Rick Walton

RICK WALTON 

Rick Walton, a prolific author of children's literature and a generous mentor to many other Utah authors, was born in Provo in 1957. He began earning his lifelong reputation as an energetic jokester during his time at Provo High School, where English teacher Joyce Nelson also suggested that his "short and funny" writing style would work well for children's books. Walton began submitting manuscripts to publishers in his twenties, but it would take several years before the first was accepted: in a 2009 interview with MormonArtist.net, Walton described writing the first manuscript accepted, a riddle book, as "Pure desperation. I had sent around a query letter that described eight projects on it. I sent it to over a hundred publishers." In the meantime, Walton earned his bachelor's degree in Spanish at BYU in 1980 and served an LDS mission in Brazil; he returned to BYU for a teaching certification in 1987 and completed his MA in English and creative writing in 1990. Besides teaching at the elementary level in various public and private schools, Walton also worked as a software designer, an arts administrator, and an adjunct writing instructor at BYU, where he taught courses in creative writing and children's literature. 

Walton began writing more prolifically after the successful publication of his first book, Something’s Fishy!: Jokes About Sea Creatures, in 1987. By 1992, he was publishing multiple titles every year, and he would keep up this pace for the next two decades, producing over seventy books in all. Walton discovered that he could write an entire children's book in a single day, drawing from both his quick wit and the sense of rhythm that he'd gained from playing guitar and singing in a barbershop quartet. 

Over the course of his career, Walton's books were featured on Reading Rainbow, CBS This Morning, and the IRA Children's Choice list. He often cited humor writers such as Roald Dahl, Dave Barry, and Daniel Pinkwater as stylistic influences. Walton's own love of humor and his restless energy were also apparent in his enthusiastic travels to local bookstores and events for readings.

In the midst of his success, Walton was also dedicated to supporting fellow Utah authors. He taught and mentored many others who wanted to write children's books, both through his classes at BYU and through informal support networks such as his "Rock Canyon" listserv, an email list that eventually reached over 200 authors across Utah. Walton saw success as something be shared, and he spread this mentality by example, building up a supportive informal community of peers who read each other's drafts, recommended new works to readers, and attended one another's book launches. 

At times, when publishers would question whether the high number of nationally-published children's authors from Utah was due to the LDS Church preventing members from writing more "serious" literature, Walton's mentees would instead point to the way that their mentor encouraged them to support one another. Author Shannon Hale, for instance, has said that the vibrant, close-knit community of Utahn children's writers has been due "in no small part" to Walton's encouragement and leadership. 

One of Walton's most successful community-building endeavors was establishing a series of writing conferences across Utah, including the now-annual Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR) held in Provo. To this day these conferences, which Walton worked with fellow children's authors Cheri Earl and Carol Lynch Williamsto organize, still provide opportunities for Utah writers to network, meet literary agents and editors, attend craft workshops, and learn about the publishing industry. 

When he wasn't writing, Walton enjoyed reading, traveling, playing the guitar, and studying foreign languages. He collected comic strips and other examples of humor writing, saying that anyone who was "really funny" was his favorite author. The humorous style of his self-written author profiles on publishers' websites highlights Walton's love of jokes and of animals, as well as his dedication to storytelling that would entertain young audiences. In an interview with a local blogger Walton described his advice to aspiring writers as: "Do it because you love it. If you love it, the process itself is the reward. If you don't love it, find something you do love and do that instead."

Walton was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2005, less than a month after he and then-wife Ann Walton learned that their young son had type-1 diabetes. The Waltons supported The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International for years. Walton was also diagnosed with brain cancer in 2015, and eventually died on October 7, 2016 after a prolonged illness. 

Bibliography

  • Girl and Gorilla: Out and About, HarperCollins, 2016
  • 10 Little Monsters Visit San Francisco (with Jess Smart Smiley),Familius LLC, 2015
  • 10 Little Monsters Visit Washington (with Jess Smart Smiley),Familius LLC, 2015
  • President Goes To School, Peachtree Publishing Company,2015 
  • 10 Little Monsters Visit Oregon (with Jess Smart Smiley)Familius LLC, 2014
  • Frankenstein's Fright Before Christmas, Feiwel & Friends, 2014
  • Baby's First Year!, Penguin, 2013
  • I Need My Own Country!, Bloomsbury, 2012
  • Around the House the Fox Chased the Mouse: Adventures in Prepositions, Gibbs Smith, 2011
  • Herd of Cows, Flock of Sheep: Adventures in Collective Nouns, Gibbs Smith, 2011
  • Just Me & 6,000 Rats: A Tale of Conjunctions, Gibbs Smith, 2011
  • Mini Mysteries 2: 20 More Tricky Tales to Untangle, American Girl Publishing, 2011
  • Much Ado about Mormons, Covenant Communications, 2011
  • Suddenly Alligator: Adventures in Adverbs, Gibbs Smith, 2011
  • Psst: Secret Instructions Every Girl Should Know (with Cheri Earl), American Girl Publishing, 2009
  • What Do We Do with the Baby?, HarperCollins, 2008
  • Dog Day Detectives: Mini-Mysteries for a Summer Day, Walnut Springs Books, 2006
  • Packing up a Picnic : Activities and Recipes for Kids (with Jennifer Adams), Gibbs Smith, 2006
  • The Remarkable Friendship of Mr. Cat and Mr. Rat, Penguin, 2006
  • Bullfrog Pops!, Gibbs Smith, 2005
  • Bunny School: A Learning Fun-for-All, HarperCollins, 2005
  • Cinderella CTR, Halemark Books, 2005
  • Puzzle Crazy,American Girl Publishing, 2005
  • A Very Hairy Scary Story, Penguin, 2004
  • Bunny Christmas: A Family Celebration, HarperCollins, 2004
  • Foul Play: Jokes That Won't Strike Out (with Ann Walton), First Avenue Editions, 2004
  • Magical Mischief: Jokes That Shock and Amaze (with Ann Walton), First Avenue Editions, 2004
  • Mini Mysteries: 20 Tricky Tales to Untangle, American Girl Publishing, 2004
  • McMurphy's Pumpkin, HarperFestival, 2004
  • Quacking Up (A Sitting Ducks Book), Price Stern Sloan, 2004
  • Real Classy: Silly School Jokes (with Ann Walton & John Jansen), First Avenue Editions, 2004
  • The Sky's the Limit: Naturally Funny Jokes (with Ann Walton, Scott K. Peterson & Peter Roop), First Avenue Editions, 2004
  • Bertie Was a Watchdog, Gardners Books, 2003
  • Bunnies on the Go, HarperCollins, 2003
  • Bunny day: Telling time from breakfast to bedtime, Scholastic, 2003
  • Pig, Pigger, Piggest, Gibbs Smith, 2003
  • The Bear Came Over to My House, Puffin, 2003
  • Ivan to Make You Laugh: Jokes and Novel, Nifty, and Notorious Names (with Ann Walton and Sam Schulz), First Avenue Editions, 2003
  • Brain Waves: Puzzle Book (with Lori Osiecki), American Girl Publishing, 2002
  • Cars at Play (with Ann Walton), Penguin, 2002
  • One More Bunny: Adding From One to Ten, Scholastic, 2002
  • So Many Bunnies: A Bedtime ABC and Counting Book, HarperTrophy, 2002
  • How Can You Dance?, Penguin, 2001
  • That's My Dog!, Penguin Young Readers Group, 2001
  • You Don't Always Get What You Hope For, Gibbs Smith, 2001
  • Little Dogs Say "Rough!", Penguin Young Readers Group, 2000
  • My Two Hands, My Two Feet, Penguin, 2000
  • Maths Together: Yellow Set: How Many?, Walker Books, 1999
  • Really, Really Bad Summer Jokes, Candlewick, 1999
  • Why the Banana Split, Scholastic, 1999
  • Will You Still Love Me?, Deseret Book Co., 1999
  • Dance, Pioneer, Dance! (with Brad Teare), Desert Book Co., 1998
  • Really, Really Bad School Jokes, Candlewick, 1998
  • How Many, How Many, How Many, Candlewick, 1996
  • Astro-Nuts: Riddles about Austronauts and The Planets They Love, Buckaroo Books, 1995
  • Noah's Square Dance, HarperCollins, 1995
  • Once There was A Bull(frog), Gibbs Smith,1995
  • The Ghost Is Clear, Buckaroo Books, 1995
  • What to Do When a Bug Climbs in Your Mouth: And Other Poems to Drive You Buggy, HarperCollins, 1995
  • Wholly Cowboy, Buckaroo Books, 1995
  • Riddle-Day Saints, Desert Book Co., 1994
  • Hoop-LA: Riddles About Basketball (with Ann Walton), First Avenue Editions, 1993
  • Off-Base: Riddles About Baseball (with Ann Walton), First Avenue Editions, 1993
  • Take a Hike: Riddles About Football, First Avenue Editions, 1993
  • Alphabatty: Riddle From A to Z, First Avenue Editions, 1991
  • Ho! Ho! Ho! Riddles About Santa Claus, First Avenue Editions, 1991
  • I Toad You So: Riddles About Frogs and Toads, First Avenue Editions, 1991
  • Weather or Not: Riddles About Rain and Shine, Lerner Publishers Group, 1991
  • Can You Match This?: Jokes About Unlikely Pairs, Lerner Publishers Group, 1989
  • Fossil Follies: Jokes About Dinosaurs, Lerner Publishers Group, 1989
  • Kiss a Frog!: Jokes about Fairy Tales, Knights, and Dragons (with Ann Walton), Lerner Publishers Group, 1989
  • What a Ham!: Jokes About Pigs, Lerner Publishers Group, 1989
  • What's Your Name, Again?: More Jokes about Names, Lerner Publishers Group, 1989
  • Dumb Clucks!, Lerner Publishing Group, 1987
  • Something's Fishy!: Jokes about Sea Creatures, Lerner Publishers Group, 1987

Links

Interview with Rick Walton

Mormon Artist Interview

Author Profile at Utah Children Writers and Illustrators