We had the good fortune of connecting with Derek Taylor Kent and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Derek Taylor, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Genuineness. My wife, Sheri Fink, and I created Whimsical World with a mission to inspire, delight, and educate children of all ages while planting seeds of self-esteem and high achievement. All of our brand’s decisions are based on these principles. When our customers meet us at events, school visits, or virtual events, they can see that we have a genuine love for children’s books and strive to inspire new readers to fall in love with reading. Our social-emotional learning books can also help guide them through challenges and difficulties that many kids face and also learn how to be kind, brave, and confident. My wife and I embody these values in our lives and truly love helping children. We believe that shines through with every element of our brand from the products, to social media, to our appearances.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I write children’s books for ages 2-12, from beginner books, to picture books, to middle-grade novels, and I even have a puzzle-thriller for ages 13+. My background is in comedy, so I wanted to write books that would have kids laughing three times every page, and my first published novel, Scary School (book 1 of 4) won a book award for Funniest Chapter Book of the Year. I loved the idea of making kids fall in love with reading through laughter and that remains my primary goal with my newest books like Dinosaur Derby (ages 3-8), The Grossest Picture Book Ever (ages 3-8) and My Homework Ate My Dog (ages 8-12). One thing that sets me apart from other writers is that I’m heavily trained in poetry and lyrical writing, so while many books rhyme, I pride myself in having consistent rhythm and meter. Another thing that sets me apart is that I write bilingual English/Spanish children’s books for kids who want to read or learn another language. Getting to where I am today was not easy at all. I was trying for over ten years to get my first book deal, which included several agents and countless rejections. When I got my first book big deal, a three-book deal from HarperCollins for the Scary School series, that idea came from a rejected book idea that the publisher wanted a lighter and funnier version of, so I had to write a whole new book for them on spec (for free) just because there was a hint of interest. The most important lesson I’ve learned along the way, and what I tell kids to this day, is that to become a better writer, just read and write as much as you can. Before embarking on a career in writing or publishing, do the research to learn as much as you can about the business and study to market to know your place in it and what you can bring to an often saturated marketplace.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would take them firs to the La Brea Tar Pits. It’s always amazed me to think that right in the middle of metropolitan Los Angeles is a sprawling and active archaeological site where they have found mammoths, saber-tooth tigers, colossal bears, and countless other ice-age species. The tar pools are still active and bubbling and you can go into rooms where you can see scientists sorting through bones and see the sites that they are currently excavating. Los Angeles did not have any dinosaurs because it was underwater during the dinosaur times, so this is our connection we have pre-history and the wondrous habitat Los Angeles used to be. Fun fact, if you translate The La Brea Tar Pits entirely into English it’s The The Tar Tar Pits. Right next door is LACMA – the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where they always have jawdropping exhibits like The Rain Room or The Infinity Room. Then, just a few blocks down there’s my favorite pizza place, Pizzeria Mozza, where Nancy Silverton spent years perfecting the perfect Neopolitan pizza and you can try the famous Nancy’s Chop Salad. My favorite — the squash blossom burrata pizza. For more formal dining, it’s attached to Osteria Mozza, where you can find Nancy most nights at the mozzarella bar preparing dishes right in front of you.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I wouldn’t be where I am without many great teachers growing up who encouraged my creativity and taught me how to best harness my imagination. My favorite authors were also a massive inspiration to me because I saw how children’s books can help mold a child’s view of themselves and the world as well as determine their feelings about reading for the rest of their lives. They include Louis Sachar, RL Stine, JK Rowling, and Jack London.
Website: www.DerekTaylorKent.com and www.WhimsicalWorldBooks.com