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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Happy #BookBirthday DON’T WASH WINSTON + 5 Qs with author/illustrator Ashley Belote

March 26, 2024

We’re chatting with author/ illustrator Ashley Belote on the blog today

to celebrate the #BookBirthday of her latest picture book,


(Feiwel and Friends).

About the creator:

Ashley Belote studied traditional animation under the direction of Don Bluth, and earned her BA from Alderson Broaddus University, and her MA in Arts Administration from the University of Kentucky. Her graduate study included a children’s literature and illustration course through Simmons College. Ashley lives and works in North Carolina where she creates artwork that she hopes brings lots of laughs to others. She also serves as the regional illustrator coordinator for the Carolinas chapter of SCBWI.

Let’s ask some Questions!

Q 1. Happy #BookBirthday, Ashley! Did you have a favorite stuffy when you were little?

Ashley Belote: Yes! I have had the same teddy bear since I was a little kid.

Any guesses what his name is? …it’s…


I have taken him everywhere including overnight cross-country meets, college, cruise ships, and more! I always put him in my suitcase and love having the comfort of home.

Q 2. So am I correct in guessing your Winston was the inspiration for this fun book?

Ashley Belote: True story! DON’T WASH WINSTON was inspired by a personal experience I had with my beloved teddy bear, Winston.

One year during college, I took a trip home with a friend of mine and he held my bear with his stuff during the trip. After I got home, my bear smelled like a dude! My mom suggested I wash him in the washing machine (the bear, not my friend haha). My response to this blasphemous idea was…WHAT?!? No way.

I was terrified that something would happen to him during the process, so he did not get washed. He did get wiped down with some fabric softener sheets. But I am happy to report that he returned to normal.

Ashley and Winston

ED note: This is also Ashley’s author photo that appears in the back of the book!

AB: I kept this experience with me while I was studying picture book illustration in graduate school. The title, Don’t Wash Winston, came to mind one night when sketching in my tiny attic room of the house I shared with three roommates.

This idea took over 10 years to become a book, so this concept has grown and evolved with me as I have grown and evolved as an artist and writer. It’s been an extremely loyal concept, so I’m thrilled it has finally turned into a book.

ED note: We are too, Ashley!

Creative Process

Q 3. Since you are the author/illustrator, which came first—the story or the sketches? Winston or Liam?

Ashley Belote: I write and illustrate simultaneously! I’m a visual person, so I need to see things to learn and understand them. Writing is the same way.

I need to see the character I’m writing about to craft a narrative. So, I will typically sketch the characters and then write about them, then sketch some more, and then write some more, and so on. I’ll often draw a character doing something and think of other situations I could put them into that would be fun to illustrate.

These little spot illustrations sometimes inspire and drive my entire narrative. In this case, I came up with Liam first and then Winston. I wanted to make my bear character stand out, so the best way I could think of was to make him a giant bear! Plus, I always wanted a huge stuffed animal, so I am living vicariously through Liam in that respect 😊 

Interior illustration from DON’T WASH WINSTON,
written and Illustrated by Ashley Belote (Feiwel & Friends)

Q 4. What was your biggest challenge or biggest surprise in creating DON’T WASH WINSTON?

Ashley Belote: The biggest challenge (and there is ALWAYS a fun challenge) was engineering ways Liam would try to conceal his bear. There are several instances when Liam attempts to hide Winston to keep him safe from the washing machine. I had to figure out different ways this kid would hide his bear.


These things needed to seem believable(ish) and use average household objects/kid-friendly things. My favorite one is where Liam makes a catapult out of a chair and a shovel and flings Winston across the room onto the top of a birdcage! HA! It was so much fun.

Figuring out the problems that pop up along the way is probably my favorite part of illustrating a book. We are like problem solvers, engineers, and detectives all rolled into one!

Interior illustration from DON’T WASH WINSTON,
written and Illustrated by Ashley Belote (Feiwel & Friends)

What’s next?

Q 5. What’s next for you? Anything you can share?

Ashley Belote: Yes! 2024 is going to be have a super exciting year, including another book releasing this summer called SHEEPWRECKED! It’s about pirate sheep who get stranded on a desert island. I can’t wait to get into all the sheepish fun!

SHEEPWRECKED by Ashley Belote (Random House BFYR) –coming July 2024

In addition, I have several book signings and school visits scheduled, and I’m always open for more opportunities like that to pop up.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog. In the words of my dear Captain Hoof from SHEEPWRECKED… Baa-Hoy, mateys!

To learn more about Ashley Belote

Check out her website: ashleybelote.com

And follow her on social media:

Instagram @ashleybeloteillustration

FB @ashleybeloteillustration

TwitterX @AshleyBelote1

Next on the blog:

We’re celebrating the launch of Natasha Tripplett’s JUNETEENTH IS on April 9th! 

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