Author Spotlight: Deborah Diesen and a Giveaway!
KidLit411 is delighted to present to you the lovely New York Times best selling and award winning author, Deborah Diesen! Deborah is the author of such picture books as the THE POUT POUT FISH, PICTURE DAY PERFECTION as well as many, many more. Enter below to win an autographed copy of her newest book, THE POUT POUT FISH GOES TO SCHOOL by entering the Rafflecopter and leaving a comment about a "first day of school memory."
And just for our KidLit411 picture book writers, there's an additional prize! Deborah has generously donated a rhyming picture book CRITIQUE! (Trust us, you're going to want to win this rhyming picture book critique! Her critiques are incredible!)
This awesome giveaway ends at noon, Friday, July 4th, so hurry!
|PICTURE DAY PERFECTION|
I’ve always loved to write. My writing journey can be traced back to a rhyming poem about a butterfly that I wrote in 3rd grade. But despite my lifelong love of writing, as an adult I set aside most of my writing aspirations. That changed when my kids (now 15 and 12) were young and I was immersed in children’s picture books. Reading dozens of stories out loud daily reignited my interest in writing, and led me to decide that I’d like to try writing children’s stories.
I didn’t feel very confident of my abilities, so I kept my writing to myself for many years. But in 2001, I joined SCBWI and found a critique group, of which I’m still a member. I continued to write, and in 2002 wrote the first draft of THE POUT-POUT FISH. Input from my writing group helped me with my revisions to that story and with my confidence in being ready to submit it to publishers.
The Pout-Pout Fish swam his way into slushpiles beginning in 2003, and I received lots of form rejection letters. In 2004, I submitted the story to Farrar, Straus & Giroux Books for Young Readers, and was delighted to receive a call offering me a contract in 2005. Dan Hanna was chosen as illustrator, and the book was published in 2008.
All in all, it was a very long process, and not without its moments of frustration. Even a few moments of deciding to give it all up! But I’m glad I didn’t. Luck and timing are 99% of the formula for getting published, but luck always favors the persistent.
What was your inspiration for the POUT POUT FISH?
One day when my elder son was a preschooler, he was having a grouchy sort of day. I made an exaggerated mopey face at him to try to amuse him. He smiled, and then made a pouty face right back at me. We got to laughing about it, and I said, “We look like fish. Like pout-pout fish!”
As soon as I said that out loud, it became a story idea. I jotted the idea down, and later that week began to work on it. I seem to recall that the first draft came together relatively quickly. It went through several revisions over the next year or so, but there weren’t any major plot, character, or structural changes. It’s been rare in my writing to have something come out in first draft so close to what I ended up with. I wish it were always that easy!
|THE POUT POUT FISH|
Do you feel that you have a natural aptitude to write in rhyme?
I think I have at least a natural inclination toward it. Through a lifetime of exposing myself to the kind of writing that I’m drawn to – that is, by reading and enjoying rhyming poems and stories in verse – I’ve honed it a bit more. I’m definitely not infallible, and I’ve got plenty more developing to do as a rhyme-writer; but at this point I think my affinity for rhythm and rhyme is now hardwired in me.
Maybe a shorter answer would be to just blame my parents. They’re the ones who read me all those Dr. Seuss books! ;)
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently trying to come up with another adventure for The Pout-Pout Fish. I’m also working on a non-rhyming story about a tree.
Do you have a writing ritual? Is there something that you can share with KIDLIT411 that no one else knows?
I’d love to say I’m a disciplined writer with an inspiring writing ritual and a regular routine, but the truth is, I’m a catch-as-catch-can writer. My non-author job, plus the non-writing parts of my author life, plus family life, all keep me pretty busy, sometimes a little too much so. I often go for months without working on any of my writing. Then, just when I’ve reached the point of knowing that This Time The Well Really Is Dry And I’m Officially Finished As A Writer, an idea will take hold and I’ll find myself working on it like crazy, caught up in the fun and frustration of taking a story from idea to fully-formed first draft. Each time it’s a surprise and a joy to be absorbed by the experience. It buoys me.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
First, I would advise them to develop a writing ritual so they’ll have a better answer to the previous question than I did!
Other advice would include finding a writing group (I wouldn’t be a writer without mine) and, for rhymers, investing in a couple of rhyming dictionaries (my favorite is The New Comprehensive American Rhyming Dictionary).
Above all, write because you love to write, and write the things you most enjoy writing. Getting published might or might not happen – most of the deciding factors are out of your hands; and luck and timing do truly prevail. But if you write because you love doing it, then you will discover your best writing, you will enjoy the experience, and you will create something that only you could have created.
So grab your pen, and go write!
Deborah Diesen is the author of several children’s picture books, including the brand new THE POUT-POUT FISH GOES TO SCHOOL, illustrated by Dan Hanna. The Pout-Pout Fish, the first book in the Pout-Pout Fish series, was published in 2008 and spent two weeks on the New York Times bestseller list for children’s picture books. A sequel, THE POUT-POUT FISH IN THE BIG-BIG DARK, came out in 2010.
Debbie is also the author of a new series of mini-adventures for The Pout-Pout Fish. The mini-adventures are short board book stories created especially for babies and young toddlers. The first of these, SMILE, POUT-POUT FISH, was released in January, and will be followed by SWEET DREAMS, POUT-POUT FISH next year. Debbie’s other children’s books are a rhyming story called THE BAREFOOTED, BAD-TEMPERED BABY BRIGADE (illustrated by Tracy Dockray) and a non-rhyming story called PICTURE DAY PERFECTION (illustrated by Dan Santat). Previously a bookseller and a reference librarian, she now works at a small nonprofit organization. She and her family live in Grand Ledge, MI. She blogs at www.jumpingthecandlestick.blogspot.com, and her web site is www.deborahdiesen.com