Hello lovely readers! I’m happy you’re here for another Kid Lit Village interview. On Mondays, I do interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. I love it when I can feature a local author! Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Chelsea Richardson, who is the author of THE DOG WITH THE CROOKED TAIL, a chapter book for young readers. The illustrations are by Meghan Taylor and the book is published by Freisen Press.
The Dog with the Crooked Tail illustrates the power of love to heal: Buddy, the main character, is changed by the love of young students – and by the love of a certain tiny, spotted dog – whom he meets at the end of the story.
Please welcome Chelsea Richardson to the blog. Congratulations on the publication of your book, Chelsea!
What appeals to you about writing for children?
I consider myself to have a childlike sense of curiosity and a slapstick sense of humour that elementary school children can relate to. I have always enjoyed writing, playing with words, and rhyming – so writing a children’s early chapter book series comes naturally to me. I didn’t set out ahead to write children’s books – but somehow, I am not surprised that I have! I have fond memories of my own first chapter book-reading days. I recall staying in bed late in the mornings around grade 2 or 3 reading all of the Beverly Cleary books. A few other series I enjoyed around that age were Nancy Drew and the Bunnicula series. The Dog with the Crooked Tail is suitable for independent reading at approximately the grade 2 level – I wanted to create a modern short chapter book series with a similar layout and features to the classics I loved, while at the same time creating something fresh and entertaining for primary kids. I commissioned a local artist and personal acquaintance, Meghan Taylor, to illustrate the book and she captured Buddy’s personality perfectly. I didn’t follow any guidelines for the reading level, but I used descriptive language to capture Buddy the dog’s mischievous personality. I feel that when children encounter challenging vocabulary and sentence structures while reading the story, it will enhance their experience as readers and writers.
Another reason that writing for children appeals to me is that I had many fun experiences introducing my oldest niece (now 12) to writing stories when she was very young. She is one of the six year-old characters in this story and her enjoyment of writing and listening to stories definitely encouraged me to publish this book. I also have two nephews and a younger niece who also join in on writing silly stories when I visit. It was my older niece, Chloe, who suggested that The Dog with the Crooked Tail should be a chapter book rather than a picture book!
Tell us about your path to publication.
I started writing The Dog with the Crooked Tail around 2016 – and left it sitting unfinished, without knowing where the story would lead. Several years later, a close friend encouraged me to finish the draft and create a book. After completing the draft in 2019, I didn’t have a clue about publication – but I did know that I wanted creative control over the illustrations, as I specifically wanted to capture Buddy’s real personality and appearance. So, I made notes on each illustration and shared the story with the illustrator, Meghan Taylor. Meghan and I collaborated back and forth by email with the book’s illustrator. She was the only illustrator I considered for the project: her sample first illustration demonstrated the exact feel of Buddy’s wacky personality.
I did significant research over time and I considered self-publishing via Amazon or hiring various freelancers to create the book. In the end, I decided to self-publish with Friesen Press, as they are Canadian (supporting local/Canadian business matters to me), and they would do the whole process, including professional editing – which the bookstores assured me was the most important aspect from a sales perspective. I may submit the book to other publishers in future and I did submit it to more conventional publishers while it was still in draft form; however, self-publishing is important to me, since I could share the story and ensure it was not just left sitting on an editor’s desk.
Tell us about the inspiration for your books.
Buddy, The Dog with the Crooked Tail – plus my small, spotted chihuahua cross, Ladybug, and family chihuahuas Ruby and Pico, are the inspiration for Book One and the upcoming three books. In 2016, my sister Kait and I co-adopted Buddy, who was a very funny 10 pound rescue dog originally from the streets of California. Buddy struck me as a real-life book character, so I wrote his story in between double-checking that the bathroom doors were shut to his persistent toilet paper-munching habits and attempting to dog-proof the kitchen from his snack-attacking prowess.
On daily walks with Buddy and best pal Ladybug, I imagined what the world looked like from Buddy’s perspective. One word stood out – FOOD! The second most important word for Buddy was love. I took Ladybug to visit a local elementary school on a few occasions – and she was dainty and polite when interacting with young students. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine actually taking Buddy to school: being a rough-and-tumble little street dog, he would have growled at students and stolen their lunches.
Despite all this, my nieces and nephews loved Buddy and fed him carrots when he ran in the forest for walks. He was the sort of character who stole your heart after he snarled at you. I wanted to share Buddy’s love and character in a way students could appreciate him – so I imagined what would happen if Buddy went to school without permission. Every single shenanigan in the book is based on his real-life actions – from snarfing up roadside garbage to sticking himself face-first in a little girl’s backpack to devour her lunch.
Buddy had eight breaks in his little crooked tail, and in the series, there’s an element of magic as two breaks per book click back into place when Buddy feels love from children and from other dogs. For this reason, I opened the book with the following question: “Was he a dachshund or a chihuahua? No one could be quite sure, but they did know he was the dog with the crooked tail. Why was his tail crooked? Perhaps he needed a little more love.” The real-life Buddy character reminds me of a cross between Curious George and Winnie the Pooh.
Chelsea, thanks for stopping by Kid Lit village today! It was fun to learn about ‘the dog with the crooked tail.’
Readers, thank you for stopping by Kid Lit Village this week!
Did you know, I’ve written a couple of books too?
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I hope you’ll stop by again soon. Have a wonderful day. And don’t forget to leave book reviews and make library requests for all your favourite books.