followers and her media clips have over 2 million views.