Author Interview: E. Townsend Schmidt

May 30, 2015 Author Interview, children, Christian, ESL 0

Once upon a time, I met a supercute guy at college and he became my best friend.  We got so tired of telling people that we IMG_3676were never going to date each other that we decided to just go ahead and date each other. We were married a year later 🙂 It’s been fifteen years since our wedding, and I’d marry him all over again! Who is this supercute guy, you ask? Well he just happens to be the subject of our author interview today – E. Townsend Schmidt! (But I’m gonna refer to him as Eric cuz that’s what I call him at home lol)

IMG_2214For the past nine years, Eric has taught a Bible class for adult internationals and used his unique drawing style to make the stories of Scripture come alive for people of all English levels.  Students represented countries from South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, and many returned to their countries with copies of his drawn stories to share with their friends and families. Several students commented that his drawings seem to “move” despite being two-dimensional, that their emotions are clearly depicted with only a few pencil strokes. (Yeah, I’m not proud of him or anything lol)  His first two books were just recently made available on Amazon – the first, a children’s book about a sheep who does not listen to her Shepherd, and the second, a starter-guide of sorts for teaching your own International Bible class with drawings.

Interviewing your own husband is rather weird, but let’s give it a go 🙂

Me: Hi bubs! Let’s start with the fast four! Apples or oranges? Why?

Eric: Apples. Their versatility is unequaled. You can fry them, bake them, stew them, and eat them raw, skin and all. Not to mention apple spice cakes, apple stack cakes, apple crisp, Apple pie and that one thing I made by goofing around in the kitchen – the Strudel Apfelchunk.

Me: Ah yes… that was a yummy day.

Eric: I used to bake. A lot. I don’t anymore. It’s unhealthy. Oranges make you sticky. You have to peel them, they’re obligatory during grade school soccer matches and the only cooking I’ve seen with them involves tossing them with coconut which is horribly misguided.

Me: You wrote an essay once called “Eric eats an orange” about just that very thing – trying to eat oranges. Still one of my favorite things you’ve written. Ok. Skittles or M&Ms? Why? (I know better than to hope for any Skittles love here. Sigh.)

Eric: M&Ms. Let’s be honest. When we snack we snack by the hand and M&Ms are great by the handful. Chocolate is IMG_2545never is question. Skittles try too hard. I love the marketing by Skittles. Always have. But you eat a handful of those and you got a fruit punch mash that you don’t really want. If they sold individual flavors, we can talk.

Me: I do, however, have the photographic evidence over there to the contrary.  But moving right along… Coke or Pepsi? Why?

Eric: Ok I want to be clear. These are both dangerous chemicals. But as a soda connoisseur of days past, I have to answer precisely. Coke wins several rounds, especially if you have a mouth full of peanut butter. Coke in a glass bottle properly chilled is great but isn’t near enough. McDonald’s coke on the southern states is next. Pepsi only wins in one arena and that is at an Air Force air show in the summer.  It’s amazing. Take the same Pepsi outside of the compound and you will die.

Me: Dogs or cats? Why? (Zuzu is following this particular answer very closely, just so you’re forewarned.)

Eric: Dogs. Dogs have perfected How to win friends and Influence people. They are very selfish creatures but they do it in such a sure fire calculated way that you don’t care. Dogs also represent to me how we were to God before the Fall of Man or what our relationship should be. My dog looks and watches for me, hangs on my every movement and somehow gets me to stand in my yard at 2AM. Cats view themselves as lifetime prisoners. They pull stunts on you because they know you can’t do anything. 

Me: Zuzu is satisfied with your answer.  You may continue.

Photo courtesy of Josh Booth Photo

Photo courtesy of Josh Booth Photography

Me: Since you’ve lived several years in both, which “K” state is your favorite – Kansas or Kentucky?

Eric: That’s tricky because there’s not a lot to do in either state unless you like Sports. They are both highly annoying in regards to that. To quote Niles Crane “I’m not interested in knowing which group hurled which ball through which apparatus.” Kentucky has prettier scenery. Kansas has my parents. Missouri is the real issue.

Me: I’ve been petitioning to get rid of Missouri for several years now.  No one else seems to want to go along with it. Anyway… Your first children’s book is called “Clarissa Fell Into the Water!” Tell us about Clarissa.

clarissaEric: Clarissa is a sheep with a big red bow on her head. She’s ambitious, stubborn, imaginative but has a good heart. She’s a bit thick at times because she has to try things to learn them. It’s her disregard of the consequences that gets her in trouble the most.

Me: I adore Clarissa and her big red bow! What led you to write a children’s book?

Eric: It was something I wanted to do. I always was a doodler but I never created a short story except for some comic strips.  I stumbled upon drawing a sheep and she was cute. She came alive and I realized that she needed to tell some stories.  At a retreat in Asheville, NC in 2003, I wrote the rough draft and felt inspired to finish it.

Me: Is that your main career? (This is where it gets weird interviewing your husband. Of course I know the answer to this question, but you my readers don’t … so I ask.)

Eric: Oh, I wish! To draw cute things in a cute funny story with a meaningful lesson? To dream! To wish! O Elysium! But, no. I’m a Network Administrator. 

Me: You also have published a book called “Extremely Easy Bible Storying for International and ESL Groups”.  It’s the first book in the Draw the Story series.  What is this book about and why did you write it?draw the story book 1

Eric: This is probably the hardest concept work for people to understand except for the people it is aimed at. Draw the Story is a teaching method I developed out of Jackson Day’s Bible Storying method that teaches Bible stories using pictures with no words. For nine years I taught an ever changing class of adult internationals with different languages, different cultures and different English abilities – all wedged into the same room! When English is a second or third language everyone’s knowledge is like Swiss cheese. The holes are different for everyone. The pictures smooth out the gaps. The book goes over the method, which is very simple, and includes 5 stories drawn using this method. It’s the same drawings I used and I picked the 5 drawings that caused the most conversation.

Me: In your work with internationals over the past 9 years, what is a memory that stands out most in your mind?

Eric: Oh wow. There are so many that made me want to hide under the bed. Probably the most personal was of a Chinese woman who was returning to China after being in the class for a year. She took the hand I draw with (my left), kissed the back of it and then laid her cheek against it as she said good-bye. I don’t think anyone could possibly forget that.

Me: Be still my heart. I love our international friends so dearly! What’s next for you in the book world? (It has been suggested by a certain dog who shall remain nameless – Zuzu – that you should write a series about the adventures of Floofertail the dog and her cousins Underbite and Snaggletooth. Any reaction?)

Eric: If I could draw dogs better, we’ll see. But, if the Lord wills it, “Clarissa is not a Butterfly!” is the second story to come out in the Clarissa series. Also, Volume 2 of Draw the Story will be much more expansive since Volume 1 was just an introduction.

Me: Can’t wait for the next Clarissa book! She’s just adorable! Thanks for stopping by the blog and chatting with us today, sweetie 🙂

Eric: Thank you for the time! Need a refill before I do the dishes? 😉

Me: Go ahead, ladies… be jealous! He’s supercute, he’s talented, AND he does dishes!

Connect with Eric at Clarissa The Sheep, Draw the Story, and Twitter.

You can purchase Clarissa the Sheep and Draw the Story Vol. 1 at Amazon by clicking on their titles!

What about you? Do you have any ideas for Clarissa’s further misadventures?

Carrie

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