This is the second half of our interview with Erin Dealey, in which she describes the importance of writing children's books, her own struggles with the process, and her unexpected path to the written word. If you missed part one of the interview, you can find it here.
What does writing children’s books mean to you?
Children's books create such a special read-aloud connection between parent (or grandparent) and child, or teacher/librarian and young readers. Children's books connect kids with words and imagination--and open our eyes to lives and cultures beyond our own. Experiences like these create lifelong readers and foster a better understanding of ourselves and others around us. I am so very honored to be a tiny part of this magic.
I know you mentioned in your bio that most writing didn’t come easy when you were younger, and that you began college with a major in math. What was that process like, moving from struggling with writing in your younger years to graduating with a degree in English?
When I was a kid, I loved making up puns and jokes and rewriting my favorite song lyrics, but I never thought that was "writing." I always thought of writing as a serious subject--like English. And I never ever thought I'd be an author. (Neither did my teachers. Check out my 6th grade journals if you want proof...) Math seemed easier because when I got a problem wrong, there was usually a formula to follow to fix it. Not so with writing. I didn't know how to turn off the critic in my head and actually get the words out first--then fix the mechanics later. I didn't know about Sloppy Copies. In high school, while my friends contributed to our high school literary magazine, I escaped to the Theater elective. It turns out that picture books are a lot like theater. And these days, I look at writing as playing with words—exactly what I loved when I was a kid.
What do you think are the biggest hurdles you face, as a writer in general or as a writer for children specifically or both?
The biggest challenge for me is waiting. Ha--maybe it's payback from when I was a teacher, and my students would turn in their assignments and immediately ask, "What'd I get?" Granted, we are all very busy people--just like teachers--and a s my mother used to say, "Good things take time." When I'm waiting to get feedback from an editor, or waiting to see the illustrations for a new picture book, I try to focus on another work in progress or immerse myself in school visits. So, yeah, waiting is the biggest hurdle, but you can't leap over it. You have to trust that everyone is doing their job and oftentimes they have to wait too. And oh my goodness, the wait for Babies Come From Airports was so worth it.