Having studied playwriting while at UCLA, Dirk became a screenwriter and director for Rainbow Productions, a film/video company in Chicago. Then he took a year-long fiction writing workshop at the University of Chicago, where he learned the rudiments of writing stories without pictures. Later, of course, he would learn to combine pictures and words in illustrated children’s books.
Dirk interest in children’s books was peaked when his company began producing animated films for kids based on established children’s books. Having never had books as a child, he loved being able to indulge himself. “I got kids books for myself all the time after that,” Dirk admits. “Among my author heroes are Chris Van Allsburg and David Macaulay. To me, these men are visionary visual people, and of course, part of any kid’s book is the visual.” Let’s not forget my other favorite author, James Thurber and his book The 13 Clocks.
Dirk then decided it was time to try his hand at writing his own children’s book. His first book for kids was A Lucky Dog, based on the real life story of Owney, the mascot of the rail mail service in the United States. Owney traveled all over the country on mail trains, having adventures and making friends from 1887 to 1896. It took five years and two versions of the book before he found a publisher. “I’m glad I was persistent enough with this book idea to find a publisher,” Dirk states. “And the book did well! As of this writing, A Lucky Dog is in its seventh edition…with sales of more than 38,000 books! This book’s success then gave me a ‘platform’ to write more books. My fourth book for children was Jack London’s Dog based upon the real life relationship between London and the dog he knew in the Yukon gold country in 1897. That dog (who’s name was also Jack!) became the inspiration for the book Call of the Wild.”
Dirk admits he’s a lucky dog to be doing what he loves. And he knows it helps keep him young. That is why Alfred C. Dunphee, and his amazing 100th birthday, is the subject of his second book, Penny House.
“I think all of us have things to remember, visions of a different life and world, things and stories to tell,” says Dirk. “We need to find outlets and channels to get them said and heard. We have something to offer.”
Books by Dirk Wales:
A Lucky Dog: Owney, U.S. Rail Mail Mascot (Sept 2003) – winner of a 2005 Mom’s Choice Gold Award
Penny House (Sept 2005) – winner of a Mom’s Choice Cross-Generational Silver Award and a USABookNews.com Best Books Award Finalist)
Twice a Hero: The Stories Of Thaddeus Kosciuszko And Casimir Pulaski, Polish American Heroes of the American Revolution (March 2007) – Winner of a 2009 Mom’s Choice Award
Jack London’s Dog (Sept 2008) – Winner of a 2009 Mom’s Choice Award
The Further Adventures of A Lucky Dog (2009) – Winner of a 2009 Mom’s Choice Award
Shadow Angel (2014)
Abandoned Z (2015)
Love Scenes: Number One to Ten – iUniverse (Available here)