Welcome to The Storyteller's Scroll, Debra.
1. Can you tell us your latest news?
I’m so excited! Victoria Marble’s and my book, THE MEMORY JAR, has a pub date—April 11! I can’t wait to share my story and Victoria’s amazing illustrations with the world.
2. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
There is no way I could choose one writer as my mentor. Thanks to social media, I’ve been able to connect with so many children authors. Also, the SCBWI-Illinois Chapter encourages their networks to have guest authors on zoom, and it’s given me a chance to meet some extremely talented authors. My Springfield, Illinois area network has hosted Carolyn Crimi, Michelle Schaub, NaShanta Fletcher, and Lori Degman. And I can’t forget the wonderful members of my writers’ group. They have all helped me with their critiques, and my writing improved because of them.
3. What was your first published title and what was it about?
My first published picture book title was an e-book on the MeeGenius website. CALAMITY CAT was about a cat that caused mischief. The cat spilled laundry detergent on the clean clothes, knocked over a glass of milk, and wrecked the bathroom when its owner tried to give it a bath. Mother said, “Calamity has to go!” but changed her mind after hearing her daughter talk to her cat. It was a ton of fun to write and the illustrator, Lucy Mara, did a wonderful job show
ing all the messes Calamity made. Houghton Milton Harcourt took over MeeGenius and my book was with them a couple of years before they closed the website. Sadly, this book is no longer available.
4. What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve loved writing since I was young and was always jotting down stories and poems. When I became an aunt, I started writing children’s stories about leprechauns, fairies and unicorns for my nieces and nephews. My first children’s book was about twelve fairies who went on a quest to find the true meaning of Christmas. It’s never been published.
5. How long did your journey take to publication and what were some significant events along the way for this book?
I wrote THE MEMORY JAR in 2018. When I shared it with my critique group, they helped me find a better ending. After a year of revising, I started querying. I didn’t yet have an agent, so I sent it to 18 agents and 7 publishers. Clarissa Willis, the editor of Young Dragons Press, saw its potential, and in April 2021, I signed a contract for this book and two others. And then Covid happened. I believe my book might have been published sooner if Covid hadn’t slowed the process. Two years after signing the contract, my book’s release date is almost here! This book’s journey took five years.
6. Who/what were your sources of inspiration? How did it/ he/she/they help you the most?
THE MEMORY JAR, is about dementia. My Aunt Luella had Alzheimer’s and I cared for her in my home the last three years of her life. She was four months shy of her 96th birthday when she passed away. I missed my aunt so much. Writing this story helped me heal from her loss. She was the inspiration for my story, and I dedicated the book to her memory.
7. What was the best thing about getting this book published?
I’m excited to share this book with families who have members suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. From my own experience, I know how difficult it can be watching as the memories of the person one loves fade away. My aunt didn’t know me or her family. I remember feeling helpless and scared, and thought how much worse it must be for my aunt. I hope my story will help children who have family suffering from memory loss. I hope it opens up a dialogue between parents and their children so they can express what they are feeling.
8. What was the hardest thing?
The hardest thing was the waiting. It takes time for a publisher to find the right illustrator, and then it takes time for the illustrator to work their magic. Luckily for me, my publisher chose Victoria Marble. I love how she shows the memories in sepia, and real life in color. This is a multigenerational story, with Amelia, her mother, and her grandmother. But then Victoria also had to show the grandmother as a child, as a wife and mother, and as a grandmother. She had to show Amelia’s mother as a child. These different stages in life could have been difficult to project, but Victoria did it flawlessly. Now that the book is complete, I can honestly say, the wait was worth it.
9. What is it about?
Amelia's grammy has dementia. She’s forgotten the special events and people in her life, even Amelia. To jog Grammy’s memories, Amelia writes in a notebook all the stories Grammy told her over the years. She cuts out each story and places the papers in a jar. She hopes when Grammy reads the notes from the jar, she’ll remember the events, and perhaps remember her.
10. What are your other current projects?
My agent, Dawn Dowdle, of Blue Ridge Literary Agency, is sending out two of my middle grade novels, VOTE FOR MAX, and NORTHWOODS SUMMER. She is also querying three of my picture books. One is a girl detective series. The first in this series of seven is THE CASE OF THE MISSING STAMP. The other two picture books are COWS CAN’T BE CLOWNS, and A MAGICAL DAY WITH GRANDMA.
I have a contract with Young Dragons Press for two more picture books, GRANDPA’S BARN, and A HEART OF STONE.
On file, I have several more picture book and young adult manuscripts, and am presently working on a picture book about kindness. I also have an outline for a middle grade novel about camp. I had typed the first twelve pages, but they were lost when my computer’s hard drive went out. I need to start on this story again, but haven’t yet found my mojo.
12. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope they have a chance to read THE MEMORY JAR and that it makes them laugh and cry. I wrote this story and still tear up towards the end when I read it. Maybe my story will be the incentive for them to start their own memory jar. Also, I hope if they read the book, they post a review on Amazon.com and GoodReads.com
13. Bit of wisdom to share:
Enjoy life. Make memories. Let your family and friends know how much they mean to you. Tell them you love them.
Now for some writerly advice. Write from the heart. Never give up!
14. And for fun, something that not a lot of people know about you.
When my nieces and nephews were young, at Christmastime I’d play the recording of Christmas in Killarney, and we’d all dance a jig. None of us knew how to jig, but it didn’t matter. We had fun. We created a memory. Perhaps I should put that story in my memory jar.
Book sale links: Can pre-order now. Pub date--April 11, 2023.
Twitter - https://twitter.com/dmddeb or @dmddeb
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/DebraDaughertyauthor/
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7579797.Debra_Daugherty
Debra Daugherty https://mighty-kidlit.mn.co/
Thank you for visiting The Storyteller's Scroll, Debra.
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