This week I have the pleasure of interviewing children’s book author, Debi Novotny. Debi and I have visited schools together as guest authors and shared a booth at the Tucson Festival of Books that is held every year in March. She’s so much fun to hang out with.
Debi has published three children’s picture books and visits schools to present the lessons found in her Magic Hat books. Because of her enthusiasm and knowledge, every school looks forward to having her visit. She is ready to roll out a fourth book in August about hearts.
Now, let’s learn some more about Debi in her own words.
Wallace and Ladmo Show
Barb: Tell us a little bit about yourself and include a tidbit of information not many people know about you.
Debi: I’ve made Arizona my home for most of my life. As a child, my day started with the Wallace and Ladmo Show. Every day I would see kids my age sitting on stage, talking to Wallace and Ladmo and having so much fun! I wanted to be on the show so badly that I wrote a joke on a piece of paper and asked my parents to mail it to the Wallace and Ladmo Show. My joke won them over, and I was invited to be on stage at one of my favorite TV shows. My dream of winning a Ladmo Bag came true!
P.S. I remember being thrilled to see a Twinkie in my bag!
The Magic Hat Series
Barb: You’ve published two books about a Magic Hat: My Magic Hat Rules and My Magic Hat Goes to School. Tell us something about these books and how you were inspired to write them.
Debi: I created The Magic Hat series while I was a kindergarten and first grade teacher. One of my favorite things to do as a teacher was to create lessons around my favorite books. Author studies, theater, poetry, math, art, science . . . there’s a book for EVERYTHING! One day I decided to write my own books, and have a magic hat that would WOW the kids while learning to read at the same time! Each book has four lessons for beginning readers. We even use a magic hat to pull words from while practicing reading and spelling! The stories follow a rhyming pattern that is easy to remember, and the illustrations are bright and fun! Thea Shaeffer, an amazingly talented ceramic tile artist, created every unique illustration on tiles!
Barb: You do a lot of school visits. Tell us about your typical school visit.
Debi: I really enjoy doing school visits because I have the opportunity to be in a classroom or library where I feel very at home. Sometimes I teach phonics lessons while wearing a magic hat, and my puppet named Rhyming Rabbit helps engage the kids. We pull words from the magic hat, read them and write them on a white board. When reading the couch book, I bring a couch (puppy size) so we can act out the story by digging under the cushions and finding toys! When visiting the older kids, we talk about what it’s like to be an author. I start off by telling the kids “You don’t need to have all the answers before you start something new!” I certainly didn’t have all of the answers when I became an author, and I’m still learning new things every day. So many kids want to be writers, and they have such amazing ideas. I love their curiosity and energy!
What Do You Do When the Couch Eats Your Shoe
Barb: You recently published another book, What Do You Do When the Couch Eats Your Shoe. What inspired you to write this book?
Debi: I had so much fun writing this book! The idea came to me one day when one of my first grade students informed me that he was very upset because the couch at his house had squished his favorite toy. I thought how original and funny this was, a perfect story that kids (and adults!) could relate to. Picture books need a brilliant illustrator to make stories come alive, and that’s what I found in Wendy Hill. Wendy laughed out loud the minute she read my manuscript, and I knew she was a perfect match!
Where Do Hearts Grow?
Barb: You’re getting ready to publish a fourth book. Tell us about that one.
Debi: My fourth book is called Where Do Hearts Grow? The idea for this book started with a photograph taken of a heart shape I found on a pine tree while on vacation in Prescott. A few months later while making a fruit salad for my friend’s bridal shower, I found a heart shape inside the watermelon! I started noticing hearts everywhere . . . on cactus pads, on trees, in the clouds . . . they just kept popping up in unexpected places, and I was ready with my camera! I put all of the pictures together and made the book into a “guess where this heart grew?” kind of a book. My friends sent me their heart pictures also, and it became a book made with love!
Barb: Do you have any advice for someone who is starting out as a new author?
Debi: Write what YOU like to write about, not what you think everybody else wants you to write about. Read stacks and stacks of books in all genres to develop your own unique writing style. Connect with a community of other writers, and learn a few marketing strategies to get you and your book out there!
Barb: Tell us what you are working on now.
Debi: I am currently working on a few different manuscripts both on track to become picture books that relate to problems kids encounter while growing up. Both story lines teach an important lifeskill that will guide kids and help them become problem solvers.
Barb: That sounds so exciting, I can’t wait to see your new books. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I admire your enthusiasm and love of teaching.
Follow Debi on all her social media sites:
Books on Sale
Well, I don’t have any magic hat books, but all my books about birds are pretty magical, and they are all on sale for $9.99 each if you buy them from my website.