Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Teacher's Heart in Writing for Children: Author Interview with Erin Dealey



What inspired you to write this book on Christmas?
I actually wrote the initial version when I was teaching high school Theater and I needed some fun material for my students kids to sing at a winter assembly.

Could you give me a short synopsis for my readers?
Deck The Walls is a fractured holiday carol about the kids' table at a holiday dinner--from "olive hockey with the cousins" to aunts and uncles who say "You're taller!" ("Maybe they're just getting smaller... fa la la la la--la la la la.) 

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?
The whole family--(grandma, aunts & uncles, cousins, and now their kids too, and the dogs!)--come to our annual Tree Cutting at the beginning of December. Everyone hunts for the perfect Christmas tree at our neighbor's Christmas Tree Farm. Then we eat, and eat, and eat---including homemade ravioli and the obligatory olives-off-our-fingers.

When did start writing outside of the classroom and being a teacher?
Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox  was the first manuscript written outside the classroom. It was published in 2002 and I'm proud to say it's still in print!

Do you think your experience as a teacher makes it easier for you to write for children?
My teaching experience definitely makes it easier to tailor my author visits to the needs of  individual schools. It also helps because I know how to read an audience, and keep their attention. I love love LOVE school visits and assemblies with as many kids as they can pack into a multi-purpose room. : ) .

What was your first piece of writing that was published?
My first published piece, "The Christmas Wrap Rap,"  was in PLAYS Magazine. Like Deck The Walls I had written it for my theater kids to perform and on a whim. I decided to send it in. 

How many rejections would you say you had prior to that acceptance?  
As crazy as it sounds, it was the first thing I'd submitted and I hadn't received any rejections prior to that. I've certainly received my share since then, however.  Check out my youtube video to see all the drafts of various manuscripts stretched out down my driveway. (They are REAL.) 

How do you get past rejections?
I don't take them personally. I learned to do this as a Theater teacher and an actor. Rejections are a part of the audition process. Writing for publication is the same way. It only takes one YES. I like to call the NO's I get these days, "glowing rejections."  When an editor takes the time to write back and give some feedback as to why they decided against it, you know you're on the right track.  If several editors have the same feedback, I use their comments as the basis for revisions. 

How did you go about finding a publisher for your first book?
Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox is a slush pile success story. I did my homework and scoured Writer's Market for publishers that were accepting rhymed picture books, and queried two. I got a rejection right away from one. A month or so later, the second publisher asked me to submit my manuscript.  Six months later, I was contacted by a wonderful editor at Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, Caitlyn Dlouhy, who is now Editorial Director for Atheneum and Moonbot Books. I am eternally grateful to Caitlyn for pulling me from the slush pile. she changed my life.

How long did that process take? Did you at any time think it would never happen and wanted to give up?
The whole process--from querying publishers to an offer of a contract--probably took 10 months or so. I was so new at the process, I didn't know what to expect so I really didn't worry when I didn't hear from anyone. It took longer to find an illustrator--(about two years after my manuscript was deemed ready for illustrations) --mainly because the illustrators Caitlyn thought would be a good match were working on other projects. In the end, however, I lucked out. Hanako Wakiyama, the illustrator of Goldie and also Little Bo Peep Can't Get To Sleep, is brilliant.  So is Nick Ward, the illustrator of Deck The Walls . I am thrilled that Nick captured both the energetic chaos and the love of a holiday gathering.

You now speak at conferences, but what encouraged you most about being an attendee at a conference?
Early on, what encouraged me the most at SCBWI conferences was the generosity of the writing community. Whatever questions you have, there's someone who will answer it for you. Most children's authors and illustrators are so nurturing and helpful. Very few pull the "diva" attitude. 

What advice do you have for someone who is attending their first conference? 
There is no fast-track to publication. Make friends. Be open to one and all. You can learn as much from the person sitting next to you as the person at the podium.

What do you wish you had known earlier in your writing that you know now?  
Read the fine print before you submit. I didn't realize PLAYS Magazine--like most periodicals--buys all rights. "The Christmas Wrap Rap" is theirs forever. Luckily they like it enough to republish it from time to time. 


What’s the best piece of advice on writing you’ve been given? 
Madeleine Engle sent A Wrinkle In Time out to 26 publishers before she found someone to publish it. Don't give up.

What other books do you have in the works that you would like to tell me about?   
My YA manuscript is currently out there looking for the "write fit." Meanwhile I'm revising a middle grades novel, a chapter book, and playing around with a non-fiction picture book.

As vastly talented as Erin is, there are also many ways to find out about her writing.

DECK THE WALLS book trailer: (youtube) , also available on Teacher Tube, and on Goodreads.
The Writer's Rap (youtube) , also available on Teacher Tube, and on Goodreads.
Max's Ruff (Rough) Drafts (youtube) , also available on Teacher Tube, and on Goodreads.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I especially like hearing about M. Engle's book being sent to 26 publishers. Wow! ... E.L. Watts

    My apologies to the above poster. I accidentally deleted her post when I was updating my blog. Thanks for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete