I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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The Writing Process Blog Tour

May 19, 2014

NittyGritty_angled_smMy friend author–and SCBWI RA pal, Susan Uhlig tagged me to jump on the

Writing Process Blog Tour

so welcome to my two cents about this crazy-wonderful business.

You can read what Susan had to say about her process HERE. As for me…

What am I working on?

Like many authors, I’m working on several projects at once. My husband would like you to know my desk is always a disaster. I prefer the term, sea of creative chaos.

Currently afloat are:

  •  Notes, clippings, photos, books, and notes of my notes (Go ahead say it–I’m a compulsive over-achiever…) for a non-fiction biography project that clamped its jaws on me and won’t let go. Have I ever written anything like this before? Nope. Do I love it? YES!!!!!
  •  Five different versions of a picture book that popped into my head while working on the above project. This happens to me a lot. Whenever I work on a longer manuscript, picture book manuscripts tug at my sleeve until I give them a bit of attention. (“Me, me, me!!!!!” they cry.) Why five different versions? A wonderful editor has expressed interest but suggested a few revisions before it–possibly, maybe–HOPEFULLY–gets brought to acquisitions. (EVERYONE PLEASE CROSS YOUR FINGERS AND TOES NOW. Thank you.)  Do I mind making revisions even though the manuscript may not (but possibly, maybe–HOPEFULLY–will…) make the cut? HECK NO. This is part of our job as writers. Seriously, if an editor is interested, why wouldn’t you follow up on suggestions? BE SOMEONE EDITORS WANT TO WORK WITH, my friends.
  •  A YA manuscript that I spent four months revising–after a few very glowing rejections (those are GOOD things!).  Right now I’m letting the body heat go out of it, and waiting. (Note: Waiting is not my strong suit, believe me. Again–it’s part of the job) I’ll re-read it next week and by then I should have received the responses and suggestions from a few fantastically generous Beta reader pals who are reading it now. (THAT THING ABOUT CROSSING YOUR FINGERS? YES, PLEASE.)
  •   I’m also working through my stack of To Be Read novels and picture books. Happily, so. Isn’t it great that reading is also part of the job?
  • LAST BUT NOT LEAST, I have a stack of delightful letters from kids, pictures they’ve drawn for me: (Have I mentioned that I LOVE school visits?) photo(113)

Is this the best job ever or what????

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Can anyone tell me what this means?  I’ve been told I think “outside of the box” so maybe that’s it. My brain does work in quirky ways but my students used to rationalize it with, “Oh, she’s the drama teacher…” As an author, I’d like to think my work is different because it’s my work. Like fingerprints or snowflakes. No one else truly has your voice–or hears your character’s voice like you do. You could give a pride of writers the same theme or topic and every one of us would write something different.

(Yes, I used the plural, “pride.” We are writers, Here us roar!)

Why do I write what I do?

This is my brain. This is my brain on words.

Ideas pop in and I honor them. See where they go. Sometimes they go nowhere. ***See my youtube Rough (Ruff) Drafts if you need proof:  

Rough (Ruff) Drafts by Max the Writer Dog >Click to view<

Rough (Ruff) Drafts by Max the Writer Dog

Other times, they become books and I get to share them at school visits and Skype visits and marvel as they take on lives of their own. That thing about the BEST JOB EVER? Oh, I’m very lucky, indeed.

How does my writing process work?

I believe the technical term is “Pantser.”

As mentioned above, I honor the muse. If you watched Max’ video above, you know I also honor the SLOPPY COPY.

I try to get the story out first and see where it goes. Sometimes it ends up an entirely different story than I initially thought it would be. I don’t outline. For longer works–if it’s going somewhere–other than the recycle bin–I make sure it has a beginning, middle , and end BEFORE I pull it apart and map it out. Or go crazy with post-it notes on a particle board. (Start from the bottom and go up as the tension and or stakes raise. I’m a visual person so this helps to remind me.)

Color coded by act.  Yes, I'm a drama teacher.

Color coded by act.
Yes, I’m a drama teacher.

My favorite book on craft at this point is SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder, “the last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need.” Works for books too.

For picture books, sometimes I dummy out the story to see if I have enough to support the illustrations. (No, I don’t illustrate my own books. Or I haven’t yet–despite my minor in Art. The editor will match you with an illustrator.) My PB manuscripts weigh in at about 300 words or so. I remember when my new-reader was little and I dreaded the text-heavy picture books–especially at bed time! I want readers to read my books over and over again. I look for hooks at the end of scenes that will make readers want to turn the pages. I make sure every word counts.

Once the above is done, I share the manuscript with several of my writer pals, the aforementioned fantastically generous Beta reader pals.

I was part of a writing group–with awesome authors–for many years, and it taught me to make my writing life a priority. The English teacher in me would take over, however, and I found I was spending more time on my friends’ writing than I was on my own. I made the tough decision to step away.

Three writer pals I’d like you to meet:  


Natasha and I are members of SCBWI CA North/Central and if you haven’t joined your region yet CLICK HERE AND BEGIN YOUR WRITING JOURNEY. Now we see each other at book signings and conferences, but I’m pretty sure SCBWI was the initial connection. Natasha is the author of four picture books: Otto’s Rainy Day (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000); Cixi, The Dragon Empress (Goosebottom Books, 2011); Sacajawea of the Shoshone (Goosebottom Books, 2012), and Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2014).
Goldy Luck
Natasha has also written for “Highlight for Children”, “Faces” and “Appleseeds”. She is currently working on a middle grade novel. To learn about her writing process, check in on her blog next Monday, May 26th: www.natashayim.blogspot.com and follow @NatashaYim  on Twitter.


Linda Joy SingletonLinda Joy is one of the aforementioned awesome authors from my Writing Group. She is also a member of SCBWI CA North Central, and after publishing over 35 middle grade novels and YA’s, her very first picture book SNOW DOG, SAND DOG , came out this year with Albert Whitman.

Snow dog coverShe’s passionate about dogs (and cats) and got the idea for SNOW DOG, SAND DOG  from a photograph of a friend building a snow dog as a child.

She lives in Northern CA on acreage with a menagerie of pets, loves to walk in nature, and has an audience of two orange cats and a white dog when she writes. Her website is full of free stories, writing tips, photographs and more, and to check out what she has to say about her writing process, see her blog next Monday, May 26th:  http://lindajoysingleton.blogspot.com/ and follow  on Twitter.


Heidi and I met when she was a student in my theater classes at SUGARLOAF FINE ARTS CAMP.  I am proud to say I was once her “Drama Mama” and now we are writer pals on Twitter. Heidi is the author of the contemporary YA, SEA (Putnam) and her Witch’s Brew: Spellspinners 1 launched The Spellspinners of Melas County series. The Gleaning: Spellspinners #2 followed and Devil’s Frost: Spellspinners #3 launched last January with seven more books to come in this serialized saga of estranged witches and warlocks, set in a modern, but fantastical world.

Devil'sFrost1875x2500Heidi lives in Northern California with her husband and two very creative kids. She also contributes short stories and essays to teen lit anthologies such as Truth & Dare, The First Time, A Visitor’s Guide to Mystic Falls, and Two & Twenty Dark Tales, and feeds her ravenous appetite for unputdownable books, addicting TV dramas and Thin Mints.

To see what her Writing Process is all about, check her blog next Monday, May 26th: http://heidirkling.com/blog/ and follow  on Twitter.

OH–and if you’re still reading this, don’t forget to thank a teacher tomorrow–on Twitter, on your blog, in person, by snail mail. #TATues or #ThankATeacherTuesday is every Tuesday in May (and November)–because teachers deserve much more than a banner or cupcakes in the faculty room. Who inspired you? Challenged you to do your personal best? Believed in your dreams?



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