What inspired you to write your first picture book?
My dog Andy inspired my first book, “Don’t Lick the Dog." Andy was afraid of children and puppies. We worked on both issues (separately, of course ;-). I wanted to do a book on dog language, but it turned into a how to meet dogs safely primer. Good dog manners help everyone, kids, adults – and dogs.
Which came first – the idea for illustrations or the text?
The art came first, but none of it was used in the book. I’d done some dog art samples to send out in hopes of getting illustration work. Editors thought I had a manuscript. So then… I made manuscript.
Who encouraged you in writing that book?
Joe, my husband, was a lifesaver with “Don’t Lick the Dog,” as was my wonderful editor, animal lover, Laura Godwin. I had never written a picture book, so I was hugely grateful for their support.
Are you active in any critique groups?
I’m in a fantastic critique group now, The Whatsits, (https://www.facebook.com/5Whatsits/). I mostly lean on them. And my friend, children’s book writer, Erica Silverman.
What motivates you to keep writing?
I keep a “Do Not Despair” folder. It holds notes of encouragement or good news. A talented writer friend, I greatly respect once wrote this to me: "One thing I admire about you is how you stick to it, as discouraged as you get, as broke, as intimidated, you get back onto the horse.
Once I went to a writer's conference where they had a sort of inspirational singer/songwriter perform during the lunch hour. She sang a song that has never left me: "What would I do if I were brave today." I have asked myself this so, so often and more than a few times, I have thought, “be more like Wendy.”
When I’m absolutely devastated and think about quitting, I’ll go do something else. Eventually, the little stab wounds heal over enough to get back to work. When and if they ever don’t, then I’ll quit. But I’m pretty resilient.
What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing?
In writing, that you’ll never get to the cool surprises that happen unless you sit down and write.
What frustrates you the most?
In publishing, how very quickly your book can become invisible if: A. The critics don’t get what you’re doing and they crush it beneath their hobnailed boots; B. Your book doesn't get support from your publisher for whatever reasons; C. The country falls into a freaking recession or depression, right when your book is releasing.
What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
I wish I had taken criticism better during works in progress. Your agent, editor or art director wants your work to be the very best it can be. They’re not trying to hurt you, they’re trying to help. Yea, it may hurt. Too.
What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?
“They’re just words.” I tended to hold back until just the right words and thoughts took shape in my mind. Not be so tight and precious about them. Just let ‘em rip and see where it goes.
Are there any other points about writing that you would like to add?
I keep a post-it note near my computer that says, “Not now.” That’s my response to the supercritical inner editor who tells me I can’t do this, I’m no good, an imposter, crummy. You know all those lovely messages that pour in when your work is stumbling along.
What is the next book that will be coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
“Nanny Paws” releases May 22nd. Super excited about it! Kirkus gave it a great review. Here’s a shortened version…
"Move over, Clifford the Big Red Dog and Good Dog, Carl: Nanny Paws knows exactly what to do for the kids in her care! Ally and Mae, elementary-age twins, need never worry about who will wash their faces, clear the table, or walk them to school. Nanny Paws has it all under control.
But while the narrator tells the story from the perspective of this energetic pink poodle, the illustrations deliver quite another story... In every instance, this pampered pooch has a hilariously overinflated sense of her helpfulness… A delightful tale for dog lovers with less-than-perfect pooches.”
Sounds like a fun read. If you would like to learn more about Wendy’s writings, here are some links to get you started.
If you’re more of a visual person, here are links to a couple of her book trailers.