Interview with Author Dori Kleber

Dori Kleber web

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, 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



We’re celebrating the release day for THE WOODEN PRINCE with a GIVEAWAY!

Releasing Today! March 15th!

OUT OF ABATON, Book 1: THE WOODEN PRINCE   by John Claude Bemis

We at The Winged Pen have read several of John Claude Bemis’ books, so we are very excited about THE WOODEN PRINCE. Let’s get started with the blurb!


The automa Pinocchio has always been duty-bound to serve in the floating palace of Venice’s emperor. So when Pinocchio finds himself locked in a trunk and delivered to a new master—a wanted criminal and alchemist named Geppetto—he is curious about everything around him. But most curious is the way Pinocchio seems to be changing from a wooden servant into a living, human boy. Before Geppetto and Pinocchio can uncover the mystery surrounding the automa’s transformation, Pinocchio is stolen away. Determined to find Geppetto again, Pinocchio begins a harrowing journey across the Empire, where danger in the form of half-beast outlaws and winged airmen abounds for a lost automa.

Meanwhile, Princess Lazuli, the daughter of the ruler of a magical kingdom called Abaton, is also on a quest through the emperor’s territory. Her father, Prester John, has been captured by the Venetian Empire, and Lazuli is desperate to rescue him. With the emperor’s airmen closing in fast, Lazuli learns the only hope for saving her father-and her beloved home-lies in Pinocchio and Geppetto.

Order your copy at:

Amazon       Barnes & Noble     Indiebound

We were thrilled to interview John recently!

Tell us about your other published novels. How is THE WOODEN PRINCE similar, different?

The Wooden Prince is my fifth novel. All my novels are essentially fantasy-adventures, but in quite different directions. I first wrote a trilogy called the Clockwork Dark, which begins with The Nine Pound Hammer. This series is what I like to call an American fantasy epic. It takes place in that age of cowboys and trains, but this is a magical America, one drawn from American folklore, history, and legend. I’ve also written a stand-alone novel called The Prince Who Fell from the Sky, set in a post-apocalyptic future where no humans are left on Earth, until the day a bear and a rat discover a human boy in their forest…

THE JUNGLE BOOK inspired THE PRINCE WHO FELL FROM THE SKY and you often play a song from THE JUNGLE BOOK at school visits. Did you have a similar inspiration for THE WOODEN PRINCE that makes you want to pull out the guitar?

Metallica’s Master of Puppets, of course! Wouldn’t you love to see me get a gym full of middle schoolers head-banging to that? There wasn’t a particular musical inspiration for The Wooden Prince. But music is a passion of mine, and played a huge role in The Clockwork Dark trilogy in the way I drew on traditional American blues, jazz, and folk songs to build that world. I’ll have to work on a good Pinocchio-related song to incorporate in to readings for the new book. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

What are you reading now?

 The third in Jonathan Stroud’s amazing Lockwood & Co. series The Hollow Boy. It’s as deliciously wonderful as the first two. My daughter and I always have a book we read together at bedtime and currently we’re deep into one of my all-time favorites, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I’m surprised she can sleep afterward.

A favorite recent children’s book?

Andrew S. Chilton’s 2016 debut middle-grade novel The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Named Alice was one I was waiting with baited breath to come out. It was worth the wait! A bit Diana Wynne Jones. A bit Monty Python. It’s a laugh-out-loud fantasy adventure full of word play and logic puzzles, as well as captivating characters. I can’t wait to see what Chilton does next.

Do you have any writing superstitions or strange habits?

At heart, I’m a natural skeptic. But in the past few years, I’ve been trying to be more open to believing in things that before I would have seen as superstitious or hokey. I’ve found that by tamping down my overly-logical way of thinking has helped me be more artistically intuitive. Now, when I’m working on a book, I build a little shrine to the book in my office. In part, it’s simply an odd collection images and objects that give me inspiration or spark my creativity. But it’s also something to help with setting my intentions for the book and trying to cultivate my “magical” thinking. One thing I’ve discovered from this is that Tarot card readings are a pretty fun thing to do for your characters. They present all sorts of insights into who my characters are, what they want, what makes them tick.

Favorite writing snacks?

A cup of coffee from my Italian percolator and a veggie sausage topped with cream cheese and pepper jelly. Every morning at my mid-morning break.

Do you write standing or sitting?

 My wife got me a standing desk a few years ago. My back thanks her! It’s been a revelation. I like to move and wriggle around and leap for books off the shelves when I’m writing. The best is that the desk goes up and down, so if my hamstrings start screaming, I can drop it down for a break. But mostly I’m on my feet as I write.

Tell us about the sequel to THE WOODEN PRINCE. When will it be out? 

The adventures of Pinocchio and Lazuli continue in Lord of Monsters, which comes out March 2017. I hesitate to give too many spoilers to how The Wooden Prince ends, but I’ll say that this story takes place entirely in Abaton, rather than in the Venetian Empire. There’s danger, deception, and loads of fun for readers.


John Claude Bemis author photo 2016John Claude Bemis is the author of Out of Abaton: The Wooden Prince, the Clockwork Dark trilogy, The Prince Who Fell from the Sky, and the picture book Flora and the Runaway Rooster. He received the Excellence in Teaching Award from UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Education for his work in the schools as an author-educator and served as North Carolina’s Piedmont Laureate in 2013. John lives with his wife and daughter in Hillsborough, NC.

Here are a few ways to connect with John and a SPECIAL invitation!

Upcoming Event:  John invites you to a book release celebration for The Wooden Prince on Saturday, April 9th at 3 pm at the Eno River Farmer’s Market pavilion (144 East Margaret Ln. Hillsborough, NC) where he’ll have performances, live music, a reading, refreshments, and giveaways. Fun for the whole family! Get your signed copy at the celebration or bring one you already ordered. Check his website for other upcoming events and readings.

Website —

Instagram —

Facebook –

On John’s Facebook, there’s a link where you can listen to the audiobook for the first chapter of THE WOODEN PRINCE.

GIVEAWAY instructions!

You have several chances to win an autographed copy of THE WOODEN PRINCE.

Leave a comment below! Subscribe to our blog! Or share this post on social media using the links below and leave us a note in the comments to let us know where you shared!

We’ll pull one lucky winner out of our TriWizard cup! IMG_2750AND MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR!

The lucky winner will be announced here in two weeks!

MICHELLE LEONARD is a math and science nerd and a SCBWI member who writes middle-grade fiction and non-fiction. She’s a contributor to a monthly podcast for adult KidLit readers and writers called KidLit Drink Night. Join the party at or connect with her on Twitter !