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Three Questions With Katy Duffield: Advice For Young Writers, Persistence and LOUD LULA

Katy Duffield is the author of twenty books for children including the picture books FARMER MCPEEPERS AND HIS MISSING MILK COWS (illus Steve Gray Rising Moon), LOUD LULA (illus Mike Boldt, Two Lions) and the forthcoming ALIENS GET THE SNIFFLES, TOO (illus K.G. Campbell, Candlewick).

Also see Three Questions with LOUD LULA’s illustrator, Mike Boldt on Inkygirl.

You can find Katy at and on Twitter at @KatyDuffield.

LOUD LULA synopsis (launches from Two Lions on Oct. 27, 2015):

In this southern-flavored tall tale, little ol’ Lula’s big ol’ voice wreaks ten kinds of havoc from the day she’s born, and that doesn’t change one smidgen when Lula starts kindergarten. As you might imagine, Lula’s oversized voice isn’t a great fit for the classroom—or maybe it is…

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

I’ve had this papier-mâché rocking horse for close to thirty years. I don’t know what about it caught my eye when I purchased it for a whopping six bucks. Maybe it was simply its whimsy or maybe it was because I’ve always been an animal lover and a kid at heart.

And I don’t know why I’ve held onto it for all of these years. Maybe it’s because I owned and showed quarter horses or maybe it’s because I can still see my son as a baby sitting astride it. Lately, though, since I recently lost my mom, it’s taken on another meaning.

I bought the rocking horse at a shop that Mom and I often visited. Looking at the horse now reminds me of our frequent, fervent shopping trips. I see Mom and I roaming up and down the store aisles, pointing out this adorable purse or that sparkly candlestick. I see us sniffing new scents at the perfume counter and dodging raindrops, heading back to the car before a storm hits. I see us sitting across from one another, sharing stories, sharing laughs over Crab Rangoon and Cashew Chicken. When I look at the rocking horse now, I’m transported back to that time; I see my mom. I see the good times we shared.

If I wasn’t sure before, I’m now convinced that my bargain rocking horse is worth a whole lot more to me than the six dollars I paid for it. It’s amazing the memories a “knick-knack” like Rocky can evoke. I think I’ll keep him—maybe even another thirty years or so.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

Sometimes it’s hard to know what happens next in a story. Sometimes the stories in our heads don’t match up with the stories we get down on paper. Or we get THE GREATEST IDEA EVER, but we can’t come up with the perfect ending. And you know what happens then… FRUUUUSSSTRATION!!

When these frustrations hit, the easiest thing to do is wad up your story and throw it in the trash. All you have to do is hit the delete key or rip that paper to shreds and frustration fizzles. But my advice to you is—hang tight to all of your stories—even the ones you think are awful—even the unfinished ones—because you never know where they might take you…

My latest picture book, LOUD LULA, illustrated by Mike Boldt, is a great argument for not throwing away ANY writing. I first began working on LULA (the main character’s name was originally Hazel) in 2004. 2004! I’d written probably three-fourths of the manuscript at that time, but I could never come up with a strong, funny ending. I fiddled with it off and on for a while, but then, since nothing I did was working (I was FRUSTRATED!), I put it away and moved on to other projects.

Then one day, SEVEN YEARS later, I was going through some old documents on my computer, and I ran across Hazel/Lula’s story. As I read it through, I giggled. I thought, you know, this isn’t half bad. In fact, it’s kind of cute. BUT…it still didn’t have an ending. I pulled it out anyway and started working on it again.

I’d love to tell you that the perfect ending came to me instantly, that I sent it out, and that it was immediately snapped up by a publisher, but that didn’t happen. I STILL had to work and search and struggle for that just-right ending. But that’s okay—I eventually found it. And now I’m celebrating the publication of a new picture book—all because I didn’t throw away the original story.

And speaking of writing tips, I hope you’ll look for a new feature on my Twitter feed (and website)—#tips4youngwriters—Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, I tweet a new writing tip that I hope will inspire kid writers to take their own writing journey. I hope you’ll join me!

Q. What are you excited about right now?

As a first-time grandmother, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear that I’m excited about my beautiful granddaughter, Amelia. And I am, of course, but what I’m also really excited about is Amelia’s immense love for books. I have never seen a 15-month old so obsessed with books. As long as you’ll read to her, she’ll bring you another and another and another book off of her overstuffed bookcase. And the extra-special part is that it won’t do for her to sit beside you or in front of you while you read. No reading can take place until she’s properly situated in your lap. Thanks, Debbie for indulging me as I include a photo of Amelia surrounded by some of her books. ☺

For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.