Debby Waldman's Blog



Q: Which of your books is your favorite?
A: I don’t have a favorite – I like them all for different reasons:

WOW: World’s Outstanding Women Athletes, is a favorite because it was my first book and it was a thrill to write something for Sports Illustrated for Kids Books because I have always been fascinated with athletes. That’s because I was always the last kid picked for everything in gym and on the playground. Some kids react to that by resenting athletes. I reacted by wanting to know how someone could be so good at something that thoroughly eluded me. One of the things I love about being a reporter is that it gives me a chance to ask questions – I call it my ‘license to be nosy.’ Interviewing elite athletes like hockey standout Cammi Granato and basketball stars Lisa Leslie and Chamiqua Holdsclaw reinforced my realization that everyone has different gifts. One of my best friends is an elite athlete and I know she admires my writing ability as much as I admire her physical agility.

Your Child’s Hearing Loss: What Parents Need to Know, is a favorite because it was my own idea. I found a wonderful co-author and wrote a book that allowed me to learn more about hearing loss, and help other parents who were experiencing what my husband and I experienced when our daughter was diagnosed with a permanent hearing loss when she was three years old. My co-author, Jack Roush, and I are revising the book for Plural Publishing. It’s going to be called Your Child’s Hearing Loss: A Parents’ Guide. We’re hoping it will be out in early 2009.

A Sack Full of Feathers is a favorite because I found a folk tale that I really related to and turned it into a story that was fun to write and read. Also, I sold the manuscript all by myself: I didn’t have an agent (I still don’t, though I did have one when I wrote Your Child’s Hearing Loss), so I had to send out the manuscript on my own and hope someone would read it and fall in love with it. It’s a little easier with an agent – the agent usually has a relationship with editors, and can generally get your manuscript read, and read faster. But doing this on my own was very rewarding. (An unplanned bonus was that I don’t have to share the royalty checks.) The book did better than I could have imagined, in large part because Orca, the publisher, did a terrific job promoting it. It’s gotten lots of attention which has been very gratifying. And now Orca is going to publish my next picture book, Clever Rachel, in the fall of 2009. Cindy Revell, who did such beautiful pictures for A Sack Full of Feathers, is already on board to illustrate.

Q: How long did it take to write A Sack Full of Feathers?
A: The short answer is, about five years. But during that time I was also writing lots of articles and working on Your Child’s Hearing Loss. Some writers only focus on one thing at a time, but I like to have lots of projects on the go. That way, if one thing fails, I always have something else to fall back on. Clever Rachel, my next picture book, took much less time.

Q. How long did it take to write Clever Rachel?
A. I had the idea for about a year before I began writing in the fall of 2007. When I sent it to Orca, the response was, “We like the idea, but we think it would work better with some changes.” There was no guarantee of a publishing deal, but I liked the suggestions, so I decided to try again. At the end of March 2008, I went to the Banff Centre, a writing colony in Alberta. For five days I worked almost exclusively on Rachel. Three days into it, I was not happy at all with what I had written. The original folk tale is about a young woman who solves riddles and winds up marrying either a prince or a rich guy — it depends on the version you read. I got rid of the romance but kept the riddles, but I tripped myself up trying to tell a huge unwieldy story. So finally I asked myself, “Why is this girl clever? Why does she like riddles?” Once I answered that question, the story just came to me, and I knew it was the right one. I finished a draft before leaving Banff and kept tinkering with it for the next couple of months. In early June, Orca offered me another contract.

Q: How do you get an agent?
A: There are lots of places on the web to help you find an agent. One of my favorites is Generally you have to have either a finished piece of work or a complete proposal before an agent will consider you. Send a query telling the agent about your project. Don’t go into too much detail – you just want to get the person’s attention. Remember, though, it’s not easy to find an agent if you write picture books – agents tend to want to represent people who are going to earn more money, and picture books don’t generate big advances. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find an agent, but it’s also not impossible to sell a picture book on your own.