Category Archives: Interviews

TAGGED: Another Writing Process Blog Tour Stop

TAGGED: Another Writing Process Blog Tour Stop
TAGGED: Another Writing Process Blog Tour Stop


Week after week, writer by writer, we’re asking and answering 4 seemingly-simple-but-surprisingly-complex questions about how we write. Then we’re tagging others to post their answers, as well. So thanks to good writing buddy, Deb Gonzales for the tag! (And see my tags below.)

Deb is an excellent writer of early readers and a creator of wonderfully detailed book and study guides for teachers. More info about her can be found at:  .     DebbieG_TriangleLogoLG

Now it’s my turn to answer:

What are you currently working on?

I just finished the last draft of a new fantasy mid-grade novel. As a matter of fact, it’s off to my agent in the morning! It’s a companion volume to THOMAS AND THE DRAGON QUEEN, provided my editor at Knopf likes it! In addition, I am always working on various picture book manuscripts. I have two new picture books in the works. One with Knopf that is an almost wordless book, similar to MINE! (Knopf, 2010) and one with Clarion tentatively titled, MOUSELING’S WORDS.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, there are certainly a number of light fantasies for mid-grade readers! I can only hope that this latest ms of mine treads some new paths. It uses conventions from the Sleeping Beauty tale, but is very much a boy-centered adventure.

So, we’ll see if it stands out in its genre!

Why do I write what I write?

I generally write at two levels, for the very young (3 to 7 year olds) and for readers in the middle grades (4th to 7th grades)  I think it’s because I have a 4-year-old and a 12-year-old residing in my head. And we all know that our first “readers” are those younger selves within. Those voices in my head MUST be satisfied before I dare show anything I’ve written to anyone else.

I know many children’s writers who carry around a younger version of themselves as a first critic and a reader that needs to be placated.

Why 4 and 12? I’ve pondered this before, and not come up with a really good answer. Perhaps it is because these are important years in my development? Not sure. I started kindergarten when I was 4 (Without preschool prior.), my first time away from home for hours without a parent. And it was my first exposure to many new and wonderful things and ideas.

And, of course, 12! Such an important time in any child’s life. When you’re twelve you’re on the cusp of so much. At twelve I read Jean Craighead George’s book, MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN. This was a seminal work for me. What 12-year-old didn’t think that he or she hadn’t been born into the wrong family? What 12-year-old didn’t want to go off and live in a tree? I did! It’s that kid’s insatiable appetite I write for.

–How does my individual writing process work?

It’s really hard to describe. I’m not sure if each book has the same process. I know it’s a different process between the two formats I tend to write, picture book and novel.

With a picture book it’s more like solving a puzzle. I move the pieces around, try this, try that. It feels happy–a little like dancing in a water sprinkler on a hot day. With a novel, it’s more like swimming across a lake. I’m swimming through deep water and I don’t know if I’ll make it to the other side–but I do keep stroking. Eventually, I reach the farther shore and a book gets done.

I tend to write in clumps of time. A few random hours at a time for a picture book. More regularly, if I’m writing a novel. Then I’ll write a couple of hours a day until it’s done–weeks later.

I don’t outline–after all, I want to surprise those inner kids. If I outlined, there’d be no surprises. However, I do make notes to myself as I write. These are chapter headings and happenings, maps, timelines, names, character info, settings, even pictures. For this last novel I used Scrivener for the first three or four drafts. Then I dumped the individual chapters into Word and did the last three or four revisions with one big file. This seemed to work well.

One thing I have learned about process is that it evolves. There is no one formula that works for each book. It’s a bit of trial and error until a momentum begins to build up. When that happens, I know I am going to finish that particular ms.


I hope this helps others through the process. My books are available through the usual channels–though some are now starting to go out of print. Boo!

Now, I get to tag some folks!!  And I tag:

1. Carrie Pearson, a fellow Michigan writer. Carrie has a warm personality that flows over into her writing. She writes children’s picture books and historical fiction manuscripts, short memoir pieces, adult popular press and historical articles. In the business world, she is also a writer writing business and marketing plans, speeches, foundation grants, corporate sponsorship proposals, marketing and advertising copy, ghostwriting speeches/​proposals/​correspondence for CEO’s, and website content. Please check out her site at: . And read her blog posting next Monday, June 9th when it goes up!

Carrie Pearson   A Warm Winter Tail

2. Tracy Bilen. Tracy is also a Michigan author. Her first YA suspense WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND garnered rave reviews. Her second one is on its way! And, I have a special fondness for Tracy–she won me in a mentorship contest and I got to work with her on her first novel over the course of a year. What fun. What a great writer. Check out her post next Monday and her website today! It’s at: .

Tracy Bilen  What She Left Behind



Author Turf Blog: a new interview

Author Turf Blog: a new interview


Brittney Breakey has posted a new interview. She had some fun (silly) questions, as well as some serious ones. It was a pleasure to do it. Hope you enjoy!


Click here to read the interview.



Doggone Feet! is a Doggone Joy to Read . . .

Doggone Feet! is a Doggone Joy to Read . . .


I’m happy dancing with “doggone” abandon for a good friend–and a great writer–Leslie Helakoski. Her latest book DOGGONE FEET! (Boyds Mills Press, 2013)  has made its appearance this month. DOGGONE FEET! is not only written by Leslie, but also illustrated by her. It narrates the tale of a growing family from the point of view of the family dog, whose domain is under the table at mealtimes. The perspective of the art is fun with dancy lines, deep pastels and all the messiness of a loving and happy family. For any family who ever loved a dog . . .

Now . . . enjoy this interview with Leslie. And don’t forget to get a look at the book trailer here (or below), or to read Leslie’s post on making the trailer which is posted at Darcy Pattison’s site, Fiction Notes.

Enjoy . . . Doggone it!

          paw prints 1



filmstrip   Doggone Feet! Book Trailer

LelSonya photo

DOGGONE FEET! by Leslie Helakoski

Published 2013 by: Boyds Mills Press


1.    I love the family portrayed in DOGGONE FEET! And I really enjoyed getting the dog’s perspective on the world. Is this book at all autobiographical? Of course! I grew up with dogs and cats under our family table along with a raccoon or two. But this story comes mostly from my current family dog who especially liked sitting under the chairs belonging to my kids when they were young eaters.

2.    You are also an illustrator (FAIR COW, 2010). I’m curious . . . do you submit your manuscripts as text only, or  also with a dummy? And then, how does the decision get made to have you, or someone else, illustrate?
I submit text with an illlustration or two if I want to illustrate. (Dummies are a ton of work and since the AD usually wants to have input anyway, could mean starting over from scratch once she’s on board.) My agent usually asks the editor to consider me as artist so that it is not an all or nothing proposal. If an editor likes the mss. but not the art (which has happened many times) then she will suggest we go with someone else for the art. I’ve tried to change the editor’s mind in some cases but usually go along with what she suggests. In the case of Fair Cow, an editor I was working with did not want me to illustrate. I felt I was capable of doing a good job with it and ended up going with a smaller press that would allow me to illustrate.

3.     Since you’re a visual artist . . . when you get an idea for a book does it come first to your mind in pictures or in text/dialogue?  Which way do you start? With sketches? Or with words? When I get a good idea that I think will work as a book, it usually comes with a visual. That is part of how I know it is a good idea. But I don’t sketch right away. I always write first–finding a way to say what I want with words can take awhile. I like to write with that visual image in mind to guide me. For Fair Cow, I had an visual with a cow sitting under an aqua hair dryer in my head. For Doggone Feet! I imagined sitting on the floor under a table and looking at all the legs and feet.

4.     Have you ever written a book that right from the beginning you knew should be illustrated by someone else?  Right from the beginning, I thought that I would NOT illustrate Doggone Feet! I was thinking that illustrating it would entail lots of proper perspective and that it would take me many long painful hours to get just right. It would not have been  fun. So my agent sent the text out without any art. We got back several responses from editors saying they thought this would be difficult to illustrate and that it would be limiting visually. I didn’t agree, I could imagine how it would look–I just didn’t want to create the art. I was complaining about this with a couple of illustrator friends and they encouraged me to do it myself and reminded me that the perspective could be wonky. That freed me up and as soon as
we submitted the text with a couple of pieces of art, it was picked up.

5.    For you, what’s the best part of being an author? An illustrator?  My favorite part of writing is when a vague story idea merges with a fun way to put down the words. That excitement will keep me working many hours tweaking to get the words just right. My favorite part of illustrating is when I find an original way to show something and the design works on the page. My favorite part of creating a book is when a child responds to the story. Priceless!

6.     Now for the really important (fun) questions:  What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever found under a table?  My 6 year-old daughter cutting her hair.

7.     Suppose you wake early and upon opening your refrigerator discover a very tiny pair of shoes within. What would be your thoughts? I have actually found tiny shoes in the fridge before. They belonged to the doll lounging on a cabbage leaf.