CAROL GORDON EKSTER: I met Erin Dealey on a Zoom Nerdcamp panel and was impressed with her professionalism, books, and interest in reaching out to others for her blog. I knew I wanted to interview her on Writers’ Rumpus and introduce you all to this talented #kidlit author.

Hi, Erin! You are one of the few people, besides me, who mentions in your website that you never really wanted to write. Can you explain about your journey into writing?

ERIN DEALEY: Thanks for having me on Writers’ Rumpus, Carol.

I was a math kid who thought writing had to be perfect. For fun, I made up jokes and puns, and wrote parodies of my favorite songs and tiny notes to friends (on gum wrappers!). But none of that felt like writing. In 6th grade, I got to read to the kindergarten once a week. My favorite assignment was when our teacher asked us to write our autobiographies, and I wrote a biography, as told by my shadow. I guess I’ve always thought outside the box. Lucky for me, the teacher thought it was clever.  

For my senior English elective in high school, when my friends took Creative Writing, I took a Theater class. I entered university as a math major, and the turning point came when my counselor asked why I was taking so many English classes. (They were a lot more fun than Calculus!) Long story short, I graduated with a English and Art and got my teaching credential. But writing? Not me.

If you don’t count my angsty journals and poetry, my writing started when I needed plays and skits for my high school theater students to perform. One, “The Christmas Wrap Rap,” was published in PLAYS Magazine. Years later, a parody I wrote for our high school’s Winter Assembly became DECK THE WALLS, my first picture book with Sleeping Bear, Illustrated by Nick Ward. Fun full-circle fact: I was also teaching Creative Writing to high school seniors, and we played with words every day.

The biggest writing ah-ah came as I read endless bedtime stories to our daughter. When my eyes were too tired to read, we turned off the lights and made up our own. Somewhere along the way, I realized picture books are a lot like theater.

Fast forward–through many messy drafts and false-starts. I seriously had no idea what I was doing, but it was fun. I wrote GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKEN POX and sent queries to two editors I’d found in Writer’s Market who accepted manuscripts in rhyme.

Soon after I got my first rejection! Four months later, I got a call from an associate editor named Caitlyn Dlouhy, (now Vice President & Publisher of Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, Simon & Schuster). That was 25 years ago. I am so eternally grateful to Caitlyn for pulling my manuscript out of the slush pile!   

Erin and Caitlyn and slush pile!

CGE: Your newest book, THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK, illustrated by Germán Blanco, comes out later this month. Can you tell us the story behind that story?  

The inspiration for THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK came from a Vice Principal at the elementary school where our daughter teaches 2nd grade. The VP told her I should write a book about half birthdays because there weren’t any. Just out of curiosity, I checked. The most recent half birthday books I could find were the Berenstain Bears and Max & Ruby by Rosemary Wells, a leveled reader, so I got to work.  (Thanks, Mr. Douty!)

CGE: What draws you to writing in rhyme?

ED: I blame all the jokes and parodies I wrote as a kid, plus the scansion I learned from teaching theater and studying Shakespeare in college. If you got through my lengthy answer to Question 1, you can see that all those paths have merged to become my world as a children’s author. I am so very grateful. As for my picture books, I don’t set out to write in rhyme. Some stories just pop into my head that way, and I go from there.

Lately, I’ve been playing with a combination of rhyme and prose. In my book DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 , Harper Collins, Illustrated by Luisa Uribe, Earth writes in rhyme and the kids in Room 5 stray a bit from perfect rhyme when Bernard takes over, and also in the postscripts.  

In PETER EASTER FROG, Caitlyn Dlouhy Books /S&S, Illustrated by G. Brian Karas, which is a parody of Peter Cottontail, the rhyme is interrupted with speech bubbles.

I love experimenting this way. But always, always—learn the “rules” first before you try to break them.   

CGE: You have a blog where you highlight other authors. What inspired you to take that on?

ED: I was a sporadic blogger for years, until Quarantine, when so many #kidlit friends and colleagues had to cancel book launches and school visits. That’s when I realized the blog could be a way to celebrate and help spread the word about their wonderful stories. The big children’s book awards and reviewers are great, but so many more titles deserve recognition. And I absolutely love getting to know such talented authors and illustrators.  

CGE: Do you only write picture books?

ED: I’ve written several MG and YA manuscripts, all of which probably add up to another degree by now—haha. My agent is getting ready to submit an MG novel very soon. (Fingers crossed!) I also started writing screenplays during Quarantine, after months of watching RomComs & Hallmark movies, my antidote to the news. I’m happy to say that those projects are moving forward as well. In addition, I’ve found myself drawn to writing picture book biographies. And there’s that chapter book manuscript in a pile on my desk…  

CGE: Tell us about your process and writing schedule.

ED: My process varies from project to project, but some things stay the same:

I start with a very messy draft, longhand, in my idea book. To me this is my sketchbook. NOTHING is perfect. There are many scribbles. I tell kids at school visits Writing is NEVER wrong. Writing is the raw material we play with and, just like clay, it can be messy. Writing is a Language ART.

In the next steps of the process, I focus on turning writing into reading. That’s when I use my tools to revise and polish—just like a potter would. When I have a pretty solid draft, I share it with my critique group or Beta reader friends, and then revise some more. Rinse and repeat until it feels ready to send to my awesome agent, Deborah Warren at East/West Literary.  

CGE: Tell us about some ups and downs of your life as an author.

ED: The UPS: Playing with words—and seeing some of them become books! Motivating young readers and writers at school visits and on zooms. Meeting and learning from amazing #kidlit creators, editors, teachers, and librarians. I love our “village.”

The hardest part: WAITING. This is an ongoing learning curve for me, but I get that it’s part of the process. We are all those kids who turn in an assignment and instantly want to know: “What’d I get?” The key is to send the best version of your story (so far), and then trust. Remember that editors, agents, critique partners, Beta readers ALL have busy lives. We’re not the only kids in the family who want attention. Focus on how very lucky we are to be doing this crazy #kidlit thing to begin with. And go write something else while you’re waiting.

CGE: What does the future hold for Erin Dealey?

ED: Thanks for asking! And thanks again for having me on Writers’ Rumpus. I’m excited that THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK will release on April 25th. I can’t wait for everyone to meet the half-Birthday buddies, Big, Best, Blinger, and Bright. Let the celebrations begin!

On July 15th look for CHRISTMAS AHOY! Sleeping Bear, Illustrated by Kayla Stark, a counting book about a lighted holiday boat parade, with a different kind of boat on each spread, and possibly a missing Santa. (Oh no!) I’ve seen the illustrations and they’re so much fun!

After that, there’s a hasn’t-been-announced picture book coming in 2024 with Sleeping Bear, as well as more happy book news to come!

CGE: Thank you, Erin! It has been a delight to find out about your writing life and beautiful books.

If we want more, we can connect with Erin here:

Twitter @ErinDealey

Insta: erindealey

Pinterest Erin Dealey

FB Erin Dealey

Plus there’s more at Dealey/Links

And you can find lots of  #BookBirthday interviews on the blog

as well as extensions for her books at


  1. Your books sound like such fun. I love the puns and wordplay! I’m adding them all to my TBR list. Look forward to your upcoming titles as well. Congrats, and thanks for sharing your journey with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! And congrats on your MAKE MORE SMORES! (Yum!) Fun fact: Bernard & his dad are making smores in one of the illustrations of DEAR EARTH…FROM YOUR FRIENDS IN ROOM 5. : )

      Liked by 2 people

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