Author Interview: Dotti Enderle on The Cotton Candy Catastrophe at the Texas State Fair

The Cotton Candy Catastrophe at the Texas State Fair by Dotti Enderle, illustrated by Chuck Galey (Pelican, 2005). From the catalog copy: “At last! It’s time for the annual Texas State Fair, and young Jake knows exactly what he wants to do first. He passes up all the other booths to buy his favorite treat–a cone of sweet and puffy cotton candy. Little does Jake know that his choice of sugary snack–and an unfortunate mechanical failure–will wreak havoc on the nation’s biggest state fair. As Jake wanders through the exhibits and attractions, he trails a sticky tail of cotton candy in his wake. Soon the candy has swaddled the livestock, tripped up the fair queen, and even festooned Big Tex with a pink tutu! It truly is a cotton candy catastrophe–until Jake has a brilliant idea to save the day.

“Dotti Enderle launched her publishing career in 1995, writing for such popular children’s magazines as Babybug, Ladybug, Children’s Playmate, Nature Friend, Turtle, and many more. Ms. Enderle is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Houston Storytellers Guild, and the Writers League of Texas. She currently lives with her husband, two teenage daughters, and a cat named Oliver.”

What was your inspiration for creating this book?

There was no real inspiration, unless you consider the cotton candy, Godzilla, and the State Fair, Tokyo. I simply wanted to create a silly monster.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I wrote the first draft in 1996. Originally it took place in a fictional county fair with an entirely different ending. I rewrote it over time, collecting lots of rejections along the way. It occurred to me a couple of years ago that I could change the setting to the State Fair of Texas and try publishing it with a regional publisher. Once I changed the setting, it became obvious that the ending would be more fun if the main character herded the cotton candy into the Cotton Bowl. It was serendipity. Once I’d changed it, my agent sent it to Pelican, and they loved it.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

The biggest challenge was to stay true to the State Fair. I’d only been once, and that was several years before changing the setting of the book. I spent a lot of time looking up info on Big Tex, the Cotton Bowl, and the Texas Star, among other things. Some of those research details ended up in the final draft and makes the book somewhat educational as well as fun.

What are the rewards of publishing books with a strong regional setting?

I’ve produced a book that Texans can identify with. Many buy the book because they’ve been to the fair and love it. It’s also one of very few books set at the State Fair of Texas, which is the largest state fair in the nation, so librarians are particularly happy to have it.

Your publisher on this title was Pelican Publishing in Louisiana. I’m sure I speak for the entire children’s/YA literature community when I say how concerned we are about folks there. How is Pelican doing these days? Is there any way their friends and fans can help?

Luckily, Pelican suffered little damage to their physical inventory, but has been slowed down by the electrical blackout. They only recently had electricity restored. And though they’re slowly making their way back, we hope that friends and fans will continue to purchase Pelican’s books. We’re all having to exercise patience at this point.

Cynsational News & Links

My latest short story is now available: “A Real-Live Blond Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate” from Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today edited by Lori M. Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005).

Dutton editor Mark McVeigh told me this weekend that Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman will be published by the house in winter 2006.

Interview with author/illustrator, Yuyi Morales by Aline Pereira from papertigers. And in the illustrators’ gallery, see the magical realism of Mexican artist, Elizabeth Gómez.

An Interview with Susan Salzman Raab on Reviewer’s Checklist from the Children’s Book Council.