Category Archives: Dr. Seuss

Guiding Vocals

For me, the toughest part of writing anything is always the opening lines or opening paragraphs. They’re hugely important; do it wrong, you might lose the interest of a reader who will never come back.

Endings? I’m good there. I almost always know where I’m going. Usually when I start any chapter, I have a pretty good idea of what the final “scene” will be, and sometimes even the last line. But that first step to getting there? Ugh. I stare at the page forever. Usually, in fact, I write the opening pages last.

The opening paragraphs of Becoming Dr. Seuss, however, actually came about relatively early in the process, when I was still thinking about how to frame the narrative. In fact, they were born in an airport bar in September 2017 as I was coming back from one of my research trips to Dr. Seuss’s hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts. While in Springfield, several locals had laughed as they told me how disappointed tourists were when they pointed their cars toward Mulberry Street, expecting to find the Seuss household preserved there as a relic, much like a visit to Monticello, only to discover he’d actually lived on Fairfield Street, several blocks away.

Sitting at the bar, I unfolded a little map of Springfield I’d printed out, and looked at the locations of Fairfield and Mulberry Street and nearly said aloud to my beer, “I need a map of imaginary locations.”

Not the most brilliant of observations, but it was enough of an aha moment that I pulled out a black notebook and pen and started handwriting an opening paragraph wrapped around that idea:

The messy first pass in my notebook.

It’s not entirely formed, but it there’s enough to serve as what I call a “guiding vocal”–so that when I sat down to write the opening paragraphs months later, I at least had a good idea of where I wanted to go. Here’s what those opening paragraphs ultimately looked like:

It’s not exactly the same, but you can see the original idea is still there, along with a bit of the language.

Oh, and I should note, too, that I don’t handwrite notes or drafts very much–and looking at it, you can probably see why: it’s a complete mess. I usually write the first draft and then edit right in the Word document I’m using. But there are times when you get sufficiently inspired and need to start noodling around with whatever you’ve got on hand in an airport bar.

“Constant Wonder” and Dr. Seuss

Last week, I had the pleasure of discussing Dr. Seuss with Marcus Smith on his “Constant Wonder” radio show on BYU Radio. It was one of the more interesting interviews I’ve participated in, thanks to some really good and fun questions from Marcus, as we covered issues like Ted Geisel’s German upbringing and how that affected his work; his growth as an artist; why the Pulitzer Prize meant so much to him; and whether Dr. Seuss cheats at rhyme.

It was all part of a longer consideration of the poetry of William Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss — and if you missed it, not to worry. You can listen to it–or at least my part of it–here.

Becoming Dr. Seuss in the NYT

Becoming Dr. Seuss arrives in stores in paperback on Tuesday, May 26, and I was thrilled to see it get a shout-out in the highly-coveted “Paperback Row” section of this weekend’s New York Times Book Review. You can see it in the image below, just beneath the list of hardcover bestsellers (and I know the graphic can be hard to read, so you can read it online here).

If you’d like a signed copy of Becoming Dr. Seuss delivered right to your door, you can order one — or signed copies of any of my other books — from the fine folks at Bookworks by clicking here. And we both thank you.

Looking for a Signed Copy of Becoming Dr. Seuss?

The paperback of Becoming Dr. Seuss comes out on May 26. I know that seems like a loooong time from now — and who knows what shape the world will be in by then? — but if you’d like to pre-order an autographed copy, I’m working with Bookworks, an independent bookstore here in New Mexico, to get a copy in your hands.

You can pre-order the book by clicking here. And once their doors are open again, you can order signed copies of any of my other biographies as well.

Until then, take care of yourselves, and each other.

The Meticulous Whimsey of Dr. Seuss


“The fact that [Dr. Seuss] took writing so seriously, even before he knew what he was doing, speaks volumes to just how intuitively good he was and how much he valued the reader. His sense of his books was, ‘I don’t do this just for children; I write for people.'”

Yup, that’s me on Dr. Seuss — all this and more in a quick-hit Q&A I did with the folks over at Capital Group (!), where they take books seriously.

You can read the rest of it here. And my thanks to Joe Simmons for the conversation.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas Television

I’m honored to have written the cover story for the upcoming Holiday issue (November/December) of Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, bringing you the story of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering it took for animator Chuck Jones to convince Dr. Seuss (aka Theodor Geisel, Class of 1925) to adapt How the Grinch Stole Christmas! for television in 1966. (Hint: it wasn’t easy!)

You can read the entire piece right here. Go ahead — don’t be a greasy black banana peel!

Dr. Seuss is Longlisted

Wow. I’m beyond thrilled that Becoming Dr. Seuss was selected for the longlist of 25 nominees for the 2020 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. I know it sounds like a cliche, but given the caliber of all the great writers on the list, I’m humbled to even be included among them–and I’m grateful to the Carnegie Corporation and the American Library Association for the honor of being there.

Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now!

Not to scale.

Okay, so don’t look — the drawing of me from the Boston Globe doesn’t look exactly like me — but I’m still thrilled to see the Globe run a fun piece on me and Becoming Dr. Seuss as a lead-up to my appearance at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Wanna see me talk about all things Dr. Seuss? I’ll be there on Thursday night, starting at 6 p.m. It’s a paid event, but you’ll get a copy of Becoming Dr. Seuss as part of the cost of admission–and you can bet I’ll wait around as long as it takes for me to make sure I sign it for you. So come say hey! For more information, click here.

But that’s not all! On Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m., I’ll be presenting on Dr. Seuss in one of the opening sessions for the History Book Festival in Lewes, Delaware. More information is here — and this is a free event, so come on out! It’ll be good! I promise.

Dr. Seuss writ large

My editor was kind enough to send a few of copies of the large print edition of Becoming Dr. Seuss my way. It’s got a cover layout and design that’s completely different than the trade edition, but it’s a really beautiful book, don’t you think?

The Reviews Are In

As of today, Becoming Dr. Seuss has been out for exactly eight weeks — and I couldn’t be happier with its reception. The reviews have been good — some of the best I’ve ever received, in fact — feedback from readers has been kind, and I’ve had the opportunity to talk about the life and work of Dr. Seuss on television, radio, and countless podcasts.

Here’s but a few:

First, here’s my appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. I taped this as a live remote from the WRC-TV studios in Washington, DC — the very same studios a University of Maryland student named Jim Henson would drive to every weeknight in the late 1950s to perform Sam and Friends before the cameras.

The Green Room at WRC-TV (NBC) in Washington, DC.

I was taken from the Green Room to a darkened studio where an earpiece was put in my right ear and I was asked to look into a camera, directly above a point where someone had helpfully stuck a Post-It note with an arrow drawn on it. I could hear the show live in my ear — and while there was a monitor on the floor to my left, I couldn’t watch unless I wanted to be seen on-camera looking down at the monitor. So I could hear the show without actually seeing anyone, which was a bit disorienting. But it was a good segment, with questions from everyone on the panel.

In radio, here are interviews I did with WMAL in Washington, DC, WNYC in New York, KPBS in San Diego, KSCJ in Iowa, KJZZ in Phoenix, and WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, as well as extended interviews with the Innovation Hub and with Connecticut Public Radio, where I talked about Dr. Seuss’s New England roots.

In print, the book has been reviewed at NPR, in the Christian Science Monitor, the A.V. Club, the New York Post, and — a thrill for me — The New Yorker.