Today’s Write Now interview highlights two of my favorite subjects: writers from Orlando and writers who come to writing after another career. Debbie Burton is a children’s author and former educator whose books are inspired by her dog. Talk about some of the best inspiration out there! Please enjoy Debbie’s interview.
Who are you?
I am Debbie Burton, a children’s author who taught for Orange County Public Schools for twenty years. My writing journey began in 2013 after I retired from teaching. As a longtime resident of Orlando, most of my writing has been inspired by this community. The same year I retired, I joined Word-Weavers International. I honed my writing skills by participating in critique groups and conferences. In addition to writing for children, I am also an award-winning published poet. Several of my poems have appeared in issues of Time of Singing, a Christian poetry journal. In 2020 my poem, Front Porch Friendship, won first place in Words and Wonders, a contest sponsored by the City of Orlando.
What do you write?
I have written two children’s books, Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street (2019) and Return to Blueberry Street (2020) My third book, Truckload of Trouble, is under contract with Elk Lake Publishing for release next summer. What began as a sweet little story about my special-needs beagle, Buddy, has evolved into a series called The Tails of Blueberry Street. My values fit well with Elk Lake because they “publish the positive.” As an elementary teacher, I loved reading books aloud to my class. I knew if I ever wrote for children I would include humor and encouragement.
Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street is a heart-warming story about my injured dog and his long road to recovery. In Return to Blueberry Street, Buddy leads his canine companions on a mission to track down the bandit who is stealing all of their treats. My stories are told from Buddy’s point of view. Unlike many authors who humanize their dog characters, I work to keep Buddy’s thoughts true to what a dog might understand based upon the conversations of his owners. My husband, Herb, is my sounding board. I have also benefitted from the input of my critique group and the editors at Elk Lake.
Writing for children is not as easy as one might think. Children’s writers need to be careful to keep their vocabulary age-appropriate and write short sentences. Children bore easily. An author needs to maintain a child’s interest through action, emotion, and dialogue.
In addition to writing for children, I enjoy blogging. Blogging is a way to express myself creatively without feeling pressured to perform. I blog about everyday events in life, offer spiritual inspiration, and add a dash of humor now and then. A poet at heart, I love to capture the beauty of creation through verse. I believe poets and writers see the backstory in everyday events.
Where do you write?
After years of writing at the dining room table, I have finally graduated to my own studio with a desk. Having my own space is extremely important to me. Above my desk, I have an image of the Grand Tetons. Nature inspires me. Since I have a space of my own, I can listen to music and not bother anyone else in the house. I can also read my work out loud, which helps me edit. I used to write poetry with a pen and paper, but now I use my Mac. Roget’s A-Z Thesaurus is an absolute necessity for me. I consult the Chicago Manual of Style for punctuation questions.
When do you write?
I usually write mid-morning and continue on into the afternoon. I do not write at night. I need time to wind down in order to sleep. Fortunately, I am at the stage of life where my time is my own.
Why do you write?
I love having an interest that stimulates my mind and imagination. Life would be incredibly boring if I didn’t write. For me, writing is a way of making sense of the world, and connecting with others. Writers touch the hearts of people. I am happier on writing days!
How do you overcome writer’s block?
I’m not sure I’ve ever really experienced writer’s block. When I’m stuck for an idea, I have several ways of moving forward. I pray and read Scripture. I talk to my family and friends. I take a walk. When I was writing my second book I paused for several weeks until I knew how my plot would unfold. A relaxed mind makes inspiration possible.
Bonus: What do you enjoy doing when not writing?
I enjoy hiking and camping with Herb and Buddy. We have visited most of Florida’s state parks in our travel trailer. My experiences in nature not only relax my mind but inspire my writing. The book, The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer was instrumental to my growth as a writer. Janis writes about the importance of “breathing in.” Creativity springs from exposure to sources outside of ourselves. Writers need to take time weekly to do something which stimulates our senses and feeds the artist within us.
My thanks to Debbie Burton for today’s interview.