Author Interview with Amy Dixon

marathon-mouseGet to know Amy…

Amy Dixon grew up as one of seven siblings, so the only peace and quiet she ever got was inside a book. Once she had her own kids, she rediscovered her love for picture books at the public library. It was the one place she knew all four of her kids would be happy . . . and quiet. She writes from her home in Clovis, California, where she lives with her four little inspirations and her marathon-running husband, Rob. MARATHON MOUSE is her first picture book. Her second picture book, SOPHIE’S ANIMAL PARADE, will be out from Sky Pony Press in Spring 2015. For more info, visit her Facebook.

Quirky Questions

What is the messiest place in your home? 

Definitely my room! It’s always the last place I get to when cleaning. I’ve been known to lock it from the inside when people come over because I’m so afraid someone might accidentally go in. As I tell everyone who comes to visit, it’s where we hide the bodies. 

If had to smell like one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

POPCORN! But not the artificial butter smell of microwave popcorn…has to be the stove-top, cooked in oil, real-deal stuff. It’s my favorite smell in the world. 

What is the last thing you paid money for? 

Origami paper. My daughter’s class just read SADAKO AND THE 1000 PAPER CRANES by Eleanor Coerr, and they are attempting to make 1000 cranes together. 

What healthy habit are you glad you have? What’s your worst habit? 

Healthy habit: Running! It keeps me sane.

Worst habit: Reality TV. When you decide what to watch first off the DVR based on which show you would be most embarrassed by if someone saw your list, you know you have a problem. 

What is the biggest advantage of being tall? Biggest advantage of being short? 

People say I am tall (at 5’9”) but it was never tall enough for me. I was a volleyball player and dreamed of having an unexpected growth spurt that made me 6 feet tall. It didn’t happen, so instead I married my husband who is 6’5” and prayed for tall children. So far they are pretty average heights and one of my daughters is on the short side for her age. Not sure what happened there! The advantage of her being short is that they put her in front during class performances so we can always see her. 

amyWriting Questions

How do you know when a book is finished?

When my rewrites are no longer making it better, just different, then I know it’s as done as it’s going to be for the moment. I love revising, so I have to make myself stop. For me, it’s not finished until it’s gone to press with the publisher. And even then, I still see changes I might want to make!

When did you know for certain that you wanted to pursue a career in writing? Have you ever questioned that decision?

I had been dabbling in writing for kids for about a year when I decided to attend a writing conference. It was just a local, one-day workshop. But when I came home from it, I told my husband, “I finally know what I want to be when I grow up!” Mind you, I was a 31-year-old mom-of-three at that point, with a Political Science degree and a past career in college ministry. So it wasn’t an expected path. But I’m 100% confident that this is where I’m supposed to be, and I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

Have you ever felt that your personal expectations have limited your creativity? If so, how have you dealt with this?

YES! My internal editor is loud and obnoxious. Actually, I’m pretty sure there’s more than one of them, kinda like those 2 old men on the Muppets that sit in the balcony and heckle Fozzie Bear. (Fun fact: did you know their names are Statler and Waldorf?) I have to try to silence these critics when I’m writing a first draft, otherwise the words would never make it to the paper.

Who do you consider a literary genius?

In the picture book world, I ADORE Kevin Henkes and Marla Frazee. The way they put words and art together is brilliant.

What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career?

I think this is pretty common with writers, but my biggest obstacles are definitely internal. Even after having a story pulled from the slush pile and go to publication, I still struggle with feeling like I’m not really a writer. Maybe I just had one good idea. Maybe that agent just had a momentary lapse in judgement. Maybe I’m just a housewife pretending to be a writer. Feeling like I’m not good enough and battling fears of never writing something worth reading again are a constant.

What life experiences have inspired your work?

My experiences in running and cheering at races definitely inspired MARATHON MOUSE. When my husband started running marathons, I was looking for a picture book that I could read to our kids about it. But I couldn’t find any. Then, I saw this picture of the starting line of the New York City Marathon and it got my wheels turning about that particular race.

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Look at the masses of people! What a scene! I wondered, how do the people that live there feel about the influx? And then my kidlit writing brain kicked in and ran from there…what about the animals? How would a New York City mouse feel about Marathon Day?

My next book is called SOPHIE’S ANIIMAL PARADE, and it comes out in Spring of 2015. It was inspired by a rainy-day game I played with my kids. We were telling a cumulative story…where one person starts the story and then you go around in a circle and each person adds to it. In the game, we started with a lonely little girl, and ended up with a story about a Sophie, whose drawings come to life. In the story, she tries to draw herself a friend, but ends up with a room full of crazy animals.

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