“In September and October of 2015, I wrote a poem every day and did a drawing to go with it. My challenge to myself was to write 60 poems and do 60 drawing (one a day) until Halloween. I did that, and posted them on Facebook every day,” recalls Jason Witter. At the time, Witter—whose background is in local theater, sketch comedy and film—didn’t exactly consider himself an author. But his daily collection of cute poems and adorable cartoons gained quite a following though social media.
Encouraged to try publishing the collection through Kickstarter, Witter launched a fundraising campaign for what became his first book, The Tiniest Vampire. “The Tiniest Vampire campaign was a huge success with over 250 backers from around the world. I had tons of support from people I’ve gotten to know through the local theatre and film community, as well as people just finding it on Kickstarter. Tiniest Vampire was chosen as a ‘Project We Love’ on Kickstarter, which heIped a lot, and I think part of the success was also due to the build up before the Kickstarter.”
The newly minted artist and author followed that model for the next two years, posting poems and drawings every day for two months at a time. In 2017 Monsters Eating Ice Cream (and Other Silly Things) was funded through crowdsourcing. In 2018 Dinosaurs at the Dentist (and Other Silly Things) followed. “These books of poems and illustrations were definitely inspired by my childhood love for Shel Silverstein books as well as my love for the old Universal monster movies and ‘The Munsters.’ So far, I have done 14 books on Kickstarter, as well as a deck of Tiniest Vampire playing cards.”
Witter’s monstrously adorably characters populate a series of self-published paperbacks that read like kids’ picture books, but which have attracted fans of all ages. “The response has been great. I have an awesome fan base through Kickstarter and Etsy, which consists of people from around the world. Locally, I have had tremendous support. Several local shops are carrying the books (as well as greeting cards and other items). These shops include Nikki Zabicki in Old Town, Treasure House Books & Gifts in Old Town, Duran Central Pharmacy, Organic Books in Nob Hill and Title Wave Books.”
Witter has even been asked, over the years, to do poetry and drawing workshops at local elementary schools. Recently, he started up a Mark Kistler-esque online drawing tutorial titled “Drawing With Witter.” The segment, originally started as part of a weekly variety show broadcast live from The Box Performance Space, can be viewed on YouTube.
Last year Witter launched a new project to spread his love of writing and drawing. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, he has been touring Albuquerque’s Little Free Libraries, dropping off copies of his books and documenting his journey across the city on social media. “I love the Little Free Libraries!” says Witter. “I have a couple in my neighborhood, so over the past few years, I always drop a few copies of my books in them. When COVID started, I wanted to find a way to get books out to folks, and the Little Free Libraries seemed like a perfect idea. My parents like going to the Little Free Libraries as well, so It’s become a bit of a regular outing for us. My mom finds libraries on littlefreelibrary.org, and she makes a list of them and then we drive around different parts of town and drop off books. A lot of people have also told me about Little Free Libraries in their neighborhoods. It’s been a blast driving around Albuquerque finding all sorts of different little libraries. I’d say I’ve visited at least 50 different little libraries around Albuquerque, and I keep finding out about more.” The tour of tiny neighborhood library boxes has given Witter an appreciation of the love and support these community resources enjoy in Albuquerque. “It shows what a generous and giving population we have here,” he says.
Witter’s latest literary endeavor is Yeti Friend (A Small Story), the delightful, doodle-filled tale of an outgoing snow monster who crosses paths with robots, ghosts, polar bears and flying chocolate chip cookies. Witter calls it, “a cute little story about a cute little yeti who has a very pleasant day.” Having been funded through Kickstarter, the book is now available for purchase through Etsy (etsy.com/shop/witterworks) and at a variety of local book stores. In fact, Witter will be marking the official release of the book on Saturday, April 24—which just happens to be Independent Bookstore Day. Witter will be set up at Title Wave Books from 9am to 6pm, signing copies of Yeti Friend and vending his other books, greeting cards and stickers. “Title Wave Books has been a huge supporter of mine since I first released Tiniest Vampire, so I always like to have my releases at their shop.”
BOX: Independent Bookstore Day
On Saturday, April 24, the following Albuquerque book stores will be celebrating the occasion with author signings, Indie Bookstore merchandise, virtual Q&As and great book deals: Title Wave Books, Revised (2318 Wisconsin St. NE), Bookworks (4022 Rio Grande Blvd. NW), Treasure House Books & Gifts (2012 S. Plaza St. NW). For more info go to indiebound.org/independent-bookstore-day.