3 Question Interview - ERIN DEALEY
I am thrilled to feature my friend, kidlit author Erin Dealey, on the blog again. I had showcased Erin before in 2020 - you can read that interview here. Today, Erin shares about the inspiration and process for her latest picture book, THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK, as well as other upcoming projects. She also chats about stories, creativity, and connection. Welcome back, Erin!
STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
Thanks for having me on the blog today, Melissa.
The idea for The Half Birthday Book (Genius Cat Books/ Illustrated by Germán Blanco, released April 25th) came from a Vice Principal at the elementary school where my daughter teaches. He had been searching for a book about half birthdays and couldn’t find one. My usual answer to “You should write a book about…” is: “I think YOU should write that one.” But this time I decided to check, and he was right. The most recent books I could find on half birthdays were the Berenstain Bears, and a Max & Ruby (Rosemary Wells) leveled reader! Needless to say, I got to work.
I wanted The Half Birthday Book to be a magical celebration, and yet something that any child could do, or teachers could use in the classroom. The Half Birthday Book is for everyone – any time of the year but especially kids with summer birthdays or birthdays on holidays, who don’t get to celebrate at school. And there are also those who share their birthdays with the BIG holidays … Enter the Half Birthday Buddies!
In early drafts, I pictured the Half Birthday Buddies as gnomes. My editor at Genius Cat Books said (wisely) that people either really love gnomes or they hate them, and asked me to rethink who these characters might be. It was just before Christmas time and a star ornament / Santa gave me the idea that the Half Birthday Buddies could have star bodies of different colors. It was so cool to see this simple change make the whole book a celebration! The illustrations are so much fun, with ½ objects in every spread for kids to find.
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
I am so thankful I’ve learned to listen to my creative side. I was not the kid who thought she would write books someday (I have a journal to prove it!), but I have always had an active imagination. I remember creating birthday cards for my family at an early age. And making up jokes and puns with friends.
It wasn’t until I started teaching high school theater that I tapped into my creative side professionally to write skits and plays for my students to perform. The realization that picture books are like theater was a game changer!
I started writing screenplays during the pandemic, and that has been a fun outlet as well. And each summer, I head the theater department at a fine arts camp and there are so many creative opportunities! I’m very lucky.
I firmly believe that once you make creativity a part of your life, ideas are everywhere.
The inspiration for CHRISTMAS AHOY! (Coming this year from Sleeping Bear/ Illus. Kayla Stark), a counting book about a holiday lighted boat parade, came to me when so many such events were cancelled during the pandemic. I looked for a book to send family members who were missing their holiday boat parade, and to my surprise there weren’t any! Just like The Half Birthday Book, I started writing one.
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
The past three years have been full of author zooms and writing sessions with classes and schools. (What would we have done without this option?) When PETER EASTER FROG (Caitlyn Dlouhy Books / Illus. G.Brian Karas) and DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 (Harper Collins/ Illus. Luisa Uribe) were published, I did a virtual Easter Egg Hunt and a stuffed animal sleepover at my local bookstore, Face in a Book, to celebrate their launches. Creativity to the rescue!
I have an active #BookBirthday blog (https://www.erindealey.com/blog/) where classes can stage a takeover (and share their book reviews or writing) and I also celebrate the book launches of other authors & illustrators. It’s a great way to contribute to our writing community and help spread the word about their wonderful stories.
Erin Dealey's original career goal was Olympic Gold Medal tetherball player. When that didn't pan out, she became a teacher, theater director, actor, mom, screenwriter, and author of over a dozen children’s books (so far), including DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 (Harper Collins/ Illus. Luisa Uribe)—now available in paperback, and the upcoming HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK (Genius Cat / Illus. Germán Blanco) & CHRISTMAS AHOY! (Sleeping Bear/ Illus. Kayla Stark). She lives in northern California with her husband, and welcomes any opportunity to visit schools around the world. You can find her online at erindealey.com and on social media as @ErinDealey. (She will follow you back!)
CONNECT WITH ERIN:
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Check out my reading song and freebies at Dealey/Links