Meet Author Dori Hillestad Butler

by Gloria G. Adams

Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of more than 50 books for young readers including

 the two-time Geisel Honor award winning King & Kayla series, Edgar award winning Buddy Files 

series, and the Haunted Library series. Dori has also been a ghost writer for the Boxcar Children and

 other popular series. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, board games, walking her dog, and

 playing with the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra. She grew up in southern Minnesota, spent 19 years in

Iowa, and now lives in the Seattle area.

Dori, what inspired you to write your first book?

That was a long time ago! 😊 My first book was the Great Tooth Fairy Rip Off and I guess I was inspired by the kids who lived in the house behind mine. I was working on a short story for a magazine and I could hear the neighbor kids playing. It sounded like the little brother had lost his first tooth and all the kids were bragging about how much money they’d gotten from the tooth fairy. I started thinking about what would happen if this little boy didn’t get as much as the other kids got. What might he do? That became the Great Tooth Fairy Rip Off.

Who are some Authors that you admire?
I read and enjoy many books by many different authors, but I try not to “admire” other authors because that can start a dangerous spiral of comparisons.

What kinds of books do you like to read?

Mostly contemporary fiction. Mysteries. Humor. Dog stories. You know…the same kind of stuff I like to write.

 What is your writing process? (Outline, start in the middle, scenes, etc.)

I usually outline. Then I start at the beginning. I tend to revise (a lot!) as I’m writing. The downside to that is it takes me a while to write a draft. But the upside is it tends to be a pretty clean draft. That’s not to say I don’t revise after I have a draft. I revise a lot! I will revise until my editor says I can’t revise anymore. I love the revision process because then I have words I can work with. The blank page scares me.

What was your most unusual/funny/heartwarming experience as a writer?

I think the most heartwarming experience I’ve ever had was when a 5th grader raised the money for my author visit all by herself. I didn’t know that’s what she was doing. She was a fan of my Monkey Man books and she e-mailed me and asked if I’d visit her school. She wasn’t the first student to ask me about school visits. I told her the same thing I told the others: I would love to visit her school, but an official invitation has to come from an adult at her school, not from her. I thought it that was the end of it. It usually is. 😊 But a few months later, I received an official invitation from the school. And they told me they thought I should know that this student wanted me to come so badly that she raised the money for my visit herself. You can still read about it in her own words right here:

Congratulations on winning an Edgar Award! What made you decide to write mysteries?

Thank you! I’ve always loved mysteries. Reading them and writing them. I was in high school when I was first aware of the Edgar Award. I worked in my city library in high school and I was shelving a book by Joan Lowery Nixon, who was one of my favorite authors. The cover of the book said she was an “Edgar Award winning author.” So I looked up what that meant…and dreamed of winning that award myself one day.
Have you written one particular book that you love more than the others?

No, that’s like asking me to choose between my children.

The Haunted Library books are fun to read. What gave you the idea for writing them?

It was actually book 6 of my Buddy Files series. I had created this family of ghosts that I thought would live in the school where Buddy, the hero of my Buddy Files series, was a therapy dog. He’d be the only one who could see and interact with them. But my husband thought my story was too much about the ghosts and not enough about the dog. He said, “If you want to write a ghost series, write a ghost series. But this is your dog series. This book needs to focus more of the dog.” He was right. Also, I did want to write a ghost series. So, I took that family of ghosts out of the Buddy Files and gave them their own series: The Haunted Library.

What are the challenges of writing series books?

I love writing series books, but I think my biggest problem with them is sometimes I want to do something in a later book and can’t because it would be inconsistent with something else I’ve already established in the series. You can’t go back and revise previous books once they’re already published, so you’re limited by what you’ve already written.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to writers?

The best advice I have to offer is: never give up! It sounds pat, but it’s true. Never give up is the secret to becoming a published writer.

Short and Sweet:
·             Pantser or Plotter? Plotter
·             Guilty Food Pleasure? Chocolate
·             Favorite Hobby? Playing mandolin
·             Dog or Cat person? Dog person. Well…both. But really dog.
·             Do you do your best work in the Morning, Afternoon, or Evening? Morning

A Few of My Favorite Picture Books

By Gloria Reichert

If you are a picture book writer, you know how important it is to keep up with books that have been recently published. These books let us know what topics are current and provide inspiration in many ways. Several picture books have caught my attention because of their messages and/or illustrations.  Even though my list could go on and on, this short list of creative books provides some wonderful mentor texts for writers to consider.

Giraffe Problems by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith

“I feel bad about my neck. I do. I can’t hide it,” says Edward, the giraffe. He lists the reasons his neck gives him problems and also the ways he has tried to camouflage his neck. He envies other animals’ necks - until he meets Cyrus, the Turtle. The wonderfully creative illustrations and page folds further enhance the text and add to the enjoyment of the book. This companion book to Penguin Problems by the same team presents some important thoughts for all to consider.

Thank You, Omu, written and illustrated by Oge Mora

In this heartwarming tale, Omu looks forward to enjoying the pot of stew she is cooking for her evening meal. Its scrumptious smell drifts through the neighborhood. Drawn by the delicious scent, folks from the neighborhood knock on her door all day long. What should Omu do? Should she share with all these people? What will she have for dinner when her stew is gone? The ending is this 2019 Caldecott Honor Book is wonderful, and the fantastic cut paper designs supplement the text beautifully. I personally could read this book over and over. 

My Heart, written and illustrated by Corinne Luyken

    “My heart is a window.
      My heart is a slide.
      My heart can be closed
     or opened up wide.”

The sparse lyrical text and exquisite illustrations guide the reader to an important theme: our hearts can guide us through all that befalls us if we listen to it. This book contains many messages about love and acceptance and should be required reading for everyone.

The next two books caught my attention because of the unique main characters – a rotten potato and a brick! They teach us that literally anything can become the main character in a story.

Rot, The Cutest in the World, written and illustrated by Ben Clanton

Rot, an adorable mutant potato, loves competitions and decides to enter a “Cutest in the World Contest.” He is certain he will win – until he sees the other contestants. Rot tries different things until he decides to just be himself.

Brick, Who Found Herself in Architecture, written by Joshua Dean Stein, illustrated by Julia Rothman

When Brick is a baby, she wonders what she might become and sets off on a journey to find her place in the world. She visits well-known brick structures around the world. The interesting back matter focuses on the architecture used in the book.

Hello, Lighthouse, written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

This 2019 Caldecott winner showcases the gorgeous integration of text and illustration and serves as an outstanding mentor text. It transforms facts about lighthouses into a lyrical story about a lighthouse and its last keeper. This book is an excellent example of “showing,” not “telling.”

Hopefully, some of these books will inspire you and lead you to success in your own creative endeavors.