For every book Dallas Clayton sells, he is giving one away. Each book contains in it the simple but powerful message: dream big. An Awesome Book is the creation of this illustrator/designer/creative extraordinaire and he’s recently hit the road on a tour that’s getting his book out, promoting literacy and inspiring countless kids (of all ages).

I think your book and writing works well on many levels. I’m a grown dude and was left inspired, ya know? At what point did you realize that your writing would lend itself so well to kids?

I think over the years everything I write has gotten smaller, more condensed and thus (hopefully) more powerful, more efficient. I know that’s the classic gag that all writers are trying to get at, “Say as much as you can with as little as you can” but often I find that in doing that you can end up with a bumper sticker. For me the idea over the past few years is how to say as much as I can with as little as I can and then make up the difference in illustration and tone. It’s amazing how something as simple as changing a font or drawing a dinosaur can shift things dramatically from bumper sticker to thought-provoking. When I look at a lot of kids books these days they kinda seem like bumper stickers, which is good I suppose, cute and fun – it’s an economy, everything has it’s place – but when I think about reading things or creating things for my son it’s not really where I want to be. I think that’s how I figured what I do can fit into the kids world…filling a hole.

Tell me a little bit about the tour: What made you want to hit the road and what has it been like to share it with so many varied audiences?

I love people. I love meeting people. I love going places. I love having experiences with people. I love the unknown. Any opportunity I can get to build a model relative to what I do that can involve meeting strangers I am all for it. I’ve kinda always thought of touring as the smartest thing anyone can do no matter what they are trying to communicate – band, sport, art, selling knives… whatever it is, getting out there and meeting people and seeing what they do and who they are is crucial. Beyond that it is super fun. It’s like a constant vacation, but with a greater purpose. I don’t know what could be better.

With each sale you are donating a copy of the book. How are these donations made? How do you decide where the book goes next?

Well, the Awesome World Foundation has really only been alive for about 8 months now so as it grows the method of book distribution grows but the math is pretty much the same: for every book we sell, the foundation gives one away. I travel around reading to schools, hospitals, camps, stores, places where kids gather – I talk to them and I give away books. That’s one aspect. Beyond that we are also working with other charities outside the US to help sell books to raise money for their respective causes, as well as plotting focused donations to specific groups throughout the US. As far as rhyme or reason, it’s pretty much just based on who contacts us. About 99% of what I do with the book and with my life in general is based on “incoming calls.” I like to let the world dictate. It’s more fun that way.

Who are some illustrators or other artists that inspire you?

I’m inspired by just about anyone who makes work that they believe in, regardless of the genre. It’s cool to meet someone who does something so absurd to you, and to see how stoked they are on it- in a genuine way. I’m a much bigger fan of passion and exchange than I am of technique or execution. There’s a million rad guitarists in the world, but only a couple hundred you’d really want to sit and listen to.

Do you listen to music as you create? Your work is so playful and fun that I can’t imagine you creating it in a quiet room.

Drawing is fairly new to me. I never drew anything before An Awesome Book so it’s not like I have a set routine yet. Honestly the one thing I really dislike about drawing is how solitary it is. There’s no “jamming” aspect to it. When I write it is quick and easy so it’s not like I’m in a room by myself for hours but when I draw, I could be doing ten hour days for a few months in a row. When it’s time to do that I like to watch movies, documentaries, listen to books on tape, This American Life, that sort of thing. Stuff that get’s me to a place where I am learning while I am drawing so I don’t feel like I’m just in my room while the whole rest of the world is running around naked and eating pizza.

What is your connection to the We Love You So blog? (It is one of my favorite sites.) How did it come to be?

Again – incoming calls. Spike (Jonze) was a mutual friend and he really liked my blog and my book and approached me to see if I wanted to put together a blog/site for Where The Wild Things Are. I was super excited and couldn’t think of anything more fun, so I went to an early screening of the film and conceptualized WLYS from there. As far as my role in the project the analogy I like to use is that if it were a magazine I’d be something like the editor in chief. It’s been a real honor to work on it. What a blast!

Do you foresee more authors taking this DIY approach to publishing their own books and getting them out into the world in such a big way?

I didn’t set out to take a DIY stance on writing kids books. An Awesome Book was the first project in my life that I expected not to be DIY. I mean, kids books- I think we all picture that as a pretty tight industry, well-oiled and put together. I figured I would write a book, show it to some people, get it in the hands of some publishers and they’d put it out. But as it happens, new media being where it is, and the world of publishing as a whole being at a sort of crossroads, this wasn’t the case. I sent my book around and after months and months of waiting seemed to be getting nowhere… lots of super positive response but no real definitive means of putting it out. After a bit to much waiting (which is something I’m not so cut out for) I just decided I’d make it myself.

As for other authors, I hope people start doing more things on their own. It’s really fun, and a lot smarter business-wise. It’s no secret that putting things out independently leads to a bigger profit margin and a stronger fan base. Record labels figured that out about 30 years ago.

Why do you think the book has connected with people?

I can’t say for certain but I hope it’s because the idea is big enough that it transcends age/status/location/etc. I think a lot of kids authors approach things from the angle of “I’ve got a cool idea, it’s about a dog that’s also a robot” or whatever. Again, that’s cool. No harm in that. Ultimately, that’s probably a stronger business model than what I’m trying to do… but again, for me – I want to be able to deal with themes, goals, concepts – things that you can talk to anyone about, anywhere, at any time in history and they can say “oh, yeah, “dreams” I’ve got an opinion on dreams…” Ultimately, to me that’s where all great art comes from, universal themes.

What are some goals you have for the Awesome World Foundation?

Long term: To give away millions and millions of books to millions and millions of people all over the world and inspire them to dream big and never give up on what they are trying to achieve no matter how crazy it may seem.

Short term: To tour more. To work with sponsors and grants to help subsidize larger giveaways. To try and spread the message as much as possible, working with other charities to raise awareness for what we are trying to do.

You are doing something you love. It shows. You are helping people with it as a natural extension of your creation. This is awesome. Can you give some words of advice to others on how they can find themselves also creating things that help people?

I think often times people create things out of a need to feel like they are doing something, or perhaps as a result of feeling pressure that they should be doing something. I say if you love doing it, do it. If you don’t love doing it, do something else. Do a bunch of different something elses. Try a hundred different things in a hundred different places. When you get to a place where you are really in love with what you are doing, you’ll know it.

What are some of your favorite words?

Monster, Baboon, Slayer.

The Awesome World Foundation
Read the book!
Dallas’s Blog


  1. Josh:

    Just read the book. Really cool message. Thanks for posting!

    2:17 am on June 9th, 2010
  2. Bianca:

    I like the TOMS shoes approach to books! Very ‘awesome’ idea. I hope it does well. Great interview.

    3:50 am on June 9th, 2010
  3. Brad:

    Check out the stuff Dallas has for sale at the store. There’s an awesome poster print of rocket-powered unicorns that’s well worth the $5. Thanks for the comments guys!

    3:53 am on June 9th, 2010
  4. Mavrick:

    Inrfoamiton is power and now I’m a !@#$ing dictator.

    6:55 am on July 8th, 2011

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