It was barely pass breakfast-time and I arrive in his house – it had a very “Seuss-y” feel to it. A brightly lit home, I enter his workspace. There he was, Theodor Geisel. He sat down on his old desk doodling and penning down his thoughts and ideas. All around his office were mugs and trays filled with coloured pencils and sketch books. At the age of 85, though his health was deteriorating, he continues his work day to day, 7 days a week. “You have to put in your hours, and finally you make it work,” he says while leaning back on his swivel chair.
Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Ted or Dr. Seuss, is an internationally renowned author of children’s books. He was born on March 2nd 1904 at Springfield, Massachusetts to parents Theodor Robert Geisel, and Henrietta Seuss Geisel. Dr. Seuss who is very well-known for his rhyming in his creations credited his mother for his ability to create them. He explained so fondly how his mother used to sooth him to sleep by reciting rhymes from her pie-selling days. Back in those days he said his parents were strict, but at the same time very loving as well.
While he was in Dartmouth College, he was the editor for the school humour magazine, and then he decided to pursue a Ph.D. in English literature at Oxford University. In the end he dropped out of University, saying that his studies were very irrelevant and boring. It didn’t do much to help him create Sneetches or help him write about Bartholemew Cubbin’s 500 hats.
Ted’s love for books made him want to be an author himself. In 1927, at a young age of 23, he began working for a magazine called Judge, a top-selling humour magazine in America at that time. He was an advertising illustrator, a political cartoonist and even a documentary filmmaker. He has written other books under pseudonyms Theo LeSieg and Rosetta Stone.
When asked what influenced his characters in his books, he simply talked about how anything out there would start his inventions on his strange characters. His muse would come anytime of the day, anywhere he went, whether he was out running errands or busy going around the world, even sounds could inspire him. While home and stuck without any ideas he would put on one of his many hats. Names of his characters were somewhat a memory of his childhood, like the Wynnmph – an animal drawn on the wall that had ears that were three yards long.
Ted was very fond of drawing; one of his favourite pastimes is watercolour painting at midnight, but never showed it to anyone fearing the criticisms. He calls his drawings ‘exaggerated mistakes’. Once, when he was working for an advertising firm, he submitted his drawings for a billboard that required the image of a goat. The advertising executive was puzzled by his drawing, and said that it looked more like a duck. Ted then took it back and drew a duck instead, and when he resubmitted it, the advertising executive thought that it was an excellent drawing of a goat!
While we went on and on about his drawings he said, “Kids exaggerate the same way I do. They overlook things they can’t draw, their pencils slip, and they get funny effects. I’ve learned to incorporate my pencil slips into my style.” To him, he always believed that he should draw things the way kids see it. Nothing too intricate or too detailed and defined.
Now known world-over for his books that had rhyme and rhythm, his road to success wasn’t one that was nicely paved. His fame did not come overnight, his book entitled ‘And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street’ written in 1937 received 27 rejections by 27 publishing houses. Through his book ‘The Cat in The Hat’ published by Random House was the one that made him into a pioneer of a children’s book author.
Talking about his book ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ which he wrote in the year 1960, he said it was a dare from publisher Bennett Cerf. Ted was wagered $50 to use 50 words or less, and he did through this book…but never got the $50.
Though in his later books it was inspired by his own personal worries or current happenings, Ted enjoyed writing books that would encourage children to read, and that were entertaining at the same time. While playfully putting on one of his hats, he said that imagination is important even at a young age. “If you don’t get imagination as a child, you probably never will.”
The question “What do you do when you get writer’s block?” got him smiling to himself and looking in a distance as though he imagined that he was someplace else. He slowly talked about how he would take an afternoon walk through his garden and giving it the care it needs. He considered gardening as another form of art.
Before ending the day I asked him what would make his book a good one, he said, “I may doodle a couple of animals; if they bite each other, it’s going to be a good book.”
Dr. Seuss continued his doodling on his yellow sketchpad. We’ll just have to wait and see what else his mind will come up with.
Disclaimer: This is for assignment purposes only. This interview is fictional, but information is derived from actual information and interviews of Theodor Geisel collected from the internet.