Thursday, February 25, 2016

Behind the Book

Behind the Book...with Rebecca Kai Dotlich!

We're very pleased to welcome Rebecca Kai Dotlich to the Cottage today! Rebecca is the author of numerous books for children, including Race Car Count, a recent Cottage favorite. Today, she's going to take us "behind the book" and tell us a bit about how she came to write her latest story, The Knowing Book. Take it away, Rebecca!

I began to write The Knowing Book at the end of a difficult day. It was a troubling time in my life and I was sad, confused and felt very alone. People and circumstances had disappointed me; I felt so much had been taken away. Suddenly I looked up at the night sky. I began to stare at this wide and wonderful sheet of stars above me; each sparkle a thing of wonder so everlasting and constant. “This will never be taken away,” I whispered. And I felt an instant and unbelievable comfort. I found myself thinking that if I can put this into words, maybe I can comfort someone else, too.  There is power in knowing the universe is constant. There is hope and joy in realizing that each day unfolds with unknown adventures, journeys and possibilities. I want every reader to remember that we all share dark emotions and places in our hearts when things seem bleak. I want every reader to remember the universality of what we share. I want every child to know, to really know, they own the stars.

The process of writing is a hard thing to pin down and is so different for everyone.  We all wonder in amazement where ideas come from. It's not hard to imagine there is an idea treasure box hidden somewhere deep and far away, and if we can just find it, we'll open it to find all kinds of wonderful ideas waiting for us.  The truth is that I think for myself and most authors the ideas are the easy part. Our heads are full of them.  It's fleshing out an idea so that it becomes a fully formed book or poem or story that give readers something to wonder over, learn from, fall in love with on the page that is the difficult work of writing. 

I brainstorm a lot.  I have many, many notebooks, both lined and unlined.  I doodle, I jot, I scribble favorite words and make up metaphors and play and pretend on those pages.  I write down memories of my home and neighborhood when I was a child; names of streets I remember, games I played, friends I had. I like to focus on the details of a time and place so that (hopefully) the reader can see it. So instead of writing "I remember that my brother and I played by the railroad tracks" I cross that out and go deeper into the details with "the time Curt got his pant leg hooked on a nail on the railroad track that rumbled over Redbird Street, and I didn't know whether to run for help or pull on his pants, but I found myself pulling and pulling and pulling just as he fell away and we heard the whistle of the approaching train."

I love discovering new words and new ways to say something. Maybe referring to the moon as a "cobweb moon" or a "snowmoon" or a "nickel moon." Rhythm and lyricism in language is something I strive for, whether it's a poem or a picture book. I think it's because it's what I love to read.  I have always admired talented and amazing writers who put language to the page in such a beautiful, mysterious way.  So I spend a lot of time not just trying to do something similar, but loving doing it.  I can't imagine not writing.

Rebecca Kai Dotlich is the author of One Day, The End; When Riddles Come Rumbling; and Lemonade Sun, among other titles. Her poetry and picture books have won various honors, including the Golden Kite Honor Award. She lives near Indianapolis, Indiana. Learn more about Rebecca at her website.

The Knowing Book
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Boyds Mills Press

  • ISBN-10: 1590789261
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590789261

"A poem's gentle admonishments nudge readers to open themselves up to the world….Children will intuitively understand the reassuring embrace of the enveloping dome overhead….A frenzy of feeling, pen strokes, and verse that seeks to excite and empower young people just awakening from childhood slumber." —Kirkus Reviews

"(Author) Dotlich urges readers to take risks … (and) Cordell’s ink-and-wash drawings give the pages life and humor…" —Publishers Weekly

"This picture book encourages readers to make the most of their lives….Curiosity and adventure are encouraged…. The beautiful pen and ink with watercolor illustrations are as goose bump–inducing as the words of wisdom in the text. This inspirational book could be given as a graduation gift at almost any age." —School Library Journal


  1. As a fan of Rebecca's words and Matthew's art, I'm sure this will be a winning collaboration! Can't wait to read it!