Back in March I was interviewed on another Michigan author’s blog, for
a special series she hosts each week called Michigander Monday. I was drawn to Debbie Diesen’s book The Pout Pout Fish (which is also a New York Times Bestseller) a few years ago and I knew I had to make a connection with this talented author. After she interviewed me on her blog, we decided it was time I introduce her to my fabulous readers here at Be The Difference.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a writer of stories for young children. I particularly like to write in rhyme. I’ve loved to write my whole life, but I didn’t pursue writing actively until after my kids were born. When they were little, they loved to be read to; and reading hundreds “ maybe thousands! “ of books aloud to them over the years inspired me to try writing stories of my own. I’ve been at it nearly 15 years now. Writing for children is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
In addition to my writing, I work at a small nonprofit organization where I do the bookkeeping and budget management. Though I dearly love words, I also dearly love numbers, and I find a great deal of satisfaction in working with numbers and figures and calculations on a daily basis.
I live with my family in Grand Ledge, MI, which is just west of Lansing, the state capital. We have two cats. They pretty much run the place.
Please share information about your book.
My newest book is Picture Day Perfection, illustrated by the fabulous Dan Santat and published by Abrams. The boy at the center of the story wants to have the perfect school picture. As his day unfolds, it seems that everything is going terribly wrong: he’s got bedhead, a stained shirt, and a big scowl. But, as it turns out, a disastrous photo is in fact exactly what he has planned for his perfect picture!
The book, my first not-in-rhyme, has a few plot twists, and Dan’s lively art brings it all to life. It was a fun story to write, inspired in part by my own kids’ school photo experiences.
Do you have any other books currently available?
I am also the author of The Pout-Pout Fish books, illustrated by the amazing Dan Hanna and published by FSG. The first book in the series, The Pout-Pout Fish, which came out in 2008, is available in hardcover, in a softcover-plus-audio-CD edition, and (new this summer) in a board book edition. The second book, The Pout-Pout Fish In The Big-Big Dark, was published in 2010. Third in the series will be The Pout-Pout Fish Goes To School, out next year, followed by a Pout-Pout holiday story in 2015. There will also be a toddler board book called Smile, Pout-Pout Fish released this coming January.
In addition to the fish books, I am also author of The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade, illustrated by Tracy Dockray and published by Tricycle Press. The book is less well-known than the Pout-Pout books, but I have a real soft spot for those grouchy babies and their protest crawl!
How did you get started in writing as a career?
My love of words and writing was encouraged from early on by my parents and by my wonderful teachers and school librarians. I’ve dabbled in writing in one form or another throughout my life. The process of taking it more seriously, and of working toward becoming a published author, was a gradual progression. It started with writing stories for my own children, then sharing them with a few trusted friends, to finding a writing group, attending writing conferences, and beginning to submit to publishers. Getting published takes work, perseverance, and a whole lot of luck. I am thankful for the luck I’ve had and for the opportunity it’s provided to be part of the world of books and writing. It’s a privilege and a joy.
What will you be working on next?
I tend to work on multiple projects at once, so that if I get stuck on one thing, I can turn my attention to something else for a while. Currently I’m continuing to work on new adventures for Mr. Fish, and I have several other rhyming and non-rhyming stories in various stages of revision. I also have a longer story for an older audience (teen and adult) that I’ve been working on for years. I hope someday it will find a publishing home.
Oh, and my home office got really messy over the summer. That actually might be the first thing I’ll be working on next!
What do you find hardest about being a writer?
Though I’ve learned not to let them get me down for long, I still find rejection letters really hard to take. You’d think after all the practice (I’ve got hundreds of them!) it would get easier, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. But they’re part of the territory, and so I appreciate them as part of the process. (But it doesn’t mean I have to like ˜em!)
What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
There are so many things I enjoy about being a writer that it’s really hard to pick just one! But I think maybe the best part is all the interesting people I get to meet. I love getting to know other writers, and I adore meeting the kids, parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers and more who bring books to life by reading and sharing them. My life has been touched in so many ways by this wonderful array of book-loving people!
For all of it, I’m grateful every day.
Maria’s Review of Picture Day Perfection:
Written by Deborah Diesen Pictures by Dan Santat
I would highly recommend this children’s book to children preschool -fifth grade. As a former teacher, the book made me smile and laugh (often times loudly) with each page turn. It brought back memories of my own experiences with the dreaded picture day. You wanted everything to be just right but being a kid doesn’t allow your clothing to stay untouched and your hair to stay in place by the time your turn arrives for your school picture. The story was silly and kept you wanting more. The pictures were above and beyond fabulous. I would have picked up this book and purchased it based on the artwork alone. I believe this title would be a perfect addition to any classroom, school or family book collection.