2023 September KSMO Featured Author: Lindsey Dunnagan!

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Congrats on your first published book. Tell us a little about it.

The Best Cheese is a hijinks of cheese, space, and cows. In a mountainous northern village, a chef who loves cheese cannot get what he needs from his cows. So, he sends them to the moon to create something out of this world. Will they ever come home? A tasty fantasy awaits in this children's book.

We'd love to hear more about your writing journey. What's the process been like?

I keep a writing journal in my bedside table and try to write in it often, especially after walks. When I’m ready to develop a story, I sift through the journal to see if anything pops out. Developing interesting characters and a satisfying story is the hard part and I go through many revisions with my critique group.

How do you weave pieces of yourself into your main character? How are you alike or different from them?

At my core, I’m pretty silly and playful. I let that side of myself come out in my stories in a way it doesn’t manifest as fully in my other professional endeavors. This makes writing for children such a joy.

What do you love about self-publishing and what made you decide to go that route?

When I wrote The Best Cheese, I sent the book to a couple of agents. When it was not accepted, I decided to publish it myself. I wanted to understand the whole process, from setting up the book to the manufacture’s specifications to purchasing the ISBN and copyright. Hopefully, one day one of my books will be picked up by a publishing company, but I’m really glad that I now know how the process works.

What were your struggles with self-publishing?

I love writing and illustrating, but I am not as familiar with graphic design and setting up documents. I had to teach myself Adobe InDesign and hired a graphic designer to help me with text placement. Learning new technology was hard, but worth it.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

I suppose I’d say that if you really want your book to exist in the world and it’s not finding traditional support, go ahead and do it yourself. It is a lot of work, but incredibly satisfying to see your book finished. Also, get involved in SCBWI and find a critique group. My work has benefited significantly from peer feedback.

How did you find your critique group?

I met my critique group at my first SCBWI regional conference. It consists of two other children’s book authors, one of whom is also an illustrator like me. They are a huge source of support and always have suggestions that push my work to the next level. I’m so grateful that I met them.

How have you stayed connected to the writing community?

Since joining SCBWI last year, I have attended 3 conferences. That has helped me gain a better understanding of the children’s literature field. It has also helped connect me to other writers and illustrators.

What challenges have you experienced that you didn't expect?

For me, both writing and illustrating are a lot of work, but illustrating takes the most amount of dedicated time. After publishing my first book, I received requests from friends to collaborate and illustrate their ideas too, and it has been difficult to explain the amount of time and work that goes into that process. I want to support others’ creativity while making sure I don’t overcommit.

What do you love about being a writer/illustrator?

In children’s literature, I love the fact that stories can be silly and meaningful at the same time. Tough subjects can be explored through play. There is something liberating in that.

What is the best advice you've ever been given about writing?

A story without depth is like fries without salt. The experience of reading something entertaining but also meaningful is so much richer.

What is the best conference you've ever attended and why?

My first regional conference was excellent. I was able to go to the exact sessions that spoke to me and I learned so much. That is also where I met my first critique group. Additionally, because it was online, the sessions I missed due to overlap were available to me later, which was helpful.

Are you planning to attend the Middle of the Map conference this November, and/or why should someone plan to attend the MOTM conference?

The MOTM conference is great because you learn so much, connect to others in the field, and the price is reasonable. I will definitely be there this year.

What do you do when you are not writing and illustrating?

My main work consists of teaching and creating art. I make oil paintings, watercolors, and three-dimensional installations along one of several themes. You can see that work here: https://www.lindseydunnagan.com

What goals do you have for 2023 and beyond?

Right now I’m on a year-long sabbatical from my university where I teach (Truman State in Missouri). The project I’m working on is to finish writing and illustrating my next two children’s books, Tiny, the Timid Bird and The Compass. I have a dummy book for The Compass that I have begun querying and Tiny, the Timid Bird is almost in its final draft. My sabbatical gives me time to fully dedicate to writing and illustrating, so I spend every day working toward the goal of finishing these books by July of 2024. I also work on other paintings for my fine art business. During a typical school year, I work on these things around my full-time teaching job, but this time off has allowed for me to spend all of my energy in these creative pursuits.

Check out past featured authors and illustrators here!