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The Building Blocks Of Erin Dealey

This month, we'll be highlighting the Donors from Our Rate Your Story *Build-A-Story* Contest (August 1 - 31st). Each will share a little bit about themselves and the building blocks of their career, tell you about their latest project and leave YOU a building block to help build your stories! Be sure to check them out! AND don't forget to enter our contest (more info here) to be eligible for prizes!


I am the author of 16 + children’s books (so far - including my most recent book, THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK - illustrated by German Blanco), blogger, screenwriter, and the “Drama Mama” at Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp, where I head the Theater Dept. each summer. A credentialed English/theater teacher and former SCBWI Co-RA, I often wear my “editor hat” as an assistant to Deborah Warren at East West Literary Agency, and for manuscript critiques as a conference presenter. Find me –and my blog--at and follow me on Twitter @ErinDealey & Insta @ErinDealey. (I follow back!)


I never thought I’d be a writer someday—and I have my 6th grade journal to prove it! As a high school theater teacher, I started writing skits and plays for my students to perform. My first published play was "The Christmas Wrap Rap" in Plays magazine. One day I picked up a YA novel left behind by a drama student and thought, I could do this. I always told my students to follow their dreams, so I took my own advice. I was writing that YA—or trying--when GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKEN POX (Illus. Hanako Wakiyama/ Atheneum) popped into my head. To my surprise it was like writing a skit or play, a story to be performed (or read) aloud and keep "audiences" coming back for more. I was hooked.

My two newest books were inspired by real-life events. I wrote CHRISTMAS AHOY! (Sleeping Bear Press / Illus. Kayla Stark, which releases this summer so booksellers will have it on the shelves for the holidays.) during the pandemic when our family’s favorite holiday boat parade was cancelled. I wanted to send the relatives a picture book about a lighted boat parade and discovered there wasn’t one. Not a ONE. Zero. Zilch. Crazy, right?

In the same way, the idea for THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK (Genius Cat Books/ illustrated by Germán Blanco, which released in April.) came from a Vice Principal at the school where my daughter was teaching. Elementary teachers often celebrate the 1/2 Birthdays of students with summer birthdays, and those born on the big holidays. The VP had searched for a book about half birthdays and couldn’t find one, so he told my daughter I should write one. Please note, my usual answer to “You should write a book about…” is: “What if YOU write that one?” But this time I decided to check, and he was right. The most recent books I could find on half birthdays were the Berenstain Bears, and a Max & Ruby (Rosemary Wells) leveled reader! The teacher & parent in me wanted this book to be a party in a book, with easy, fun DIY activities for all.


My experience as a drama teacher has helped me with my writing. As I said before, picture books--even longer works---are theater. You need to engage your audience from the start, make sure they come back at intermission, and give them something to chew on after the curtain falls. Actors learn to create a character's back story and experiment with voice and physicality. As an actor, playwright, and screenwriter, I love words. I also love Author assemblies. Give me a microphone and a multi-purpose room full of kids (or even a ZOOM-ful) and I'm in heaven.



Whether you’re querying agents, or submitting to editors, the thing to remember is: It only takes one YES. Just like in theater or film—you don’t always get cast. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the talent. It means you weren’t the right fit for their vision –or (with agents & editors) their list. Waiting is so very hard. I know. But you want someone who is head-over-heels in love with your work because that person will be your advocate from beginning to end. Those who, kindly (Let’s think positively here!), said NO THANKS, would not have been the WRITE match for your work. Don’t give up. It only takes one YES.


If I told you what the “current” #kidlit trends are, by the time people read this the trends will have changed. And with children’s books, which typically take two years to go from signed contract to publication, trends will have changed many times over. Write from your heart, my friends. Aren’t those the stories you love to read?

ERIN'S PRIZE: Erin has been kind enough to offer a Winner’s Choice: Picture Book Manuscript Critique or 1 of 2 books: Christmas Ahoy or the Half Birthday Book

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