It’s my treat to welcome children’s book author and illustrator Deb Pilutti. Deb and I recently traveled to and from the SCBWI fall conference on Mackinac Island. The many miles spent on Michigan highways gave me a chance to get to know Deb better. She’s a peach. (Well, not literally. But that would make her literary abilities all the more extraordinary, now wouldn’t it?) I know you’re going to enjoy getting to know her as much as I did. And so, my Frog on a Dime friends, meet my friend Deb Pilutti . . .
So, Deb, when did you know you wanted to become a children’s writer?
Let’s just say I was a little dense, so it took me awhile. The signs were there. When I was younger, I loved reading more than anything. A blank book was my most prized possession. I once had Leo Lionni as a design instructor in a college workshop and I was giddy to meet him because Little Blue and Little Yellow was one of my favorite books as a child. But still, I never saw writing and illustrating for children as an option. It wasn’t until I realized I was hoarding my own children’s books, and not sharing that it was something I wanted to do.
What is it about writing for children that appeals to you versus writing for adults?
What’s the most encouraging thing anyone has ever said to you related to your work?
Early on, I submitted a manuscript to an editor. She said it wasn’t right for her, but that she liked the illustrations and thought that I was a good writer and invited me to submit to her again. I was not very confident about my writing at that point, so it was exactly what needed to hear.
What advice would you give to someone who has been pursuing publication for a long time, with close calls, but no contracts?
Of course, I would say to keep trying. The fact that the person has come close means that they are on the right track. But I would also recommend doing something a little different to push yourself even more. It could be devoting more time to writing, or attend a conference or workshop or online class. A few years ago, this was the case for me. I decided to spend more time writing, which meant turning down some freelance opportunities. I also spent a couple of weekends at a writing retreat with some friends.
What would you like to share about your NEW book–details! details!
Ten Rules of Being a Superhero is published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt is a story about the day in the life of a Lava Boy and his superhero toy, Captain Magma.
Lava Boy is making up the rules as he and Captain Magma go along – always in the spirit of superhero play. The rules are about being super from a child’s perspective, as in “Rule No. 2: Saving the Day is messy. But everyone understands,” or “Rule No. 5: Sometimes, Superheroes make a lot of noise.” At times, the action on the page is at odds with the rule.
I had so much fun making this book! And plenty of practice too, as I have spent an incredible amount of hours (A LOT) discussing the merits of various superhero powers with my children over the years. I particularly liked painting the spreads with Lava Boy’s toys in various states of distress. I am drawn to awkward, retro toys.
And for the super-super serious portion of our interview—let’s say your moral compass went missing. What make/model of car would you steal and why?
An old Ford pick up truck from the early 60s. And while my moral compass is missing, I’d nab a really great pair of vintage cowboy boots to go with it.
Good answer! Let’s try another one–on the assumption we could find a phone booth somewhere (a museum perhaps), who is the children’s author or illustrator you’d most like to be trapped inside with?
Maira Kalman. First of all, she seems like an incredibly interesting person and I would love to chat with her. She finds beauty and poignancy in the absurd, and I think she would find it in the phone booth. Plus, I would hope we would laugh a lot.
Feeling brave? How about naming three things we’d be surprised to learn about you.
I can only think of odd things – oh well. I talk to myself a lot. I have a collection of Star Trek figurines on my desk and I have an irrational aversion to using a salad fork.
Hey, I didn’t know you were a Trekkie. Thank you so much for stopping by, Deb. Best wishes to you on your super new book!
Want to WIN YOUR VERY OWN COPY of Ten Rules of Being of Superhero?
Between now and Noon on Friday, October 24, leave a comment and answer this question–Who is your superhero?
Deb Pilutti feels lucky to have a job where reading, playing with toys and watching cartoons is considered “research”. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband,two kids and one nervous border collie. Deb has worked as a graphic designer and illustrator, creating toys and products for children and is the author and illustrator of TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO (Ottaviano/Holt) and BEAR AND SQUIRREL ARE FRIENDS (Simon & Schuster), which will be published in 2015. Additionally, she illustrated THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN MICHIGAN and wrote THE CITY KID AND THE SUBURB KID (both with Sterling).
And now, in honor of our special guest, and in keeping with my quote-closing tradition, we’ll close with one of Deb’s favorite quotes . . .
Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. ~ Pablo Picasso