As a children’s book author, I’m really a small business owner. The idea that an author gets to spend hours and hours every day being creative in his or her cozy writing cottage is pure fiction. Much of my time is spent doing administrative work — emails, planning, meetings, travel arrangements, filing, expenses…


Years ago, I made the decision that my website would be where I devoted most of my promotional energy and resources. That’s still the case, but I’m not the one who runs the show. I leave that to the talented crew at Skytemple, and recently, they answered a few of my questions.


photoLet’s start with the basics. What is it that you do? Explain yourselves!

Thanks for the interview, Phil! We’re a small studio focused on strategy and design. We’re pretty obsessed with the psychology of experience… almost as much as we love cat pictures on the Internet.

I’m Curtiss, the lead guy in all this. That’s me in the pic. I’m the one answering these questions, but I’ve conferred with the team for a lot of the finer points in your questions.


Skytemple: What’s in a name? How did you come up with it?

Haha, we’ve gotten a lot of funny speculations about our name. I was at a networking event, and someone guessed that we were some kind of spiritual cult. Nope! Though, in a way, I guess we do seek digital enlightenment. Skytemple speaks to the beautiful world of ideas, imagination, and vision.

That and “Skytemple” sounded cool when I founded it back in — wow — the year 2000.


Okay, now let’s get down to more of the nuts and bolts: One of the biggest challenges for those of us in the children’s literature world is getting the word out about our books beyond our social media echo chambers? What do you do to help that? Can you point to any specific successes?

In the wild world of content marketing, we love the idea that you shouldn’t make content that just seems natural; you should make content that is natural.

First off: don’t underestimate the power of friends. A few dedicated pals who you consistently share engagement with can work wonders. Introduce your audiences to each other’s relevant content and enjoy some fresh views. It’s just a matter of doing what you already love doing, but with a bit more daring discipline.

We really enjoy the power of platforms like Quora and Medium for publishing your stuff to wider audiences — just don’t forget to promote it in social, so people can find it and share it! We’ve also grown fond of opportunities like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to share your words of wisdom in leading publications.

Finally, if you’re feeling daring: expand your content. If you write fiction for children, (as a convenient example), your blog posts probably go beyond just fiction for children. Get smart about what you enjoy and what audience you want to connect with. Know education? Write teaching tips and guides for librarians (revered catalysts of school book fairs that they can be). Love parenting? Share child-rearing psychology as it applies to writing and related media. You get the idea: a specific audience is in mind, and you’re building rapport over time in a genuinely helpful way.


Skytemple is based out of Northampton, Massachusetts, which has become somewhat of a mecca for the children’s lit world. How is Skytemple — and you as individuals — connected to the world of children’s literature?

Oh, I’ve really enjoyed hangin’ out with extraordinarily talented authors like Jedediah Berry, Holly Black, Cassandra Claire… and on a similar note, there’s a big webcomic crowd connected to the area, too, so it’s been so cool to get to know Jeph Jacques, Meredith Gran, Jeffrey Rowland, and other cool creative folks… it’s nice to just get to know each other at parties, especially since imaginative souls have such a fun and playful spirit.


Oh! And I’ve gotten to know Ashley Bryan, author of Beautiful Blackbird, and he has become a personal hero to me. He has incredible positive energy that is massively inspiring. I hope to be quite like him when I grow up.

Tell me about some of your biggest moments? Share a great Skytemple success or two?

Oh man, accepting an invitation to go surfing with a client down in Costa Rica was definitely a quirky delight.

Working with Coca-Cola was a massive milestone — though they didn’t invite us to surf with them…yet!


Now the other side of that coin — tell me about a Skytemple disaster or almost disaster?

lorem-ipsum-2-w855h425We got a message from a client who was upset about seeing “Spanish” on the mockups of her site, when her original site was clearly in English. She calmed down considerably when we explained that the words we put into the designs for her new site were not “Spanish,” but actually Lorem Ipsum, the placeholder copy commonly used to keep focus on the layout and design. Y’know, filler words.

The day was saved. Whew!


Now the important questions: Star Trek or Star Wars?

Turns out we’re about 80% Star Wars. The team came up with a flurry of helpful gifs to illustrate the awesomeness of each.



What about Battlestar Galactica?

Nobody admitted to being a Cylon. I hope we’re safe.


If you could have lunch with three people — still living — who would it be?

We got a lot of cute answers to this one.


Neil deGrasse Tyson was one of mine. Oprah was a lunch date of Ashley’s. I especially enjoyed one of Megan’s lunch dates: “Bradley Cooper so he can fall in love with me”

What is/are your favorite book(s) (and you can’t say one of mine)?


Besides mine, of course, what is/are your favorite book?

My buddy Jedediah Berry wrote The Manual Of Detection, and it is truly a fave — especially because I love the demented futurological whimsy of books like Snow Crash, To Say Nothing of the Dog, etc. Ashley loves Outlander. I suspect Megan loves whatever Bradley Cooper’s reading, if she can read it over his shoulder.

And hey, everybody: totally check out Phil’s books — they are heartwarming and inspiring!)


Thanks! Lastly, and most importantly, let’s talk about me. What’s been the best and worst part about working with me? Let loose!

Haha, oh man! You make us dizzy sometimes — even during downtime, you’re a high-energy dynamo. We have to take notes doubletime!


I get that a lot.

Honestly, your contagious exuberance is one of our favorite parts about working with you. And it isn’t just a matter of exciting energy; thanks to your work, we are learning greater love and acceptance in our fellow humans. It’s really inspiring to share in such an inspiring message at the heart of our strides toward personal excellence.

I really admire people who are awesome towards others, and as I’ve grown to know you I’ve appreciated: you seriously rock, Phil. Thanks for being an inspiration!


The Skytemple design and strategy team loves helping people to craft exceptional digital experiences.