Six Questions with DK Ryland
DK Ryland is an author/illustrator who loves creating funny and subversive picture books. She lives in San Diego with her super awesome husband, 2 brilliant kids, and many, many pets.
DK’s debut picture book, Giraffe is Too Tall for This Book, released October 17, 2023 (Page Street Kids). Her second picture book, Have You See My Acorn?, comes out Fall 2024 (Flamingo Books) and her third picture book, The Dangerous Alphabet Book, releases Fall 2025 (Astra Young Readers). Visit DK's website to learn more about her and her work.
1. As an author/illustrator which comes first to you? The words or the pictures?
Mostly, an image comes first. For Giraffe is Too Tall for This Book, the image of a giraffe with a neck that was too long to fit on the page was the starting point for writing the manuscript. Then I had to figure out how to tell a story around it. In general, I typically see the story in pictures before I write the words. Then I draw thumbnails and layout the story in small, rough sketches before I write it all out.
2. Do you ever get stuck creatively? If so, how do you get unstuck?
Of course! My initial instinct used to be to push through feeling stuck, but it rarely works for me to put more pressure on myself. Now I’m learning to trust the process. It helps me to get out in nature, play with my kids, go to a museum, or just do the things that I enjoy. Sometimes getting unstuck is as simple as giving my subconscious room to do its thing, or even work on a different project. When I’m particularly stuck on a manuscript I ask myself “what if” and try to open myself to all the possibilities. I write down everything (even if it’s terrible) because sometimes clearing out the bad ideas makes room for the good ones.
3. What are you working on? What’s next for you?
I just sent the final cover art for my next picture book, Have You Seen My Acorn? (Flamingo Books, Fall 2024) and I’m currently working on edits for my third picture book, The dangerous Alphabet Book (Astra, Fall 2025). I’m also working on some other projects at various stages.
4. Where did you get the idea for Giraffe? What was the inspiration?
One day, an image of a giraffe with an extremely long neck, that continued off the page, popped into my head. I knew I wanted to make it a picture book, but it needed time to become a full-fledged story. During that time, I was having a lot of conversations with my kids about problem-solving, so that theme started to creep into this story and give it some shape. Little by little, my subconscious got to work until I was finally ready to sit down and write it.
5. What was the process or timeline for this book, from idea to publishing?
When I finished the dummy for Giraffe is Too Tall for This Book, I had been on submission with other picture book dummies for over a year. I had some trepidation with GIRAFFE at first because a lot of advice out there says meta is a tough sell. But my agent, Kaitlyn Sanchez, and I loved the story so we sent it out on a small sub round and had an offer two weeks later from Kayla Tostevin at Page Street Kids, which was absolutely thrilling especially after being on sub for so long with other projects. We received that offer at the end of 2021 and the book released October 2023.
6. What was the most challenging thing you faced while writing this book?
The most challenging part of creating this book was the layout. I had to figure out how to arrange the 6 animal friends in the book so that the physical humor worked well, and the speech bubbles fit in a way that they weren’t confusing to the reader or covering too much of the animals. It was totally like putting a puzzle together – a really fun puzzle!