An interview with author Blanche Dudley
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How did you get into writing, and what inspired you to write about bullying?
I started writing stories when I was about five or six years old. When I would finish a book, I didn’t want the story to end, so I would try to continue the action with my own pencil and paper. I wanted to write about bullying because I don’t like it when people hurt each other. It makes me sad. I hope my books will remind boys and girls why it’s important to kind to each other and help them find ways to stand up against bullies safely and confidently.
Why did you decide to use a bird with one wing as your main character?
One afternoon I was sitting on my porch watching birds at play. I noticed one bird bullying the others, and I decided to write a story about bird bullies and defending against them. The main character in my Siggy series is actually based on the characteristics of two people that I know and admire. The first is a young boy who never learned to walk or talk but who had the smile of an angel. He would lovingly crawl up to greet visitors in his home and spread his own special joy.
The second person who inspired Siggy’s character was my mother-in-law. “Mom” was severely injured when a car accidentally backed over her when she was six years old. She recovered but was left with only one functioning arm. Despite her handicap, she grew into the most can-do person you could ever meet. She always found a way to do whatever she needed to and never let her special situation stand in her way.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on three more Siggy picture books for younger children and a chapter book for slightly older readers, ages seven to ten. Each Siggy book explores bullying, self-acceptance, or diversity. The chapter book has a very different focus and takes the reader along on a ten-year-old girl ‘s search for her mother. I’m also planning to publish a fun version of my doctoral dissertation for teachers and parents on enhancing self-esteem in middle school students.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
As soon as I learned to read and came to the end of a story that I wanted to go on and on.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It usually takes me about two or three months to finish a first draft. Then I’ll revise off and on for a month or so. I like to write at least a little every day until I’m finished. Some days I write lot, some days a little–but for me, the important thing is getting some words on paper regularly.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I like to write for several hours early in the morning (6 a.m. to 9 a.m.) while my mind is fresh and before the day fills up with other responsibilities.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Sometimes I write in the middle of the night or until the wee hours of the morning. I very seldom plan to write in the middle of the night, but sometimes if I get a good idea late in the evening, I’ll write and write and write and then all of a sudden, I look at the clock, and it’s four a.m.
How do your books get published?
With a lot of hard work and prayer. After all the hard work of planning and writing a manuscript, I pray an editor will like it and want to publish it. If that doesn’t happen, the hard work starts again, as I set out to publish the book myself with the help of some other experts in the business of publishing for children.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Most of my ideas come from watching how people, animals or birds interact with each other. I use my imagination to expand what I see–most of the time giving what I observe a slightly different twist.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I can remember writing what I thought was a book (a story about my dog Brownie on a few sheets of paper) when I was about five or six years old. I published my first real book many years later.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I play tennis, read, and work in my flower garden. I play team tennis, and I have a tennis rating of 3.5. That’s on a scale of 1 to 7–and a rating of 7 means you’re a professional-level player. I guess what that means for me is that I’ll never play at Wimbledon or the US Open, but I’m okay in the local park. As for reading, I enjoy almost everything. I have to admit that I have a special place in my heart for children’s books and stories. I loved them when I was three years old, and many, many years later, I still love them. When I’m not playing tennis or reading, I like growing flowers. I look around my garden and see all the beautiful flowers as nature’s jewels. Instant wealth!
What does your family think of your writing?
They are extremely supportive. In fact, they are so loving and supportive, I know I have to be sure to get a second opinion. But seriously, I’m blessed to get the strong encouragement that I do from my entire family, but especially from my husband, my son, and my daughter-in-law.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I think I was surprised at how real the characters became to me. When I’m working with them, they totally exist for me. I want my readers to feel the same way.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
My first book will be launched in September this year. I’ve written five other manuscripts. Right now, all my books are like my children. As a parent, I don’t have a favorite. I love them all.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Write as often as you can. Read as much as you can. Study good writing as hard as you can. Hang in there past the time you believe you can.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I’m just starting my career as a full-time writer, so I’m just beginning to build a readership and get feedback from my readers. I hope to hear from them often through my blog, email, or in person when I visit various locations for book events.
Do you like to create books for adults?
Yes, but not as much as for children. There’s a magic in childhood and children’s stories that exists only in that realm. I like contributing to the magic.
What do you think makes a good story?
There are a lot of technical or stylistic elements that go into crafting a good story, such as strong, believable characters, an interesting plot, etc., but for me, a good story is one that makes you temporarily forget there’s a world outside the pages you’re reading–and where you want to stay as long as you can and –when pulled away–return as fast as you can.