VUTHY KUON: Author, Artist & Motivator
Vuthy "Woody" Kuon has spoken to and motivated nearly a million
students and adults since 1996. He is as an author, illustrator, speaker
and currently has over 80 books published. Having been featured on ABC,
NBC, CBS & FOX television, his speeches and workshops are most known
for it's energy and humor, going on the belief that people absorb most when
they are entertained.
In Cambodia, his father made and sold machetes, only to gamble the money
away. His mother was then forced to find creative ways to help provide food
and save money like raising baby piglets to growing her own successful donut
shop in America. Her influence inspired him to become a "little entrepreneur"
starting in elementary school (selling artwork, hand-made hacky sacks, and
Snickers bars) and ultimately become a successful publisher and speaker.
Vuthy Kuon & Zig Ziglar
"Local book publisher carves his own niche"
All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't
do it, but Vuthy Kuon
His sequel to the simple children's
nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty After the
Fall, not only put Humpty back together again but it gave the 31-year-old
Cambodian refugee, artist and illustrator the springboard to his career
And in the same way he revamped the classic nursery rhyme,
pronounced wood-tee kwan, is focused on carving a niche in the book publishing
His approach? Find authors willing to present, read and
sell their books
directly to kids in classrooms. Then print their books, sell them back
at a discount, with the discount increasing with the size of the order
the process, eliminate the 5 percent royalty publishers typically pay
Kuon also trains and coaches his authors to market the
books directly to their
readers by making presentations in schools and bookstores.
"I specialize in publishing people who are great
personalities and who can get
out there and promote," says Kuon. "If they work hard, they
can reap a lot of
He adds that they can make a profit of 40 percent to 80
percent selling the
books themselves, like he did.
So far, the novel formula has worked.
Kuon's 7-year-old company, Providence Publishing, has
produced 17 books, with
four pending. Revenues for 2002 reached almost $200,000, he said.
"If you structure things differently than the norm,
people automatically think
it's a scam. People don't understand I do things differently because of
results," said Kuon, whose boyish looks and earnestness give him
a manner that
Elementary school teacher Marie Helena Cortes believes
in the unusual approach
to publishing. Through Kuon's method, Cortes was able to publish her first
book, My Annoying Little Brother. In the first two weeks her book was
she sold 175 books, with 95 more preordered.
Cortes said she chose Kuon to publish her book because
she could retain more
rights to her book, a 32-page picture book that tells the same story from
points of view -- a sister's and her brother's.
"I had talked to other publishing companies and knew
what I could do and
couldn't do," recalled Cortes.
She said she liked the freedom she received from Kuon.
"I was very happy I had found somebody who would
let me work on my project and
do it my way," Cortes said. "Other publishing companies take
away your ideas
and make money off it."
She added that she knows Kuon is making money off her
"But I don't feel like I'm being robbed," she
said. "He gave me a ton of good
advice, spent a lot of time, and I'm very, very happy with the product."
Kuon, born in Cambodia but of Chinese descent, credits
his entrepreneurial bent
to his mother, who was essentially sold to a family when her mother died.
Like Cinderella, Kuon's mother was required to do all
the chores in her new
home. But she found a way through her misfortune.
She saved her money, bought two piglets and raised them,
feeding them scraps of
food she collected from neighbors' used dishwater. She would end up with
desirable, fat pigs, sell them and then take one-fifth of the proceeds
two more piglets.
Kuon's mother later married and had five children. In
1975 when the Khmer Rouge
took over and civil war broke out, Kuon's family was one of the first
via cargo plane to a refugee camp in Thailand and came to Houston when
Catholic family here sponsored them.
In America, Kuon's mother worked as a janitor until she
saved enough money to
buy a doughnut shop, where she increased revenues from $200 a day to $600.
Kuon, too, started his business small -- with just one
book and a $10,000 loan
from his brother-in-law. Knowing it would take three months for the books
arrive from overseas, Kuon got busy preselling his book.
By the time the books arrived on his doorstep, he had
enough orders to repay
These days, Kuon knows that to compete with the giant
every book he publishes must sell well.
"The children's book industry is doom and gloom.
It's very old-fashioned. They
have very traditional methods and ... certain set standards," Kuon
90 percent of all books fail and never go into a second printing."
If 90 percent of his books failed, Kuon said, he'd be
out of business.
To produce a winning book each time, Kuon discovered he
could publish his books
overseas -- in Hong Kong and China -- save costs, even with shipping,
receive high-quality printing.
"I started paying more to get bigger book covers,
thicker paper and richer
colors. When you focus on the quality of the product, it goes a long way,"
said. "If you create a high-quality product, people take notice."
Secondly, Kuon discovered that the author needs to be
"You, yourself, are a product," he said. "You
are the main product, even though
you have a book. The book is not the main product. The reason the book
Consequently, children's book authors need to work on
their skill at
presentation, something his own Web site, at www.woodtee.com, demonstrates
Celebrity authors already know their book sells because
of their name. Actors
who do the talk show circuit know this when they are promoting their latest
As an independent publisher -- Kuon shuns the phrase "self-publisher"
of the low-quality it connotes -- Kuon says his way of marketing books
to the audience is one way to compete with the big chains. He makes about
school visits a year.
Kuon says he doesn't avoid bookstores. He still gets them
in the store, but he
does presentations and links them with school book fairs.
"So there's a big crowd," he said. "Every
time I go, I want to sell large
Carl Bink, a librarian and media specialist at Felix Tijerina
School, books seven author presentations a year for students. Kuon has
invited to participate in four of the seven the school has produced.
"The best part is his illustrating because the kids
really get involved," Bink
said. "He gets them to model for the pictures he draws. Then he usually
one of the teachers, so he really gets the kids going."
As a publisher, Kuon brings the same enthusiasm to the
"He comes up with ideas, and he can implement them,"
says Bink, an
award-winning teacher and librarian in the Houston Independent School
"He gives wannabe authors a chance, which I think is good. The big
houses can only do a couple a year, and they have to be able to sell a
But Kuon's former professor offers a note of caution to
would-be authors and
"I like the model in one sense," said Mary Jane
Begin, an illustrator and
professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. "But there are areas
may not be as profitable on a large scale."
Like the hero in his first book, Kuon keeps busy, developing
his niche and
slowly expanding it. In addition to children's books, he is considering
branching into publishing inspirational and motivational books for adults.
latest venture: motivational speaking.
"I want to go to China to speak. I want to inspire
and motivate people into
action. Bad things that happen can be good things," said Kuon, whose
Dumpy learned that lesson:
Humpty Dumpty after the fall,
Helped the needy at every call,
He vowed to the women and all the town's men,
He'll never sit idle and be lazy again.
"Unlucky egg gives writer/artist his first book"
Some might label Vuthy Kuon as an egg head for scrambling an American
classic. But the former Sharps town resident knew exactly what he was
doing when he decided to write a sequel to the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty.
I 've always loved Children 's books particularly nursery rhymes said
24 year old , whose first name is pronounced Woodtee. Humpty Dumpty is
one of my all time favorites, but I felt something was missing. It really
didn 't have an ending. Until now, that is. Through his company providence
Publishing, Kuon recently released his book, Humpty Dumpty After the fall
which chronicles the cracked character 's past following his nasty spill.
Kuon drew the art work and wrote the text for the hardbound book.
When last seen poor Humpty Dumpty had fallen into pieces and neither the
kings horses or neither the kings men could reassemble him.
Bringing Humpty into the 21st century, Kuon commissions a doctor, nurse,
tailor, carpenter, weilder, and baker to help. Why even the dreaded tax
collector makes an appearance. I tried to modernize it a bit, but at the
same time I wanted to convey a message, said Kuon, who ended by relaying
several messages. Unlike the original version, humpty regains his shape,
thanks to his divine intervention as he is healed by the wings of a dove.
Humpty becomes a shell of his previously lazy self, now content to do
good deeds. There are several morals there, Kuon said. One thing is to
never give up hope that miracles can, and do, happen. Another is the value
of a productive life and of not being lazy. There are some biblical references
there as well, although they may not be obvious, he added. But I believe
that there is something in this book for everyone, regardless of their
religious beliefs. Kuon never shows Humptys face during the entire book
so that the reader may empathize with the character. Humpty Dumpty after
the fall has personal significance to his entire family. In 1987, his
brother Tony died due to massive head injuries sustained in an accident.
This book is dedicated to Tony, Kuon said. he was only 18 when he died,
and we still miss him terribly He was my inspiration.
Humpty Dumpty after the fall had more than messages and personal sentiments.
Kuon has filled his hard back books with vivid, colorful illustrations
and clever rhymes.
He launched the project four years ago when attending the Rhode Island
school of Design in Providence.
Kuon noted that illustrators David Macaulay, Barry Moser and Mary Jane
Begin were a major influence on him during his studies.
It took many years of revisions, but finally it 's done, Kuon said.
When I opened the box with the first copies, I just screamed and jumped
for joy. I always had dreamed of seeing my name in print, and it had become
Kuon said 2000 copied have gone on sale for $ 15 at bookstores in Houston
and across the country. A second shipment of 2000 will hit the shelves
on Nov. 29, with a red cover for the Christmas holidays and a price tag
of $ 15.99. All will be autographed personally by the author.
Were very pleased with the way it turned out, said Leng Abbassi, Kuon
's oldest sister. The book is very humorous, but it 's got a serious side.
The illustrations are beautiful.
Were very proud of Vuthy. He 's very talented.
The Pearland Journal
Author visits Rustic School
Vuthy Kuon, author of Humpty Dumpty after the fall, came to read and amuse
students from every grade at Rustic Oak Elementary last December.
Kuon began his talk with his personal history, which included his education
in the Houston area. Next came a slide show featuring his book, in which
Kuon pointed out tidbits about illustrations such as his heart shaped
But the grand finale was what all students will be talking about for a
very long time. In Kuon 's quest to draw the million faces of Humpty Dumpty,
he selected numerous students from each show to model for Humpty 's characteristics.
All were just rolling with laughter as the students tried their best to
model as Kuon humorously interpreted the student 's form.
Teachers were fortunate enough to be selected for hair modeling and then
the audience named the new Dumpty. The sketches are still featured in
Students also waited patiently as Kuon personalized their copy of his
book. Favorite sporting activities were among some of the drawings he
created. Fun was had by all.
Author Vuthy Kuon reads his book, Humpty Dumpty, after the fall, to the
students at Rustic Oak Elementary. He made sketches for the students and
personalized their copies of his book. Students rolled with laughter at
his humorous interpretations.
The Herald Newspaper
Author entertains at schools
Children 's book author and illustrator Vuthy Kuon visited the Aransas
County ISD campuses this past week.
Kuon was born in Cambodia and came to the United States in 1975. He received
his BFA in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has
been an art teacher and worked as a graphics designer for the Museum of
Fine Arts, Houston.
He now lives in Houston and devotes his time to writing and illustrating
children 's books. He is the author and illustrator of Humpty Dumpty After
the Fall, an inspirational story of Humpty 's rescue and the illustrator
of Theodore Was Here, an amusing Christmas story about a mischievous elf
who helped Santa. A new book illustrated by him, Willie and the World
Wide Web, will be published this spring. It is about a young boy traveling
inside his computer, and the wonderful, sometimes scary things which he
Kuon spent a full day at Live Oak Elementary, the Intermediate School,
Fulton Elementary, and Rockport Elementary sharing his books and experiences
with the children.
He thrilled the children with a visual presentation of his first work,
Humpty Dumpty After the Fall. He used suggestions from the different grade
levels of children and let each class come up with their own version of
what Humpty Dumpty should look like.
Young author catches up with Humpty after his great
At 24, Vuthy Kuon is already on his way to a successful career as an author
and illustrator of children 's books.
His first book, Humpty Dumpty After the Fall published by Providence Publishing
in Boston, is such a success, he has a schedule of 24 appearances including
one on The Spirit of Texas This Morning on Channel 11 last week. He has
made or is scheduled for appearances at schools, story times and autographings
at both Barnes & Noble and Borders Book Stores in Houston, in Rhode
Island and in the Boston area.
He has been invited to visit several schools giving mini art lessons and
autographings. He is making appearances in the Bay Area on Nov. 20 at
the opening of the Clear Lake area Barnes & Noble and Dec.8 at Jeremy
Of Chinese Cambodian heritage, he and his parents and his two sisters
and two brothers left the Khymer Rouge in Cambodia when their parents
told them they were going to kind of take a trip from Cambodia to Thailand
at the insistence of an uncle. In their luggage were pots and pans and
even a room air conditioner. Their destination was a refuge camp used
early in the Southeastern Asian exodus.
The Kuons came to the United States when he was 3 years old, in 1975.
After a brief stop in San Diego, they came to Houston. They were sponsored
by Ernest and Margaret Hotze, who have remained close friends with the
Kuon grew up in Sharpstown, graduating at the top of his Bellaire High
School class. His family moved to the Bay area in 1989, but he stayed
with a married sister in Sharpstown until after graduation from high school.
He now lives with his parents in the Bay Area.
After reviewing all the scholarship offers, he selected the Rhode Island
School of Design in Providence, R.I., because his brother was at nearby
Brown University. He intended to teach illustration and photography after
While at school, to augment his academic scholarship, he was reference
assistant in the school library, head supervisor in the school weight
room, gallery monitor for the Canal Street Art Gallery, a part time designer
for the Brown/Rhode Island School of Design newspaper, The Independent,
and a teacher 's assistant for one film/animation class at Hope High School.
While working in the library, he examined the collection of children 's
stories and made the decision to write and illustrate his own. He 'd often
heard the tale and, as a child, wondered what happened to poor Humpty.
His imaginative answer fit right in with his desire to become an illustrator
During break in 1991, Kuon served as a graphics designer, designing layouts
and spreads as well as editing some articles for Cambodian Life Magazine
In 1992, his break was spent working at the Children 's Museum of Houston
in the Fabrication Department where he used his skills designing, sculpting
and painting museum exhibits. He was accepted for the 1993 Minority Internship
Program at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. There he served as graphic
design intern/publications department intern. He designed page spreads
for MFA Today Magazine, and designed advertisements for the Theta Charity
Magazine. He also edited, typed and rewrote text for MFA Today. After
graduation from the Rhode Island School of Design, he became an art and
photography teacher for Fort Worth Country Day School, a private kindergarten
through grade 12 school. The next book on his computer drawing board was
to be named Pug, based on a bible verse from St. Paul 's letter to the
Corinthians about love. He is using a dog to illustrate the idea that
life need not be a rat race but can turn into a loving dog race instead.
After that he 's considering a small autobiography illustrating the transitions
necessary to move from one culture to another with ease.
Artistry in Motion
Lake Jackson -- For students like Devon Pharis, meeting the author of
the books at his school library brightened his Monday. Vuthy Kuon, author
of children 's books including Humpty Dumpty After the Fall, kept students
laughing and eager to participate during his visit to O.M. Roberts Elementary
He 's funny said Pharis, 9, while waiting to get his book autographed.
I like his expressions.
With funny faces and movements that kept students on edge, Kuon shared
the story of how he moved from Cambodia during the Vietnam War and landed
in Houston. Though Kuon was animated while telling how bombs fell during
the war, students soon learned how he overcame language barriers and lack
of money to become what he is today.
He described how his naughty behavior led to a paddling from his elementary
school principal, but he also shared how a teacher led him to read children
's books. That day his behavior and grades changed.
From that day on, I became a straight-A student, Kuon said.
That experience played a role in why Kuon became a writer. Kuon, who is
also an illustrator and publisher, used the story of Humpty Dumpty as
portrayed in his book to let students know that anyone who has fallen
can get back up.
The message is just one portrayed in Kuon 's book. In Elmer the Dog, underlying
message to children is that they should be proud of who they are. The
presentation 's highlight included students helping Kuon design a face
for Humpty Dumpty, a once idle character who transforms into someone who
helps the needy.
As an artist it is hard to come up with a perfect face, Kuon told students.
I want you to become my artists today.
Coming to America
There is some irony in Kuon 's career choice.
After all, Kuon spoke no English when he arrived in the U.S to decades
ago. His immediate family of seven and his larger extended family had
fled their native Cambodia, which was in the midst of civil war. They
sought refuge in Thailand before arriving in Houston, where they were
sponsored by Earnest and Margaret Hotze.
A mischievous child, Kuon was merely an average grade school student at
Ed White Elementary School in southwest Houston. In 1990, he finished
No.1 in his graduating class at Bellaire Senior High School with a 4.7grade
point average on a 4.0 scale.
Kuon 's love for art began a Seventh grader at Sharps town Middle School.
His mentor at the time was Harry McGinnis, who Kuon credits for much of
He (McGinnis) really took me under his wing, Kuon said. I owe him a great
deal, as well as my Parents (Nyg and Heing Kuon) and the rest of my family.
Kuon put his artistic ability to use designing, Sculpting and painting
several exhibits for the newly opened Children 's Museum of Houston during
the summer of 1992.
The next year, he served as a summer intern for the Museum of Fine Arts,
Houston, where he did graphics and edited the publication MFA Today.
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994, Kuon
was employed as an art and photography teacher at Fort Worth Country Day
All that was the perfect preparation for a budding author and artist.
Kuon has several other books planned, although he still is doing plenty
of promotional work for Humpty Dumpty after the fall.
Ill be moving to Boston in October to do some free lance work, but I 'll
be back in Houston from time to time, he said. I 'll be touring a few
schools, and I 've got some appearances lined up at Barnes & Noble,
Borders and other book stores. Everyone 's been very supportive.
Unlike a certain egg shaped creature, Vuthy Kuon refuses to fall.