Today I am thrilled to interview my friend and critique partner, Dori Kleber, who recently celebrated the release of her debut picture book with Candlewick Press. More-igami depicts a young boy’s quest to become an origami master.
Dori, welcome to The Winged Pen! There are a million paths to publication, but yours was particularly unusual. Would you share how you connected with Candlewick?
Thanks, Jessica! It’s nice to be here! When I wrote the manuscript for More-igami, I wanted an objective opinion on it. But I wasn’t part of a critique group at that time. So the next time I was at my favorite bookstore, Little Shop of Stories, I asked the store manager if she would take a look at it. I figured since she worked in a children’s bookstore, she would know if my manuscript was marketable.
She adored it, and in our very first meeting, she said that my story would be perfect for Candlewick Press. She advised me through several rounds of edits, and when we agreed the manuscript was as good as we could make it, she urged me again to send it to Candlewick. But Candlewick is a closed house, and I didn’t have an agent. She simply wouldn’t give up, though. She approached her Candlewick sales rep about getting my manuscript into the hands of an editor, and it was sent through the sales department into editorial. A few months later, I had an offer!
And yes, it was very unusual. The sales rep said she had passed along a few manuscripts this way over the years, but none had ever been bought.
As writers, we’re always told to write what we know. Is it safe to assume that you are an origami expert?
Not at all. I’m not sure if my problem is dexterity or patience. Maybe both. But my son is really good at it, and both of my kids liked to fold things up origami-style. Not just paper, but things like tortillas and napkins. So that’s what initially inspired me to write the story.
People are often surprised to hear that picture book authors don’t do their own illustrations and often don’t have any input into the art once their book is acquired by the publisher. Was that true in your case?
I’ve heard some authors say that once they handed over their manuscript to the publisher, they had no idea what was happening with the illustration until their copies of the finished book arrived in the mail. So I was prepared for that. But Candlewick consistently included me in the process. They asked for my opinion before they made an offer to an illustrator, and they let me see every round of sketches and give feedback. I kept my comments limited, though. I respect G. Brian Karas’s artistry and the Candlewick art department’s judgment, and I trusted them.
What was it like seeing the story that had previously existed only in your head brought to life on the page by G. Brian Karas?
Mind blowing. He is such a genius. I can’t figure out how he conveys so much human expression with simple lines and shapes! Some of the illustrations were pretty close to what I had imagined, but others were really different. When I wrote the text, I imagined Mr. Lopez being an older gentleman, a grandfatherly figure. Brian Karas made him young and hip. At first, that was a shock, but I think Brian improved the story by illustrating it that way, instead of as I had imagined it.
Dori, thanks for taking the time to talk us through your publishing journey. I’d love to wrap up with a few fun questions so that our readers can get you know you a little better.
Favorite writing snack?
This is a trick question for me. I do most of my writing in short blocks, an hour to an hour and a half. So I don’t snack while I’m writing. I focus one hundred percent on the writing for that short time. Then maybe a snack after.
If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?
I believe what Anne Lamott says about some people being destined to write because writing is how they process the world. I think I’m one of those people, so I feel any “ideal career” would have to involve writing. I liked being a newspaper reporter when I first got out of college. I think I could do that again.
If you had a super-power, what would it be?
I think some version of super speed, at least as it relates to household chores. I’d like to be able to get laundry, cooking, and dishes done faster so I’d have more time for what I care about.
What is your patronus animal?
First, let me say that I had to Google patronus to answer this. I really love dogs. And I feel like I connect with dogs. So if I was going to have an animal guardian, I guess it would be a dog. Is that too pedestrian?
One last question: If readers would like to learn more about you and/or follow your publishing journey, what is the best way for them to stay in touch?
The best way is through my website, www.dorikleber.com. I’m also on Twitter @DoriKleber, but as an introvert, I don’t tweet too frequently.
Thanks for your time, Dori!
A creative young boy with a passion for practicing origami finds a surprising source of encouragement on his diverse city block.
Joey loves things that fold: maps, beds, accordions, you name it. When a visiting mother of a classmate turns a plain piece of paper into a beautiful origami crane, his eyes pop. Maybe he can learn origami, too. It’s going to take practice on his homework, the newspaper, the thirty-eight dollars in his mother’s purse . . . Enough No more folding But how can Joey become an origami master if he’s not allowed to practice? Is there anywhere that he can hone the skill that makes him happy and maybe even make a new friend while he’s at it?
MORE-IGAMI. Text copyright © 2016 by Dori Kleber. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by G. Brian Karas. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
Posted by: Jessica Vitalis
A jack of all trades, JESSICA VITALIS worked for a private investigator, owned a modeling and talent agency, dabbled in television production and obtained her MBA at Columbia Business School before embracing her passion for middle grade literature. She now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where she divides her time between chasing children and wrangling words. She also volunteers as a Pitch Wars mentor, with the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and eats copious amounts of chocolate. Her debut novel, NOTHING LIKE LENNON, is currently out on submission. She’s represented by Saba Sulaiman at Talcott Notch and would love to connect on Twitter or at www.jessicavitalis.com.