Artist Profile: Duane Willoughby Duane Willoughby Creates Humor That Kids Love To ReadBy Ellen Samsell SalasAuthor and illustrator Duane Willoughby is funny. So, it isn’t surprising that his first foray into writing children’s books, Eddie Eats Everything, wins readers — “the kids who hate reading, the kids who are always in timeout.” Growing up, Willoughby loved comic books, loved drawing, and wanted to be a cartoonist. He hated writing. It was his fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Sawyer, who helped determine Willoughby’s path when she suggested he draw first and then write to narrate his illustrations. That is the process that led to Eddie Eats Everything, which he wrote, illustrated, and self-published in 2020. It is the process he is using to complete his current projects.An elementary and middle school teacher, Willoughby is the first to laugh at himself. With encouragement from his wife, he dove into creating Eddie, trusting his love of drawing and his sense of humor to guide him.“I never fear rejection,” he said. “That comes from being a teacher. I’ve had kindergartners cuss me out. I’m not afraid to put something out there. I just went and did it.” In fact, when writing and illustrating, Willoughby welcomes feedback from children as well as fellow teachers. “My neighbor’s daughter, who is in sixth grade, will tell me if she doesn’t like something. Other kids in the neighborhood will also be honest with me,” he said. Much of the appeal of Eddie Eats Everything is its humor and its honesty. The characters act and react like real kids. And, they are funny. Willoughby said Eddie is based partly on himself, partly on his son, and partly on a friend’s son — all of whom as children would eat almost everything in the pantry. Other characters are based on former students. His illustrations, which he sketches in pencil and then refines on an iPad or Wacom tablet, enhance the energy of the characters and story. He purposely draws in a minimalist style, so young readers can replicate it.Drawn to children’s fare because it doesn’t lock him into a formula, Willoughby is rewriting Eddie Eats Everything as a TV show and creating two more Eddie books. Another project, a graphic novel, whose characters are creatures who live in a sewer, is fulfilling Willoughby’s childhood dream to be a cartoonist. While the message of Eddie Eats Everything is “Don’t lie to your parents,” the message of his graphic novel is “Be yourself,” the motto Willoughby lives by. “Part of my appeal to kids is honesty. I will laugh at myself,” he said. “It’s not trying to be funny; it’s just earnestness. I don’t try to be funny with kids. I am who I am.”You can laugh along with Willoughby at DuaneWrites.com, SidekicksStudio.com, or follow him on social media @duanewrites. Eddie Eats Everything is available on Amazon.com.