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Matthew Holm 25 September 2009


Accomplished writer, artist, and Web developer

For eight years, he was an editor at the Hearst Corporation’s 1.6 million-circulation Country Living Magazine, where he wrote about topics ranging from home-building, architecture, and historic preservation to food, travel, and current events. His freelance work has included a great deal of science writing, making the research of Ph.D.’s accessible to a lay audience.

Matt is also a professional children’s book illustrator, and is active in the children’s literature and reading education communities. He and his sister, Jennifer, are the co-creators of the award-winning, critically acclaimed Babymouse graphic novels (published by Random House), of which there are more than a million copies currently in print. The latest volume in the series (the eleventh) is Babymouse: Dragonslayer. Matt and Jenni are also hard at work on a second graphic novel series for the elementary-age set, called Squish (due out in Spring 2011).

Matt also spends time working in the online world, as the Consulting Creative Director for Hot Knife Design, Inc., of Boston, Mass. At Hot Knife, Matt works as a business consultant and helps develop user interfaces. He also builds Web sites with CMS software such as ExpressionEngine. Matt acts as a copy writer and an information architect as needed, using his writing and editing skills to organize the structure and content of clients\’ Web sites in the most clear, logical, and approachable manner possible, and employing his considerable talents as an illustrator to craft wireframes and paper prototypes to aid in the design, testing, and building of Web sites.

For the past two years, Matt has been the Vice Chair of the Computer-Human Interaction Forum of Oregon (CHIFOO, the Oregon chapter of the Association of Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction), and a participant in and volunteer for both the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) and the User Experience Network (UXnet).

Matt moved to Portland from New York’s Hudson Valley in early 2007. He currently lives in Northeast Portland, with his wife and dog.

What are you up to?

I am currently working on three graphic novels simultaneously: Books 13 and 14 of the BABYMOUSE series, and Book 1 of the SQUISH series. BABYMOUSE has been an interesting challenge lately, because we are trying to redesign our work flow to eliminate redundancy and integrate new talent into some of the production steps. With SQUISH, we’re starting the series from ground zero, so there are an enormous amount of design details (character design, color, illustration style, page elements) that have to be worked out and spelled out. We’re also creating final art in Adobe Illustrator for the first time (versus Photoshop, which we use for Babymouse), so I’m contending with that application’s idiosyncrasies, too.

I also continue to expand the Web site, which has been my main initiative since joining CHIFOO’s Executive Council two years ago. We plan to include more guest contributors and hope to open up the site to comments and perhaps enable more social networking among our members in the near future.

What are you into?

When I’m not drawing mice or talking to educators or schoolchildren, I’m usually thinking about food. My wife (she runs the lab at Rex Hill Vineyards / A to Z Wineworks) and I are big foodies. A good Saturday would include a morning bike ride down to the Portland Farmers Market at PSU to get ingredients, followed by an afternoon of cooking. We also like the local restaurant scene. Current hit list: Belly, Biwa, Sel Gris, and Culinary Artistry’s “Commercial” dinners.

What do you like most about Portland?

I like that I can bike and walk anywhere, without getting hit by a truck. (Having lived in farm country, this advantage cannot be overrated.) I like the wide variety of good, affordable restaurants. And I like having vital, engaged local communities of colleagues in both the UX and Children’s Lit worlds.

Shouldn’t kids spend time reading “real books” instead of comic books and graphic novels?

No. The idea that some book formats and genres are “real literature” and some books are “junk” is and always has been nonsense. Graphic novels actually provide a great stepping-stone between picture books and chapter books, and can be incredibly complex works of art and literature.

Next time you hear someone tell a kids that they Must Read an Important Novel, remember what Thomas Jefferson said:

“A great obstacle to good education is the inordinate passion prevalent for NOVELS, and the time lost in that reading which should be instructively employed. When this poison infects the mind, it destroys its tone and revolts it against wholesome reading.”

It was not long ago that novels, which are now held up as the pinnacle of Good Literature, were considered trash. This past century, it’s been comics and graphic novels. Next, maybe it will be Twitter novels or something.

What do you dislike about the Portland food scene?

The farmers bring fantastic produce to market, but they need to work on getting more (and better) grass-fed beef. I still haven’t had anything to rival the grass-fed beef we used to get from our local farmers in the Hudson Valley.

Second, why are there no McIntosh apples in Oregon? It’s one of the most popular varieties in the country.

Finally, Portland baristas need to learn that it should take 30 seconds to serve a cup of coffee (or a latte, or whatever), not 12 minutes. Trust me. Spend a week working in New York City. There is no better teaching tool than a line of more than fifty angry, undercaffeinated Manhattanites.


Matthew Holm
Hot Knife Design

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