With the release of her Vooks original title, The Tagalongs, painter, illustrator, and native Oregonian Megan Marie Myers added “children’s book author and illustrator” to her already impressive list of titles. As a child, Megan surrounded herself with books and the fantastical worlds they conjured—a move into the field that meant so much during her childhood felt like a natural extension of her inimitable art. We caught up with Megan to chat about her work, what inspired her sweet story, and the advice she received from a beloved teacher that changed the course of her career.
What were you like as a kid?
I was an only child growing up, so books and cartoons played a huge role in my early childhood; they kept me company! I played alone often, so I would spend a lot of time playing pretend and pouring over the art in children’s books. I would spend hours trying to re-draw the characters I saw. My family encouraged my love of making art and books; when the Scholastic book order would come at school, my parents would always let me order as many books as I wanted.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an artist!
What made you want to create a children’s book?
I’ve been making fine art for years now. My style has always been playful, simple, and character-driven (mostly children and animals). When people see the work, they always ask about the characters and if the paintings are part of a bigger story. Because of this, I felt like I was in a good position to create picture book art. The challenging and newer part for me was to think up a story and try writing. It was really fulfilling to illustrate my own story!
Tell us a little bit about what inspired The Tagalongs.
The vision I have for my personal artwork is to cultivate connection between all people and nature through art. Nature is a very important part of my life, and I wanted to tell a story about a character journeying through the outdoors. So that was my starting point. I wanted to also tell a story that highlighted diverse strengths in a variety of characters to show kids how our lives can be enriched by learning and having experiences with other people who are different than us.
You’re both the writer and illustrator of The Tagalongs. Which came first—the story or the art?
My artwork style and voice was already developed, so I felt primed to set it to a story. In that sense, the artwork came first. However, I wrote the whole book before fully developing the characters and places in drawings. I needed the story to be completed to get specific with the art.
This charming story celebrates diverse strengths, sharing, and getting out into nature, and so much more. Why are these themes so important to you?
Being in nature has had an enormous impact on my life, especially as an adult. I live in Bend, Oregon, where we enjoy so many outdoor activities—hiking, trail running, and camping are some of my favorites. I felt like I came across this passion a bit late in my life and hoped to create a story that would inspire kids to connect with nature and learn to love it earlier than I did. Something that enriches my outdoor adventures is the chance I get to connect and spend time with other people. I wanted to share this joy, too!
What was the most surprising part of the animated storybook creation process?
Seeing the characters move and have their own personalities through gesture made me cry! The most surprising and fascinating part of this process was to see a completely different type of creativity from mine in the choices of the animators, voice artist, and music makers. Like Julia in the story, my part (writing and illustrating) was great fun to do alone but the achievement is so much richer with the diverse strengths from all of the other artists that added to the final product. The collaboration took the story and drawings to new heights! I’m still in complete awe. It’s been an honor and is a very touching experience.
Do you have a favorite teacher from your school days?
Do you know what? Every teacher I had in elementary school and high school encouraged me in my art. I am so lucky! I also had a university art history professor that I’ll never forget. I was a fine art major and I told him that he had inspired me to change direction and pursue art history post-grad. He looked me in the eyes and said, “No, but you can’t do that! You have to be an artist. You have what it takes.” I’ll never forget that.
Lastly, what is your favorite way to enjoy a good book?
The same way as it was when I was a kid: pajamas, blanket, and hot chocolate (I’ll admit that nowadays it’s coffee).