Craft, Career & Cheer: Deborah Noyes

Learn about Deborah Noyes and her new releases, Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists and Other Matters Odd and Magical and African Acrostics: A World in Edgeways with poems by Avis Harley (both Candlewick, 2009).

What do you love most about being an author? Why?

For a daydreamer, there’s no better work. I get to be a mental traveler, chair-bound maybe but always on the move, always exploring, discovering, uncovering, collecting, picking characters’ psychological and emotional locks.

I’m also crazy about–can’t get enough of–historical research, immersing myself in other times and places.

Finally, as a writer, I have an excuse to be alone when I need to be. In our uber-connected world, people think you’re nuts (or at least antisocial) when you not only enjoy but require solitude. By its nature, our work lets you retreat and recharge on a regular basis. The time away, the mental travel, makes me a better person, parent, and friend, and lets me be more present when I’m present.

So far, what’s the most fun you’ve ever had working on a book? Why?

Every book has its joys and challenges, but for sheer fun, I’d say my recent picture book with poet Avis Harley, a collection of acrostic poems that I photo-illustrated.

It let me indulge so many creative loves in one project. I think of myself as a writer first and foremost, but I’m also an editor/anthologist and photographer. Maybe because I wear different hats, my favorite part of the process has become, over the years, collaboration itself.

By day I’m an editor at Candlewick, where I work with phenomenal authors and illustrators, but I also collaborate with an amazing team of editors, designers, and art directors.

I’ve learned nearly everything I know about the creative process from these people, and to work in an unfamiliar area (Acrostics was my first full-on outing as an “illustrator”) under their care was a gift.

Likewise to be entrusted with another author’s words, to turn my visual eye to Avis’s wry and clever poems. My editor even invited me to write a photographer’s note, so the writer-me got to participate.

But the most exciting thing was the trip itself, the chance to train my lens on the wild creatures of Namibia. Animals are a huge part of my life and my thinking. They’re my favorite photographic subjects and show up–alive or dead, as in The Ghosts of Kerfol (Candlewick, 2008), literally or metaphorically–in almost every book I write.

And while I love my creative work more than I can say, there’s a part of me that’s always wondered what it would be like to trek around photographing orangutans for “National Geographic” or to do fieldwork like my childhood idols Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey.

With Acrostics, I was able to step over into that “parallel” life while still keeping the other foot firmly planted in this one.

Cynsational Notes

Take a peek at some “outtakes” from African Acrostics, courtesy of Deborah, used with permission. Do not copy.

The Craft, Career & Cheer series features conversations with children’s-YA book creators about positive aspects of their creative and professional lives.