Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Unread - Interview with Deb Marshall

Deb Marshall is one lucky lady. This is a photo of her at a writing re-TREAT that her husband gave her. He treated her to a stay in the mountains of Canmore, Canada for a couple days. Just Deb, her computer, and her wips! (Those are works in progress people!) A writers dream come true!

Not only does Deb work hard on her writing, she has worked in the field of literature for children and teens since 1986, when she began working for Calgary Public Library. Out of that grew her love of storytelling which she now does with her company, Storyworks. She finds stories everywhere and in everything, writing them into picture books, poetry, and novels for young adults.

Writing is a tough job, why did you choose it?

I feel as though I am in a constant state of storytelling in my head. I have to get those words out to make room for everything. An exploded head would be unpleasant. Plus, I love the feeling of seeing an idea, a spark, an overheard conversation, a first line become a story with a beginning, middle and end! It’s quite a gratifying experience.

Do you think your background in the library and a storyteller helps you as a writer?

Absolutely. It helped me find my voice as a writer, and gives me a sense of what I love to do, how to shape a story that will work in story time, and define the kind of stories I like to tell. If not for the library and working with books and materials for kids and teens my passion and knowledge would not be there. When I look at my evolution as a writer I know being a part of the library and working as a storyteller was an important part of that. And might I add…libraries ROCK.

What kinds of stories do you write?

You know, every now and then I go through this who-am-I-as-a-writer stage because I do tend to write all over the map. Picture books, poetry, novels for kids and teens. It’s at those times I have to remind myself I write whatever story comes to me, sometimes it is a story best suited to a short poem, sometimes a story for picture book, sometimes a novel. My picture books range from quiet and sweet to wild and ridiculous. I have a YA paranormal (think neat freak ghost meets girl seeking happily ever after) and a Middle Grade about a girl giving herself an extreme personality makeover.

What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on revisions for my young adult (KEEPER) and revisions on a picture book called EMILY WHO LOVED TO SING. If I’m not singing along with Emily thinking what a sweet little girl she is, I’m scaring myself with thoughts that my house might be haunted. It’s amazing what bumps in the night you hear when making a ghost in a book come to life. (heh heh…ghost come to life…)

What do you think is the hardest part about writing? What part of writing do you enjoy most?

The hardest part for me is revision. I enjoy coming up with the initial idea and creating (once I think the idea can go somewhere) a beginning, middle and end. The rush of getting that first draft down is fantastic. And also really, really enjoy the final stages of revision, when you know the story is there and done, and you are just tweaking line by line. But, the early revising is killer for me. I struggle with thinking I can’t make the words work, I can’t tell the story in my head, I can’t make the words sing, I can’t, I can’t. In other words, it is a battle royale with an internal editor! It’s a tough slog, but worth it because in the end you have a story.

What keeps you going?

The love of story and being part of a community of writers and readers that are passionate about books, kids and sharing those stories with them. Plus, the knowledge that someday I might actually go into a school to do an author visit, talk to the kids about my books and be a part of encouraging them to read and write.

You belong to two great critique groups. How do you find your critique groups help you?

They give you honest feedback, they want you to write the best story you can and critique accordingly. Those extra sets of eyes are vital, even when you think you have nailed a story, they can help you make it even better.

Plus, you can brainstorm ideas, get help with first drafts if you wish, share market information, discuss issues related to the book industry and books for teens and kids in particular, talk about the craft of writing. All of these things make me a better writer.

Best of all you get to be a part of your fellow critters journey, help them get closer to their dreams, celebrate the ups and be there for the downs.

I hear you’ve been to quite a few conferences and workshops. How do you find that they help you as a writer?

What helps me the most is what I learn about the craft and how other writers develop the stories they want to tell. I come away inspired and ready to write, which is one of the reasons I like to try and stay an extra day when I can. Back in the hotel room I can capitalize and focus on everything I’ve learned and apply it immediately to my works in progress. My writing has improved because of them.

What have you done with the manuscripts you’ve written? Do you have a submission strategy?

I do. I am looking for an agent. Although finding one, especially for picture books in this market, is difficult. It’s the path I want to take because I want to work on a team. I believe I still need to know the market, be aware of what is happening in our industry, but with an agent I can really focus on my writing and they take care of the submissions, making the contacts.

How far would you go to get your book published?

Bribery. I make a pretty mean fudge, life time supply promised on signing of contract. So, agents with a sweet tooth? Call me.

All right, I have to know, if you could live in any book which one would it be and why?

I would live in Harry Potter’s book because I want to go to Hogwarts, I belong there, amongst all the magic and learning. The other reason I would chose this book is because I need to go shopping in Diagon Alley and be assigned my wand. Of course, the other book (I know, you didn’t ask, but I couldn’t help myself) is Anne of Green Gables—I'm pretty sure I am a kindred spirit and I want to meet Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, sit in their kitchen, eat oatmeal, drink tea and just talk with them, and not just because my middle name is Ann(with an E).

Want to see more from Deb? You can find her at


  1. Great interview Heather and Deb! (Deb, I'd love to live in HP's world & get my wand too.)

  2. Did someone say fudge??

    Excellent interview, Deb and Heather! :D

  3. Thanks Steph (we need to go shopping, I say) and Linda. And why yes, yes--fudge was mentioned. Smoooth, creeeamy, maple sugar fudge that melts in your mouth.....

  4. Hey, Deb, if I pretend to be your agent for a while, can you make me some fudge???? Pretty, pretty please? *wink*

    Awesome, awesome interview! Oh, and if you ever go shopping to Diagon Alley, let me know.

    Gisele :)

  5. Jody Jensen ShafferJanuary 21, 2010 at 11:34 AM

    Great interview, Heather! And Deb, I'm sending agenty vibes your way. :)

  6. Darn. I should start taking bribes for these interviews. I need fudge. NEED IT! Hee hee.

    Glad to hear you've all enjoyed Deb's interview. I did too!

  7. I love your series! What an awesome idea. I saw your posts on SCBWI and Verla Kay and had to come check it out. Thanks for remembering us unpublished people. Oh and I would so totally be right there at Hogwarts too!!

  8. Thanks for reading all...hmmm I am thinking, fudge all around. Good, writerly no go to the hip-py fudge. We could have it for snacks whilst shopping in Diagon Alley.