Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Ruut DeMeo


© Ruut DeMeo

Dec. 3, 2021

We are excited to feature author-illustrator Ruut DeMeo and her new book, ADDIE'S SKETCHBOOK: SUMMER IN WELLFLEET (Omnibus Publishing). Enter to win a copy!


Tell us about yourself & how you came to write and illustrate for children.

I'm originally from Finland, I immigrated to the US in my teens, which was when I also learned how to speak English fluently. Books played a big role in my being able to assimilate to my new homeland and to American culture. Reading about the experiences of others allowed me to process the huge changes that I was going through. 


After high school I worked as a touring musician for some years, and then decided to earn my degree in writing, because I knew I wanted to do this for a living. I'm now both a writer and a teacher of writing. I actually teach kids Addie's age, so it's all coming full circle for me because I see how great books inspire my students. I'm passionate about giving them the opportunity to read amazing stories, and helping them become storytellers themselves. Storytelling is such a powerful way for young people to develop empathy and emotional skills.

Congratulations on your new book, Addie's Sketchbook: Summer in Wellfeet! Tell us about the story and what inspired you.

Since I met my husband, Jonathan, I've been traveling to Cape Cod with his family. It's become a second home to us, and the beautiful, historical, and somewhat mysterious setting inspired me to create the Addie character and to tell her story. 

© Ruut DeMeo


Also at the time, my kids were really into the Wimpy Kid book series, and I thought it would be fun for them to read something like that from a girl's point of view. Addie is a Maryland/Massachusetts kid, just like my girls are. It was fun drawing from our experiences

You're both an author and an illustrator. What comes first for you when you create a story, the words or the pictures?

Definitely words! I write just about every day, and I always create a full "picture in my mind" before drawing it. Also, for this book series, Addie is really the artist, so I had to get into her character more deeply before knowing exactly how to draw the way she would. 

© Ruut DeMeo


But I will say that with this book, I actually went out and took tons of photos all around Cape Cod before I started writing. So in a way, I already had some visuals in my mind before starting to write. 

Was your initial road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

It was short and sweet! I was lucky to have met the owner of Omnibus Publishing (a small children's publisher in Baltimore), and was able to personally present the idea for my book series to her. She loved the idea and we finished the first book within a year! I learned so much working with a small publisher, because we did a lot of the design and promotion together. 

© Ruut DeMeo

What projects are you working on now?

I'm writing the second book of this series, which I'm hoping to have out in 2022! I'm also working on a couple other full-length novels, one for middle schoolers and the other for adults. I'm always working on more than one project at a time... I'm not sure if that's smart, but that's just how I am! If I get excited about an idea, I don't want to wait to work on it. I just jump right in!

What advice would you give to aspiring author-illustrators?

First a brief story about me: When embarking on this journey, I felt intimidated and thought I wasn't "qualified" to illustrate my own story because I wasn't a trained illustrator, even though I'd been doodling my whole life, and I was also very clear on what kind of a doodler Addie is... She is my character, after all. After I'd written the story and realized that I was the only one who could illustrate this book, I started to have fun. 

© Ruut DeMeo

And that's the advice I'd give: Write your stories and draw your pictures, if you enjoy it, because your enjoyment will shine through on the pages. Definitely do your homework, make sure you're being culturally responsive and contributing positively to social change... And then, have a blast! Storytelling belongs to all of us. Your stories matter!

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I sleep with my dog, Annie. Yes, it's true! I love having her next to me when I wake up. She instantly makes me smile, and that's helpful when you have to get up at 5 am and get ready to teach all day! 

© Ruut DeMeo

Where can people find you online?

instagram & twitter: @ ruutdemeo 


Ruut DeMeo is a Finnish-American poet, novelist and songwriter. After touring her music for nearly two decades, Ruut earned a degree in Creative Writing from Goucher College, is currently earning her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University.

Ruut's illustrated novel for middle schoolers, Addie's Sketchbook: Summer in Wellfleet, came out in June 2021. Besides teaching English at a Baltimore middle school and creative writing to teens through the Maryland Writers' Association, Ruut continues to compose and record original music, her lifelong love.

Please provide the book's publisher and publication date

Omnibus Publishing, June 22, 2021

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  1. Congratulations on your books! I think having multiple projects is a brilliant way to keep your work fresh.


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