I'm the author of more than a dozen children’s picture books (and growing) and repped by East/West Literary. I'm a Language Arts/ theater teacher with decades of classroom experience and head the theater department of Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp AKA Drama Mama. As a member of the Area3WP, I have led writing workshops for teachers and students of all ages. I'm also the former RA for SCBWI CA North/Central, and have presented at SCBWI, reading associations, school library associations, and the PK1 Conference.
Not in a million years. Neither did my teachers.
I grew up in Oakland, California, on a zoom-perfect hill for bikes and skateboards–except for the stop sign at the bottom.
In sixth grade, my teacher decided I should go down the hall to the Kindergarten once a week and read to the class. This might have been because I was a good reader. Most likely it’s because I was already done with the assignment and he wanted me out of there. Or possibly because, in my family, you had to be loud to be heard.
In seventh grade, I got to be a book club helper, the first person to open the box of NEW BOOKS and deliver them to classmates. The smell of new books is almost better than chocolate. But writing books never crossed my mind.
Don’t believe me? Here’s proof.
Exhibit A: An excerpt from one of my junior high English journals:
It’s the same thing today and I don’t know what to write. The end!
Exhibit B: In high school, our 10th grade English teacher showed us a photo of snowy Mt. Kilimanjaro as a prompt for an assignment on alliteration. I wrote something deep and meaningful like, Bleak bits of blustery snow which sticks in my brain to this day, only because my friends laughed so hard when I read it aloud.
Exhibit C: Senior year, when my friends took Creative Writing, I opted for Drama. This led to roles such as the High Priestess in the back-to-school welcome assembly [My cue: Oh High Priestess, oh High Priestess! My line: Oh, Hi yourself!], a nit wit in The Nit Wits, and Alice in a dance production of Alice in Wonderland, mainly because I had the hair…
Correct. Writing was painful to me. Unless you count writing notes to my friends; making up puns and jokes; copying the lyrics to my favorite songs so I could sing along.
Math was my favorite subject. I got A’s in Math. You could check your answers in the back of the book. And if you got the problem wrong, there was a formula to fix it. Not so with writing.
But guess what? I started college as a math major, French minor, and graduated four years later with a degree in English and Art.
Nope. Besides teaching high school and middle school (You can’t scare me!), I was a lifeguard, a maid at Yosemite National Park, book store manager, I lasted one day on the assembly line at the Dole Pineapple Factory on Oahu, Hawaii, and I was an actor / director. I’m sure you’ve seen me in commercials and movies where I waited for my big break with roles like:
MOURNER: Look for me at Charlie Parker’s funeral in the Clint Eastwood film, Bird, starring Forest Whitaker. (Think Where’s Waldo? I’m the blond in the crowd of beautiful brown faces.)
GIRL AT TRAIN STATION (a pivotal role): I sold the injured bad guy, played by Costas Mandylar, a one-way ticket out of town in the film Crosscut.
Fun fact: Did you know I also write plays and screenplays?
I live in California with my husband and yes, that’s our very long driveway full of rough drafts in the YouTube video, ROUGH (Ruff) DRAFTS, starring Max, one of our beloved Golden Retrievers. Max loved words as much as I do. Charlie would rather have eaten the book.
The answer to this question is here. You do the math. 😉 My first published piece was in Plays Magazine: “The Christmas Wrap Rap.” (And you thought my rapping career began with The Writer’s Rap!)
As a high school theater teacher, I wrote scripts for our assemblies because I couldn’t find any good skits for 35+ kids…. One day I picked up a cheesy YA novel one of my drama students had left on stage and thought, I can do that.
As it turns out, children’s books are a lot like theater. My background in theater allows me to create strong characters and I can hear the dialog in my head. The idea for my first picture book, Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox popped into my head while I was writing the YA.
The “Don’t tell Mom!” part of my second picture book, Little Bo Peep Can’t Get to Sleep, is autobiographical. Ask my sister.
Talk About a Great Invention was written as part of a reading series. And yes, my name is spelled incorrectly on the cover…
I love words. I can’t believe I get to share my crazy ideas with readers like you.
No. I never specifically try to write a book in rhyme. Maybe the rhymes come from writing down all those lyrics. Or from my gig as part of a Children’s theater troupe, where we performed a lot of rhymed material—from Seuss and Prelutsky to Silverstein and Shakespeare. In my middle grade novel, currently being shopped around, poems help Iris make sense of her life, but her poems don’t rhyme. In DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5, parts of the book rhyme, and then Bernard –Well, you’ll have to read it and find out.
I get this question a lot at school visits. But you know what? There is NO one way to write. (I say this as an English teacher AND author.) However, the way to get started is to write–one word at a time. Turn off the “editor” in your head. Forget about trying to be perfect. Don’t worry about the mistakes until you get your ideas out. Think of writing as a Language ART. This makes YOU an artist.
Not knowing is OK. Artists make tons of sketches before they start to paint. Potters start with a lump of clay (like your rough draft) and then use their tools to turn it into a vase. Sometimes they smash it down and start over. Authors do that too.
I hope this helps you write your Author Report. Also–you should probably get started. Believe me, I know you’d rather be outside riding your bike or playing tetherball. (I was you.) You’ve got this!
Tetherball, four-square, hopscotch, dodgeball
Tennis, skiing, kayaking
Climbing a tree, on top of our garage, Yosemite
Italy, France, Yosemite, HOME
Mom’s chocolate chip cookies, root beer, anything but Tuna Noodle Casserole!
Fajitas and guacamole, any kind of pasta, pizza, chocolate chip cookies
The Bobbsey Twins, Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare, and comic books!
Sharon Creech, Rick Riorden, Ernesto Cisneros, Jen Longo, Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins), Locomotion (Jacqueline Woodson)
“Erin Dealey is an author who knows how to make her book presentations come alive! She involves children and parents in the storytelling and uses a variety of fun props, sound effects, and teaching techniques to make an entertaining and educational presentation.”
Kathy Fleming, Executive Director
Fairytale Town, Sacramento, CA
“Dear Erin, I have gotten soooooooooooooooooo much great feedback about your splendid performances–from teachers and kids! They really got your message about how THEY can be writers! Thank you! Thank You! My principal, Christy Vail, will be emailing you a rave “review”! I would love to have you next year to do a writing workshop with our fifth graders in conjunction with their WRITERS WORKSHOP”
Cary Kelly, Librarian
Sacramento Country Day School
“I wanted to thank you for a wonderful day at Williamson. The assemblies were a great start to the day…students were interested and motivated and enjoyed your sense of humor. I heard from the other teachers that the writing workshops were just as wonderful. The sessions were age appropriate and very motivating as well as enjoyable for the students. I heard that many students were asking for extra time for writing or writing homework….Miracles of miracles.”
Susanna Verplancken, Teacher
Reading is Fundamental Chairperson, Williamson Elementary
“The kids and staff are still buzzing about the assemblies yesterday. Erin Dealey was a HUGE hit! The bar has been set VERY high for any authors that visit us in the future! One of my 3rd grade teachers said she feels a lot of assemblies are a waste teaching time since they often are not tied in to curriculum, but she LOVED yours! She had been trying to illustrate to the kids how important it is to be animated when you give a presentation. She said that after watching you, her kids ‘got it!'”
Leona Johnson, Librarian
Joseph Sims Elementary (K-6), Elk Grove, CA
“Erin Dealey is a gifted presenter and teacher. She motivated our Students by sharing her knowledge and experience with appropriate humor and genuine concern for their developing skills. At one point, I looked over the entire audience of 4th and 5th graders and saw every child completely absorbed in her presentation. Every child had a smile on his or her face!”
Bruce McVicker, Teacher
Cottage Hill Elementary School, Grass Valley, CA
“Before heading to the assembly this morning, I prepped my class that this was an author visiting us to talk with all of us about what an author’s life is like. She’s probably not a performer, I know you’ll enjoy it and learn from it and I expect you to be the great audience members I know you can be. When we returned to class after our assembly, the class said to me, “You were so wrong! She was GREAT!” And she truly was. Erin had the attention of the whole 4th and 5th grade classes throughout and they were sorry to have to leave.”
Susie Patterson, Teacher
Cottage Hill Elementary School, Grass Valley, CA
“Hi Erin, Well, I am still hearing many kind and enthusiastic words about your visit here with us at Citrus Heights . Seriously, the kids want you back as soon as the next books come out! The teachers and parents just can’t say enough! I hope the day was a good one for you as well.”
Julie Korb, Media Tech
Citrus Heights Elementary School