I’m very pleased to host my good friend and author, Kristy Dempsey. At the picture book workshop I recently attended, her editor (Tamar Brazis at Abrams) and illustrator (Henry Cole) used Kristy’s SURFER CHICK as the model picture book. They even applauded (and showed) the book trailer she made! It was all I could do not to wave wildly and say, “I know her! She’s my friend!” So, I’m going to share this lovely author and her book with you:
Can you tell us how SURFER CHICK came to be published?
SURFER CHICK began as a story about a baby who goes out surfing by herself. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Clearly, this was not a good idea. There were parts of the story that I liked though so I brainstormed ways to rescue it and realized that if I changed the baby to a chick, I could bring in chicken humor along with the fun surf lingo. Even then, this manuscript ended up being revised 16 times. Rhyme can be painful!
The second part of SURFER CHICK’s journey to publication is that this manuscript originally sold to one publisher and then there was some restructuring of the company and the editor who bought it was let go. SURFER CHICK was supposed to follow with the editor to the new publishing company but it just didn’t pan out. Due to loopholes, the advance I had been paid had to be returned. It was a mess. And of course, I was sad. But through it all, I really believed in my little chick and I knew she would find the right home. I share this part of Chick’s story because I want to be honest about how difficult publishing can be. I held no ill will against the original publisher or the editor involved. These things happen sometimes. And as it turns out, I couldn’t be happier. SURFER CHICK sold to Abrams Books for Young Readers and I get to work with the genius editor Tamar Brazis. Henry Cole agreed to illustrate and the final product is better than I could have dreamed. See? These things have a way of working themselves out. Better than I could have ever imagined.
What’s an important “nugget” that you’d like readers to take away from your book?
Well, first and foremost, I hope it’s a fun read that makes them want to read more and more and more fun books. But I am also secretly proud of Chick’s resolve to face her fears and her choice to be brave when the waves seem like they’re about to destroy her. It’s my little metaphor for life stuck in the middle of a kid’s book. “Choose to be brave!”
When do you write?
I work full-time as a teacher and librarian at an international school here in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. I am also a wife, the mother of 3 children and I am involved in the college ministry my husband works for here. Between work and homework and meals and communication with my family and friends, I write in the cracks and crevices of life. Once or twice a year I try to take an extended stretch of time (a week or so) to write longer works. Then about 6 months to a year later, I can make time to revise them! This means I am slower than most other writers I know. But it is my reality right now.
Where do you write?
I write on my MacBook Pro and in a small journal I carry with me, either while sitting on my bed or hidden during my lunch break sitting on a small piece of carpet in one of the Resource rooms at my school. I try very hard not to lie down or it’s likely I will fall asleep!
How do your ideas come to you?
Ideas come to me through wordplay or in the voice of a character. Sometimes an idea for a clever title will have me trying to create a story that fits. But most often it is just through playing with words. I consider myself a poet first and foremost and I love to play with words.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing professionally since 2004. But I’ve been writing since middle school. Somewhere in South Carolina in some long lost literary journal that was published when I was in 7th grade is a really spooky poem about a haunted house. I’m convinced it was some of my best work to date. ☺
Do you have a favorite quote or bumper sticker?
I am very fond of a quote from The Little Prince :
“One sees clearly only with the heart.
Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”
~ Chapter XXI, Le Petit Prince
My faith is a very important aspect of my life, both spiritually and emotionally. I love this quote for what it communicates about both aspects of my life and often, my lack of understanding in both areas.
What’s an embarrassing story about yourself that you don’t mind telling?
Perhaps I have no embarrassing stories, or maybe I am just unwilling to tell them; you will have to decide for yourself. The most embarrassing things about me are that I cannot dance, I am a terrible soccer player (and this is a true embarrassment considering I live in Brazil) and I once wrote a story about a groundhog that wanted to play golf. Not exactly my most marketable moment.
What are you working on now?
I am always working on picture books, currently a pair of picture books about brother and a sister, one of whom longs to be a superhero and the other of whom is quite sure she is a ninja. I also finished a second revision of a middle-grade novel a few months ago and plan to revise that once again during my break from work in July.
Tea or coffee? Flavor? Milk or sugar?
All over the board. Coffee first thing in the morning with milk and sweetener. Sometimes coffee again later. Sometimes orange tea with cloves. Sometimes plain, sometimes with sugar. Sometimes Earl Grey with milk.
Definitely Autumn in the Southern United States. It makes my heart hurt that I miss it so much.
Deciduous or evergreen?
Deciduous. It is the one thing I miss the most from America, besides family. The leaves change color in the Fall! Oh, the beauty breaks my heart.
What’s always in your fridge?
Cream cheese and cold water.
Favorite comfort food?
Macaroni and cheese.
Chocolate or some lesser nectar of the gods?
Chocolate. Anything “lesser” is not worth it.
Food you’d rather starve than eat.
Cat or dog?
Flats or heels?
Heels. High ones. ☺
Jeans or fancier?
Mostly jeans, with a fancy night out thrown in every couple of months.
Short hair or long?
Medium. I had short short hair until I was married and then I started growing it out.
Favorite board, card, or computer game?
No, no, no! Please don’t make me play board games, or card games, or computer games. But if I must, Balderdash and Solitaire, with a little Scrabble thrown in.
Favorite sport or form of exercise?
Love Pilates, with some sit-ups and push-ups to push myself.
Language in which you’d most like to be fluent.
Now that I am fluent in Portuguese and English, I would love to be fluent in French or Italian too.
Country you’d most like to visit.
Italy. Italy. Italy.
Who gives you spiritual guidance and inspiration?
Above all, my husband. He keeps me grounded and reminds me of the most important things in life. But to expand my list (and some of these people might not even like each other!): Tim Keller, Anne Lamott, Phillip Yancey, Madeleine L’Engle, Donald Miller and Paul David Tripp.
Thank you, Kristy!! Here’s a link to Kristy’s blog so you can keep up with her. It’s totally rad, dude.