Friday, February 4, 2011

HIGH FIVE #4: D is for Debut Picture Book Author and Kristy Dempsey

Kristy Dempsey, author of Me With You 
Me With You, illustrated by Christopher Denise

Please welcome Kristy Dempsey to this month's HIGH FIVE interview! Her story is fabulous and encouraging.

Me With You (Philomel, May 2009) celebrates the kinds of relationships that allow us to be completely ourselves and the special bond that exists between grandparent and grandchild.
Question ONE: How has reading picture books to your children made you a better parent?

There is a certain amount of magic that occurs between reader and child, from the moment a child climbs into, or beside, a reader’s lap, and the two begin to share a book. That emotional connection (reader and book, child and book, reader and child) is what fosters a lifelong love of reading. Early positive experiences with books lead to happy readers later. Reading is one of the easiest ways I know of to connect with your children. 
Of course, I also think I’ve emotionally rehearsed new ideas and situations through reading for myself, which has also made me a better parent.

Question TWO: What are three of your favorite picture books (because we all know you have way more than three)?

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse 
By Kevin Henkes
Mud is Cake by Pam Munoz Ryan
Coming On Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson

Question THREE: How did you come up with the idea for your debut book? And what was your road to publication like? How many revisions did your manuscript undergo, if you kept count? Did you have an agent? How many publishers did you submit to before getting an acceptance letter?

In 2005, I attended the Highlights Foundation Writer’s Conference at Chautauqua and met Patricia Gauch. She invited me to send her a manuscript and I took cues from other books she had edited to discover what style she might be interested in. Among the many books she has edited, there were a few sweet relationship oriented books. I had always loved I LIKE YOU by Sandol Stoddard Warburg and wanted to try my hand at writing a book that would celebrate the kind of relationship that allows you to be completely yourself.  I finished the first draft fairly quickly – in a few hours – but spent the next several weeks having it critiqued by writing friends, then revising it. I sent it to Patti about a month after I’d written it. Then I didn’t get a response for a year and a half! By the time Patti and her colleague, Tamra Tuller, let me know they were interested, I had an agent and had just sold my first book (MINI RACER which will release February 15, 2011; the first manuscript to sell, but ultimately my 2nd book). ME WITH YOU was submitted to a couple other publishers also and one of them sent a letter two years after I had submitted to let me know she was interested in acquiring it! It was nice to be able to say, “ME WITH YOU has already sold but would you be interested in seeing something else?”

Question FOUR: How might teachers use your book in the classroom? 

The amazing Cassandra Riegel Whetstone has created a wonderful teacher’s guide for ME WITH YOU.

Question FIVE: What are some writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication? 

My advice is simple. 
1.     READ, READ, READ. Read as many books as possible in the genre in which you hope to write. 
2.     Find some good friends who also read widely and who will tell you what works for them and what doesn’t in your writing.
3.     Listen to your heart. Sometimes, after you’ve received advice from everyone you know about your latest manuscript, you’ve made the changes that felt true and left the rest to stew, THEN you just follow your heart. Even if it bucks trends. Even if it’s what’s not selling right now. Even if there is another book on the same premise. IF YOU believe in/are touched by/giggle out loud when you read your manuscript, then there just might be something there that all the naysayers can’t see yet. Every manuscript I’ve ever sold had a few strikes against it on the surface. (It rhymes. It’s a picture book. It’s QUIET!) Keep submitting. Be open to revise it again and again and again. Keep believing. And sometimes the magic finds you!

Mini Racer (Bloomsbury, Feb. 15, 2011), illustrated by Bridget Strevens-Marzo
Mini Racer is a race in rhyme through town and country, with twelve different animals in customized vehicles vying for the win. See if you can guess which will be the unlikely winner!
Thank you so much for joining us today and giving hope to all the budding picture book writers out there. Be sure to visit past interviews that you may have missed and join us next month on Saturday, March 5th for the next spotlight on HIGH FIVE!


  1. Great post! Isn't Patti Gauch the best! I met her at Chautauqua in 2008....

  2. Thanks so much for interviewing me, Christie! Can you believe I forgot to send you a link to the *just* released book trailer for MINI RACER?

    Also if you dig around, there's a book trailer for ME WITH YOU:

    And finally, I'm part of a book newsletter that goes out every two months to parents, teachers and librarians (along with a few other book lovers). For more info, check out past issues of The 4:00 Book Hook at:

    and subscribe by sending an email to It's a treasure trove of information, latest books and activities related to books.

  3. Wonderful interview.

    I'm so happy to have discovered this blog through Kristy. Great stuff. :)

  4. Mrs. Dempsey, (not sure you'll see this, but maybe)
    I also write rhyming pb's, and I was wondering how you submitted your rhyming pb. Did you send it in to Book Stop Agency looking like a poem-in rhyming stanzas? Or double spaced text in story form? Just curious.

    Also, I loved your advice on rhyming pb's. Your site is a rare find for aspiring pb authors who write in rhyme. There are so few articles on rhyme. Articles by Dori Chaconas and Tiffany Strelitz have been the only ones I've found to date(with solid advice).

    Another great interview. How are you finding all of these wonderful authors? I need tips.


  5. Tammi, So glad you're happy to be here.

    Jessica, Mostly through PiBoIdMo and PBLitChat, but also through reading books and a couple from other contacts. Stay tuned; I have a lot more great authors joining us in the months to come!

  6. Lovely interview! Thanks, Kristy and Christie!

  7. Kristin, Welcome aboard! Glad you enjoyed it. Hope to see around from time to time.


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