Today is the day that Moo Moo in a Tutu, my debut picture book as author and illustrator, goes out into the world. Writing and illustrating a picture book isn’t something that I ever anticipated, nor is it something that I ever thought I could pull off once I set out to try. So how is it even possible? How could this be? The secret is that the idea for the book isn’t something I could have known about ahead of time, but it’s something that I had to find.


So how did it all start, and what set it in motion? My parents deserve a fair share of the credit for raising me on a dairy farm where there was basically nothing else to do but to hang out with lots of cows and ducks all day. So there’s that. Then, I am deeply indebted to the Snohomish Public Library for bringing picture books into my life. Not only did this offer me a welcome outlet from milking cows all day, it also introduced me to the world of pictures which was a game changer. Getting lost in pictures, unlocked the door to my imagination, which in turn got me to pick up a pencil and start making my own pictures.


Thanks to pictures, I took a leap and moved to New York City after high school to study at the School of Visual Arts where I earned my Bachelor’s in Cartooning. Thanks to inspiring teachers that made a world of difference to me, I took another leap and got my Master’s in Art Education. Thanks to teaching, I discovered that I loved working with children, and spent ten amazing years at the Queens Museum. Thanks to the incredible conversations that I had with children about different works of art, I was inspired to engage them in similar conversations through picture books.


Moo Moo was born a short time later when I playing around in my sketchbook. I was doodling whatever popped into my head when I got the idea to draw a cow ballerina. As soon as the thought hit me, everything stopped because I realized it was an idea for a book. I tried making the story about Moo Moo’s solo aspirations as a ballerina at first, but it didn’t work because it fell flat. Then, I toyed with the idea of giving Moo Moo a sidekick and that’s how Mr. Quackers was born. By playing their different personalities off of one another, I discovered that what the story was really about was the relationship between a pair of best friends who are total opposites.


As I stand here on the other side of it now that Moo Moo in a Tutu is really a book, it amazes me to think about the different pieces that came together to make it possible. What surprises me the most is how the creative process isn’t predictable or a straight line at all, but that it’s defined by listening to what your interests are and seeing where they lead, and then cultivating that. In my case, I landed here today with Moo Moo & Mr. Quackers at the ballet. Who knows where we’ll go tomorrow? Moo Moo has mentioned she has aspirations to be a chef. Only time will tell.


Tim Miller is the illustrator of Snappsy The Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be In This Book) (Viking), Margarash (Enchanted Lion), and the middle-grade series Hamstersaurus Rex (HarperCollins). Moo Moo in a Tutu (Balzer + Bray), is Tim’s debut picture book as author and illustrator. He is based in NYC and can be found on Twitter @TM_Illustration or at his website .