From Ohio USA, Kathy Elasky is the author of the new children’s book Pudgy Possum and the Porcupine (Monday Creek Publishing 2020). I had the chance to ask Kathy about her book, writing, and more…
KE: When my grown-up daughter was in elementary school the other leaders and I took her Girl Scout troop to an overnight at the Columbus Zoo. One special activity the girls got to do was to see some of the zoo animals up close. A possum was one of the animals the zookeepers brought out. It was so sweet, and we all got a chance to pet it. I guess that is when my interest in possums started. I have always rooted for the underdog and possums are certainly underappreciated animals. The more I learn about them the more fascinated I am. In Pudgy and the Porcupine, I wanted Pudgy to learn that even though other animals may seem like they have it nicer, just being yourself works out better in the end. That’s a lesson I hope all children will learn.
GM: As the author and illustrator of the book, what was your inspiration for the illustrations?
KE: My favorite illustrators have always been Garth Williams and Cyndy Szekeres. Both of them draw such cute, furry animals that I guess I was trying to do the same. I want my characters to be realistic enough to be believable but with a bit of whimsy.
GM: Tell us about your office and where you like to write...
KE: When I first start a story, I write it out in a journal or notebook so I could be writing anywhere, outside in the garden, on the couch in the living room. I’ve even been known to write in bed. Sometimes I get an idea for a story in the middle of the night. I write it and rewrite it in my head until I finally get up and write it down. I’ve done some of my best writing in the dark of night.
When I start a new story, I usually just let my imagination go and write whatever comes out. Then I type the story into my computer. The computer makes fine-tuning it much easier. I actually love editing my stories. It’s like polishing a rock or refinishing furniture. The end results are always so much better than the original. I must say that changing Pudgy and the Porcupine to a 500-word story from the 1,500 original version was quite a challenge.
Since my children are all grown and out of the house, I have had the luxury of turning one of our bedrooms into my office/sewing room. It’s also where we have our piano. My sewing table is usually covered with the latest project. Right now, it’s covered with masks waiting to be sewn for use in battling the Corona Virus.
GM: Do you have advice for novice writers?
KE: Write, write, write, then write some more, even if you never use most of what you have written. Many of my ancestors wrote a lot and I have enjoyed reading all of it even though none was ever published. Two of my favorites are my great, great, great grandfather’s canal and ocean ship journey back to England. The other is my grandfather’s WWI diary. Who knows who may end up reading what I haven’t gotten published?
Read all kinds of books, even ones you don’t think you will like. You might surprise yourself. At the very least you will get to see how other authors go about writing their stories. You may get ideas for new things to try on your own writing.
The last advice is don’t give up. Every rejection letter is one letter closer to success. If you have a book that just can’t wait, publish it on your own to get started. Keep trying! If God put writing into your heart, He will eventually lead you to someone who will share your vision.
GM: Who is your favorite author/writer?
KE: I have three favorites and I have read everything each of them has ever written. In no particular order, the first is Jane Austin because I am a hopeless romantic. The second is Louisa Mae Alcott. Maybe my grandmother being named after her has something to do with this one. Both of these women make me feel as if I am right there in the midst of the story. I feel as if I am leaving behind new best friends when the books are finished.
The third is Laura Ingalls Wilder. I feel as if I lived through history because of reading her books. Farmer Boy is probably my favorite. It is like reading the story of my own grandfather’s life since there are so many similarities between him and Almonzo. Granddad even raised his own team of oxen just as Almonzo did. I would always read one of Mrs. Wilder’s books to the students in my class.
Mrs. Wilder has been the inspiration for my own writing. She didn’t become a published author until she was 65. For years I wanted to write children’s books but didn’t have the time due to teaching school and raising three children with my husband. Because of Mrs. Wilder, I kept telling myself I still had time. Once I retired and life slowed down a little, I jumped in. If not for Laura Ingalls Wilder I probably would have given up.
GM: What are you currently writing?
KE: At the present, my biggest writing venture is keeping a journal of life during the Corona Virus epidemic. I usually keep a journal when we go on a trip somewhere and this experience is quite a trip into the unknown. I thought my great-grandchildren might like reading what it was like. And I am always working on more Pudgy the Possum books. I have hand-made three Pudgy books for my grandkids, the original version of Pudgy and the Porcupine was one of those. I have also written four other Pudgy stories. I just keep getting more and more ideas for adventures Pudgy can get into.
GM: List 10 things your fans may not know about you...
1. I have eight grandkids whom I adore. Of course, I love their parents too.
2. Scotland and Ireland are my favorite countries to visit.
3. Nepal is the farthest I have been from home.
4. I have taught every grade from 3rd to 8th. Third was my favorite. All of my former students were my favorite student.
5. I love running into my former students, even though it makes me feel old to see them all grown up.
6. My favorite part of the school day was when I read to my students. I especially loved when they would beg me to read just one more chapter.
7. I once had a skunk for a classroom pet. And yes, he had been de-scented!
8. I’m not really afraid of any kind of animal except June bugs (maybe I’ll write a story about Pudgy eating them).
9. Until recently, I have been lucky enough to have had a pony or horse since I was five.
10. I don’t think I could survive without at least one dog. We currently have three.
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