February marks the Year of the Tiger according to the Chinese calendar. Tradition promises that 2010 will be a year of action and change. One author who embodies all of the positive Tiger characteristics is Debbie Gonzales. Between writing books, maintaining her creative website and organizing events with the Austin chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators), Debbie is always in motion. Recently I visited with Debbie about inspiration, discipline and the craft of writing.
Where did you grow up?
As a child I transferred all over the United States with my father’s business. I’ve lived in California, Arkansas, Texas, Colorado, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. But I proudly call Texas my home! I was born in El Paso and have spent most of my years in the Dallas area. I love the Lone Star State. There’s no place like it.
What is a normal “writing” workday like for you?
Here is where I struggle. Because I am working hard to build a new career as a freelance writer, most of my time is spent working on projects for my beloved clients. I craft teacher guides, design curriculum, teach creative writing workshops, annotate lessons with state academic standards, and work on web copy. I also have several other academic projects in the queue. All that to say, I have to be ultra-determined to chisel out time for my creative work. So, a normal day, you ask? It’s up at 5:00 for an hour of creative work. And then, from 8:30 until 4:00 it is all about my business. After spending some evening time with my sweet hubby, I might sneak back to my desk and crawl back into my fiction for a few hours before calling it a great day.
Where do you get your inspiration?
From my well over 35 years of working with children. I have had the privilege of working with kids from ages 2 to 20; troubled kids, rich kids, poor kids, funny, silly, and sad kids. I’ve been able to experience the drama of life while sided up, shoulder top shoulder with the finest people on this Earth…kids! Most of what I have written about has been pulled directly from an experience or observation I have had with a child. I truly consider myself to be blessed with such riches.
Who are your favorite writers and why?
When I first began this journey, my favorite authors were those that I felt moved children, especially kids that were reluctant to read (What a joy it is to witness a child’s first delight in reading independently!) Jerry Spinelli can get a kid to read. So can Louis Sachar, Lois Lowry, Mildred D. Taylor, and Marion Dane Bauer, to name a just a few.
Of late, because I have the honor of getting to know some the finest writers in the nation, I have come to love not only the amazing work of a number of contemporary authors, but appreciate their personal demeanor, as well. I am truly grateful for the incredible selflessness of so many talented and successful writers who play a huge role in the success of countless fledging authors. Off the top of my head, to list some of my current favorites Kathi Appelt, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, Stephanie Green, Nancy Bo Flood, Liz Garton-Scanlon, Uma Krishnaswami, Rita-Williams Garcia, Deb Wiles, John Dufrense, and Jane Kurtz come to mind at this moment.
Tell us about your books and what you are working on.
In addition to the Gilt Edge Early readers, I have two completed middle grade novels that I am quite serious about publishing, ALIEN ALL-STAR and BEAR MOUNTIAN.
Both novels have had a wee bit of buzz, and after yet another rewrite, maybe they’ll find a home with a nice publisher. I won’t stop working on them until they do.
Describe your website. (It’s so cool!)
“Simple Saturday” is a direct result of my years, and years, and years of working with kids. The premise is to weekly present a variety of inexpensive, simple, yet entertaining activities for families to enjoy together. That’s it. In addition to books reviews, and posting teacher activity guides, I include all kinds of things to do…magic tricks, art and science activities, anything and everything…simple pastimes intended to bring families together for some low cost fun. The way it works is that on Friday I post the materials needed to make Saturday’s activity. A step-by-step, tongue-in-cheek, description of the activity is posted early on Saturday morning, complete with goofy pictorial shots of my husband demonstrating some of the steps. Honestly, the response to my blog has been astounding! Truly, I post on Saturday morning and just watch the page view counter soar. Wow! I am having fun with the website, and it seems lots of other folks are enjoying it, as well. Come by and see me at http://www.debbiegonzales.com and join in the simple-and-sometimes-very-silly fun!
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Find a community of writers. Surround yourself with people who are serious about the craft. Let me repeat…serious about the craft. Craft, first. Publishing second. Work on your skills. Hone them while keeping your eye on the prize. Also, actively participate in the larger community of writers. Volunteer to help with your local SCBWI group. Establish a critique group. Become involved in whatever ways your schedule will allow you to do. Stay positive and always move forward. When you do, I believe that is when the good stuff happens. Keep writing. Don’t stop. Support others, and they will happily support you.
In February I will be assuming the role as Regional Advisor for the Austin SCBWI Chapter. We already have so many great events planned for 2010. I’d like to encourage your readers to check out our website at http://www.austinscbwi.com to keep abreast of the great things happening in Austin, Texas. Y’all come join us! We’d love to see you.
Are you a author or illustrator with a recently published book? Any questions or comments? Please contact Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog Book Addict at http://melissaburon.livejournal.com.
This interview also appeared in the Houston Banner newspaper.