Monday, October 5, 2009

Interview #1: Deborah Diesen

The kids have been wanting to try their hand at doing an interview for some time now.  They've practiced on me in a couple of previous posts.  We recently got our first big chance when author Deborah Diesen visited a nearby library.  After the storytime wrapped up and the crowds eventually thinned, she kindly spent some time visiting with us.  The five of us sat in a circle on the big storytime rug and had a great little chat!  We had lots of fun -- Thanks Deborah Diesen!
(Portrait of Mrs. Diesen by Gracie)

Dad:  Alright, before the interview, how about you kids tell our readers a bit about Mrs. Diesen's book "The Pout-Pout Fish"...
Isaac (age 11):  Okay, it is about this fish.
Gracie (age 9):  Mr. Fish.  Hee hee!  I like the name Mr. Fish.
Isaac:  He had a pout.  He is always pouting.
Gracie:  He's "a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face, so he spreads the dreary-wearies all over the place."
Lily (age 6):  He met these guys -- underwater people -- that said, "Stop pouting."
Gracie:  He sees a clam that says, "Stop pouting!"  He sees a jellyfish that says, "Stop pouting!"  He sees a bunch of guys that always say "Stop pouting!  Stop pouting!"  But he can't stop pouting because he's a pout-pout fish.  But then he meets Shimmer.
Lily:  Shimmer is a kiss-kiss fish.
Gracie:  And instead of saying "Stop pouting," she says... nothing... actually.  She just kisses him.  Kissie-kiss!
Isaac:  Then he starts smiling and kissing people.
Lily:  He knew he was a kiss-kiss fish instead.  He was never pouty ever again!  He spread the cheery-cheeries all over the place.
Dad:  Great!  Thanks guys!  And now, we get to talk with the author of this wonderful book, Deborah Diesen!
Deborah Diesen:  First, I really love your blog.  I've looked at it before...
Gracie:  You have?!
Deborah Diesen:  Mm-Hmm.  And my friend Boni loves your blog too!
Dad:  You guys remember who that is -- Gracie, you drew a picture of a dragon eating her.
Deborah Diesen:
  She loved that!  So, do you like doing the blog?
Isaac:  Yeah.
Lily:  I like drawing the pictures.
Dad:  These guys are little artists.
Deborah Diesen:  Writing gets encouraged in kids a lot... but drawing, not so much.  So I love to see kids drawing and doing art.
Gracie:  Our family would be VERY different if we didn't draw as much.  Totally different.
Dad:  As a kid, the worst punishment I ever received was not being allowed to do anything art related for a whole day.  I don't remember what I had done wrong, but I can assure you that whatever it was, I never did it again.  It was torture to be kept from touching a crayon or a pencil all day.
Gracie:  Gasp!  You poor thing.  That's terrible.
Dad:  Alright, let's try an interview!  Who's got a question for Mrs. Diesen?
Isaac:  What is your favorite part about "The Pout-Pout Fish"?
Deborah Diesen:  The thing I like most visually about the book is the cover.  I'm not a very visual person, and to be honest, when I wrote it I didn't know what Mr. Fish looked like.  But when I saw the art that Dan Hanna made, I said, "That's it exactly!"  The cover is so striking, and it tells a little bit of the story with just one picture.  Dan Hanna did a tremendous job with the pictures throughout the book.  But the cover starts to tell you the story.  The story doesn't start on page one.  It starts with whatever part of the book you see first.
Dad:  And guys, look at all the funny stuff happening on the back cover, for when you are done...
Lily:  On the back cover there's a whole bunch of sea creatures behind the pout-pout fish!  On the front it looks like he was alone.  But on the back there's a whole bunch of creatures, and they're even having tea parties.
Isaac:  How would they have a tea party underwater?  Ha ha...  All the tea would just be floating around!
Deborah Diesen:  Dan Hanna has a real sense of whimsy about those details in the illustrations.  There's going to be a sequel to this called "The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark," and he had a lot of fun with the details.
Gracie:  How did you come up with the idea for these books?
Deborah Diesen:  I was making faces with my son because he was in a grouchy mood.  We were just horsing around about looking pouty, exaggerating our pouty faces to each other, and I suddenly realized we looked like fish.  I wrote down the phrase "Pout-Pout Fish" on the back of an envelope.  It was a few days before I started writing the story, but at least I had grabbed the idea.  Because good ideas are like birds.  When you are lucky enough to have one land on your shoulder, you need to write it down immediately -- or it will fly away and land on someone else's shoulder, and they'll write your story instead of you.
Dad:  This book has the catchiest refrain.  We'll be out in public somewhere, and I'll find myself randomly saying out of the blue, "I'm a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face..."  You guys hear me say that all the time, don't you...
Lily:  Yeah...
Gracie:  "I'm a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face, so I spread the dreary-wearies all over the place."
Dad:  Not that I'm pouty at the time.  You've just worked up a very catchy phrase there!  It sticks in your head like music.
Deborah Diesen:  It may come from the fact that I played the clarinet when I was growing up.  I have at least a passing familiarity with musical rhythms.  When I'm writing things I hear them like music.
Gracie:  There's actually a fish called a "pout fish."
Deborah Diesen:  That's right, there is!  I didn't find that out until after I had written my story.  At first I was sad because I thought, "Well, now I can't have this story about a pout-pout fish."  But then I thought -- they are actually entirely different from each other.  I think the real pout fish is an eel.
Gracie:  Their names are different too.  This one is the "Pout-Pout" Fish, and that other one is just the "pout" fish.
Dad:  Interesting!  I had imagined that you stumbled across the pout fish and thought, "Oh, that sounds like a story."  But that's not the case.
Deborah Diesen:  Right, it was the other way around.
Lily:  How did you choose which guys the pout-pout fish would meet?
Deborah Diesen:  After I decided to write about Mr. Fish, those were just the creatures that went through my head when I thought of the ocean.  I probably should have worked a little harder to keep them all in one part of the ocean.  I picked fish and creatures that don't necessarily hang out together.  But Dan did a good job at putting the creatures into their actual environments.  But mostly, those were just the ones I thought of... the clam, the squid, the jellyfish, and... whom have I left out?
Gracie:  The octopus!
Deborah Diesen:  Yep.
Isaac:  Wasn't there a worm in there too?
Deborah Diesen:  Yeah, the ones that aren't named are ones that Dan added.  Dan lives in California so he has some familiarity with the ocean.
Gracie:  What kind of fish is this?  "Shimmer" is a pretty fish.
Deborah Diesen:  She's another made up fish, just like Mr. Fish -- there's no other fish in the ocean that looks like him.  And she's just made up too.  Although, Dan Hanna may have modeled her after something.
Lily:  I have another question...  Did you write any books when you were littler like us?
Deborah Diesen:  Yep!  Right around your age is when I started writing.  You are seven?
Lily:  Six...
Deborah Diesen:  Okay, I was probably a little older than you.  But right around your age I started writing a lot of rhyming poems.
Gracie:  Isaac hates writing poems.
Deborah Diesen:  And that's okay!  You've got to write what you like!
Isaac:  I'm good at it...  it just takes me forever to think of one.  Once a poem just came into my head, and I was very proud of it.
Deborah Diesen:  Do you have a Rhyming Dictionary?
Isaac:  Uhhhhh...
Dad:  I do.  Isaac, I'll get it out for you when we get home.
Deborah Diesen:  That helps get ideas sometimes.  That's how I came up with "kaleidoscope of mope."  I was looking in the "ope's" and thought, "I've never seen 'kaleidoscope' and 'mope' put together - I'll try that."
Isaac:  Dad, is that where you got your rhyming word for Orange?
Dad:  Uh, no.  I did not.  No.
Deborah Diesen:  My rhyming dictionary doesn't have a rhyme for Orange!
Dad:  When I was a kid I knew there was supposed to be no rhyme, but I was determined to prove that wrong.  The closest I managed was "Door Hinge."
Deborah Diesen:  That is petty close!  And I also think it's fine to just make some up.
Dad:  Well now, I have a question...  I wonder if you are a good speller?
Deborah Diesen:  I have to work at it.  I'm not a great speller...
Dad:  So that shouldn't discourage anyone here from writing?
Deborah Diesen:  Not at all.  I have misspellings in some of my drafts and that's okay.  I don't worry about my penmanship when I'm writing my stories, I don't worry about my spelling...  Worrying about those things doesn't come until the second, or third, or sometimes even the fourth draft.
Dad:  Wonderful!  Well, are you guys happy to meet a new author?  To make a new friend?
Kids:  Yeah!
Deborah Diesen:  Well, I was thrilled to meet all of you.  I just love your blog.  I hope you keep doing that.  And I hope you keep writing and drawing and reading lots of books.
Gracie:  We will keep reading books.  You should see how big the bookshelf is in our room!
Deborah Diesen:  Ha ha, I can imagine!
Gracie:  It's like our house is a mini library!  We have books everywhere.
Dad:  Anything else you guys want to say?
Kids:  Thank-you!
Deborah Diesen:  Well, you're welcome.  (shaking hands) Lily, pleased to meet you.  Isaac, pleased to meet you.  Grace, pleased to meet you.  I feel very honored.
Lily:  You forgot my Daddy.
Deborah Diesen:  Oh, pleased to meet you!
Dad:  Ha ha, very nice to meet you too.

the pout-pout fish, by Isaac

shimmer fish about to kiss Mr. Fish, by Lily

shimmer fish, by Gracie

Author: Deborah Diesen
Illustrator: Dan Hanna
Published 2008, Farrar Straus Giroux
Like it?  Find it


Debbie Diesen said...

Lily, Gracie, and Isaac, thank you for interviewing me! You did a great job, and I enjoyed the interview thoroughly.

And what terrific artwork! Gracie, I love the portrait, and your shimmer fish is positively beautiful. Lily, you've wonderfully captured Mr. Fish and Miss Shimmer at a magical moment. Isaac, what great detail and expression - Mr. Fish in all his bluuuubiness! All three of you, with your writing, art, and blog, bring a smile to my face.

Keep up the great work on your terrific blog!

All best,
Debbie Diesen

Kelli @ writing the waves said...

I hopped over here from Deborah Diesen's blog and just wanted to say congrats on your first interview! Great job! My kids and I love "The Pout-Pout Fish". Your artwork is awesome too! I'm adding you guys to my blogroll so I can check out your other book reviews. Sounds like you guys love books in your house as much as we do!

Heidi Noel said...

This was great fun. I get star-struck when it comes to meeting authors. I am not sure how I would do in an actual interview with one.

Boni Ashburn said...

Awesome interview, Zenzes! Sounds like you had a lot of fun with my friend Debbie and her book. And Mr. Fish! He's much friendlier than my dragons :)

Oh, and keep up the interview segments- you did a really good job!

Ruth McNally Barshaw said...

Wow, what a great interview! I love it! I especially love the artwork and all of the comments by Gracie, Isaac and Lily. :)

Rebecca Gomez said...

Wonderful interview! It's always a pleasure to read your posts.

Ann Finkelstein said...

Gracie, Isaac and Lily:
That is an awesome interview. The art is terrific too. Thanks so much.

Lori Van Hoesen said...

I love this blog, and I hope you do more interviews Gracie, Isaac and Lily! You certainly have a knack for it. Your pictures add a lot of visual appeal too.
Thanks :)

Amy Huntley said...

What a great interview. I love the artwork you kids did. I couldn't draw a fish to save my life. And the questions you asked and the comments you made were wonderful.

Z-Kids said...

Thanks for the comments everyone!

And thanks again to Mrs. Diesen for the interview!

Isaac had lots of fun with my rhyming dictionary when we got home. He wrote a pretty wacky poem that began with "I disagree with this catastrophe, it's better than the dancing manatee..."


Kelly H-Y said...

Just got my signed copies of Hiccupotamus in the mail! Thank you so much! They are a huge hit!!! The words ... the pictures ... wonderful!!!! Congrats on the re-release!

Corey Schwartz said...

Oh, great interview! I've got check this book out. My friend, Tiffany (another rhyming PB writer) recommends it highly. Thanks!