Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Author Interview: Kristy Dempsey

Kristy Dempsey is a good friend and a brilliant poet/writer. Her debut picture book, ME WITH YOU, releases on May 14, 2009. I am thrilled that she agreed to be my first guinea pig...I mean interviewee here on Rebecca's Writing Journey. Now, on to the interview!

Thank you for agreeing to be my first interviewee! You must be terribly excited about the release of your first picture book, ME WITH YOU. How do you feel?

 A mix of relief and unfettered excitement? :) I think I feel relief because in this business nothing seems certain. I have a friend whose book got cancelled AFTER the illustrations were already finished. So much depends on the chain stores and whether or not they like the book, as well as the health and politics of your publishing house.

But I am absolutely thrilled that the book is getting out there and has a chance to find an audience. We had the first sighting of ME WITH YOU (published by Philomel/Penguin Putnam) actually in a bookstore on May 3, 2009 and when I received the picture I started crying! I live in Brazil, so I won't be able to walk into a bookstore and find my book until July when I'm in the US for a visit.

How long have you been writing for children?

Since 2003, though I didn't kick things into high gear until I attended the Highlights Foundation Conference at Chautauqua in 2005.

ME WITH YOU is a delightfully sweet rhyming story. What inspired you to write it?

ME WITH YOU actually grew out of a phone conversation with my husband. He was in the US and I was in Brazil, and he asked me what I'd been up to. I told him I'd been writing and he joked that I never wrote anything for him! Our conversation made me think of a book I loved called I LIKE YOU by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, originally published in 1965. I LIKE YOU is a celebration of friendship and I thought I'd like to write something that celebrated relationships in that same way. So ME WITH YOU is what came out and it was originally intended as a tribute to my relationship with my husband, with each of the scenes serving as a metaphor for aspects of our relationship. Of course, it ended up being illustrated (by Christopher Denise; wonderfully, I might add) to celebrate the grandparent/grandchild relationship. But it just goes to show you that if you get the emotion of a manuscript right, it becomes a universal story. It doesn't just apply to the original circumstance you had in mind.

How do you generally get your ideas?

Word play. Usually a word will come to mind. Take "boot" for example. My mind starts thinking of all the words it rhymes with. And even if I don't end up writing a rhyming story, those words can serve to give me a framework for a story.

Also, my kids come up with the funniest phrases. If I'm paying attention, they give me insight into what is funny to my target age group.

What is your writing process? Do you plan ahead or let the story lead you? Is it different for poems than it is for stories?

In poems and in stories, I am a terrible planner. I'd love to say that I outline my stories. I usually have a beginning. And I *might* have an end in mind. But I'm just as likely to have no idea. I go where the story leads. Which is why I'm a terrible (so far) novelist. I get about 10,000 words in and then have no idea what happens next.

Do you prefer rhyme/verse over prose?

I like both, and write in both, but I LOVE word play, so rhyme is one of my go-to devices. Even when I'm writing in free verse or prose, rhyme (as well as assonance and alliteration) sneaks its way in.

Your book releases in less than two weeks! Will you be doing a book tour?

I arrive in the United States in July for a six month stay, so yes, we have lots of events planned, especially pre-Grandparents Day in September. My first event will be during the American Library Association Conference in Chicago, IL on July 11th, a 25th anniversary celebration of The Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park, IL. I'll read and sign ME WITH YOU and other authors will be reading and signing as well. It will likely be one big party!

After that, I have 9 more events already scheduled, with more in the works, and you can be kept up to date by visiting http://kristydempsey.livejournal.com.

Tell us about your other forthcoming books.

MINI-RACER is a short picture book in rhyme that will be out from Bloomsbury in Winter 2010. It was inspired by my very active children whose engines roar 90 mph all day long.

I'll have another book out from Philomel that I am currently calling DANCING but will likely receive a new name. It's a story about the events in one little girl's life surrounding the performance of the first African-American principal ballerina, set in the 1950's.

And then there is SURFER CHICK, a romp in rhyme about one little chick's trials and triumphs in learning to surf. To be honest, this book is in a little bit of a limbo and demonstrates what can happen these days in publishing. I'll leave names out of it, but it's currently under contract to one house, a publishing house that has been through a bit of upheaval in recent years. It was likely moving to another house when that publishing house also went through a bit of upheaval. SO it's not been cancelled or pulled, but I'm not too sure exactly what's going to happen to it. I believe wholeheartedly in the story, so I think we'll figure it out soon enough.

What project(s) are you working on now?

Oh my. This is a loaded question.

I'm about 10,000 words into a novel that I love and really believe in. And I'm almost to the point where I'm stuck. Again. We'll see what happens.

Other than that I have a myriad of picture books and poetry collections that I'm working on daily.

And other than THAT, I am focused on being a good wife, a good mother, and marketing ME WITH YOU!

Thanks again for the opportunity to interview you. Do you have any advice for aspiring children's authors?

It sounds cliché, because everyone says it, but READ! If you want to write well for children, read read read lots of books for children. And if you run out of ideas, leaf through publisher's catalogues or Publisher's Weekly's list of forthcoming books. I don't know why it is, but reading titles and summaries of other books being published gets my creative juices flowing like nothing else!

For more information, visit Kristy's website: Kristy Dempsey or her blog. You can also check out (and/or buy!) ME WITH YOU here.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Tuesday Tip #21: A Great Writing Blog

Okay, I know I'm late for my Tuesday Tip. I've been busy! Went to the zoo today with my son's second-grade class. Then I came home, cooked dinner, and started cutting out fabric for costumes for my daughters, who will be starring in the musical Mulan at their school in three weeks! When have I had time to think of Tuesday Tips?

But here's one for you: Check out this awesome blog. Nicola Morgan has an abundance of vital info (and humor) for any aspiring writer.

Just don't fall so in love with her blog that you forget about me.

One more thing:

Here's a reason for you to come back. This weekend I will be posting an interview with children's author/poet Kristy Dempsey. Don't miss it!