Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Deborah Diesen

unnamedGet to know Deborah…

Deborah Diesen is the author of several children’s picture books, including the brand new The Pout-Pout Fish Goes To School, illustrated by Dan Hanna. The Pout-Pout Fish, the first book in the Pout-Pout Fish series, was published in 2008 and spent two weeks on the New York Times bestseller list for children’s picture books. A sequel, The Pout-Pout Fish In The Big-Big Dark, came out in 2010Debbie is also the author of a new series of mini-adventures for The Pout-Pout Fish.  The mini-adventures are short board book stories created especially for babies and young toddlers.  The first of these, Smile, Pout-Pout Fish, was released in January, and will be followed by Sweet Dreams, Pout-Pout Fish next year.  Debbie’s other children’s books are a rhyming story called The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade (illustrated by Tracy Dockray) and a non-rhyming story called Picture Day Perfection (illustrated by Dan Santat). Previously a bookseller and a reference librarian, she now works at a small nonprofit organization.  She and her family live in Grand Ledge, MI.  For more info, visit her website and blog

Quirky Questions 

If you were a prescription drug, what would be your main side effect?

Unfortunately for the patient’s family:  puns. 

What company advertisements could you model for?

A “Clean Desk” service company.  I’d be the “Before” picture. 

If you ran a funeral home, what would your company slogan be?

“Live it up!  We’re not ready for you yet.”

What current product do you think will baffle people in 100 years?

Standardized tests. 

What is the best thing about staying at a hotel?

Those cute little shampoo and conditioner bottles!  I also like the key cards.  When I was growing up, hotel rooms still had actual keys, so key cards seem pretty High-Tech to me.   (Yeah, I’m easily amused.) 

What is one thing you do with determination every day?

Pour my morning coffee!  Usually into the mug! 

If you could have your mailbox shaped like an object, what would it be?

Part of me wants to say a fish (and I’ll bet you can imagine what kind of fish!), but I think my kids might prefer a TARDIS mailbox. 

What topic would you like to know more about?

I have a secret desire (well, I guess now it’s a not-so-secret desire) to be a Taiko drummer.  So I’d love to know more about Taiko drumming. 

Knowing what you know now, what would you change about your high school experience?

I’d worry less about feathering my bangs; I’d study less; and I’d get to know more of my classmates. 

What is the first thing you notice when you meet someone?

That I haven’t fainted yet. (I’m pretty shy.) 

unnamed (1)Writing Questions

How did you pick your writing genre?

Mostly by accident.  When my kids were young, they loved to be read to, and so I found myself thoroughly immersed in children’s literature.  All that exposure to picture books reignited my lifelong but at-that-time dormant interest in writing.

What life experiences have inspired your work?

My kids, certainly!  Many of my ideas grow out of funny things they’ve done or said.  I’m also inspired, in all things, by the encouragement of my parents.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!

How do you know when a book is finished?

I never really know, but I rely on my gut feeling (deep down, I usually know if something needs more work) and, more importantly, on my critique group and their feedback.  My fellow writers never steer me wrong!

What are the biggest challenges you have had in the realm of your art?

Probably the same as anyone else in a creative field:  periodic bouts of insecurity and self-doubt.  They’re part of the topography of creativity.  That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to meet and travel with other creatives:  it’s easier to navigate the terrain with help.

What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have compared to people who are not creative?

I think of creativity as a commitment to noticing.  Paying attention to what you see, feel, and hear allows you to experience and express yourself in a unique and integrative way.  We all have the capacity for creativity.  It’s part of human nature.  We’re not fully ourselves until we find some way to tap into it.

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

Pesky expectations, they sure do get in the way!  It’s impossible not to let expectations form in your mind, unbidden.  The key is not to let them take over.  I’ve found it’s better if I acknowledge them to myself, instead of pretending I don’t have them.  After that, they shrink away a bit, and it’s easier to be open to whatever actually happens.  Then comes the best stuff – the unexpected!

Do you do anything special to get your creative juices flowing?

A walk, especially a walk in the woods, does wonders.  A bit of chocolate never hurts, either.

What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?

Write for yourself, first and foremost; and write the things that absorb you fully.  If you do that, with a commitment to and a belief in what you are doing, ultimately you will discover your true voice and your best writing.  So stand tall creatively and tell your stories!  We all need them.

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