Interview with Local Author Debby Waldman
YEG INSPIRED : Tell our families a little bit about yourself?
DEBBY: I was born and raised in Utica, NY, which is about five hours directly south of Ottawa, pretty much in the middle of New York State. I loved growing up on the east coast. Growing up I dreamed of living in Boston or New York City, which were both about five hours from Utica. I never expected to move to western Canada. Then, in 1988, when I was working at the New Haven Register, a daily newspaper in New Haven, Connecticut, I met a guy from Edmonton. We fell in love. I’ve now lived in Edmonton for 25 years. That guy and I have two (grown) children and a dog and I think it’s safe to say this is my home now. I miss being close to the east coast, but my Mom and sister now live in Wisconsin, which is slightly closer to Edmonton. And one of my nieces came here nine years ago to work in my husband’s lab at the University of Alberta for six months. She fell in love with an Albertan, too (a Calgarian, but nobody’s perfect). Now she lives in Calgary. That makes me feel like home has moved a little closer to me.
Other things about me: I love going for long walks in the river valley at all times of the year, but my favorite winter sport is curling up on a couch and reading a good book. I also like ice skating – I started taking adult learn-to-skate lessons two years ago and I love the challenge of learning to do something that is so far removed from my comfort zone. (My comfort zone includes anything to do with words, music, and food.) It’s so exciting when I master a new skill (it doesn’t happen often…) and it makes me appreciate how hard it is to learn something when it doesn’t come naturally.
YEG INSPIRED : Your latest title that you've published?
DEBBY: “Miriam’s Secret.”
YEG INSPIRED : How many books have your written?
DEBBY: I’ve had eight published, and I have about seven others in various states of completion on paper, not to mention all the ones that are half written in my head.
YEG INSPIRED : The demographic your books appeal to most?
DEBBY: My picture books appeal to children who have long attention spans – the picture books have a lot of words (and, thanks to the terrific illustrator Cindy Revell, great pictures). My other books for children are aimed at ages 8 and up, and they would likely mostly appeal to girls, because my main characters in those books are girls.
YEG INSPIRED : What inspired you to become a writer?
DEBBY: Being a reader. Growing up I loved to read. I wanted to create the kinds of books I loved to read, but growing up in the US my parents always impressed upon me the need to have a job with benefits, so I could have health insurance. (I wasn’t sick, but health insurance greatly concerned Mom and Dad.) I didn’t know any writers so I didn’t really understand what it meant to be a writer from a health insurance point of view. However, I was fairly certain that being a writer wasn’t the kind of job that came with health insurance (I was right!). I decided to become a newspaper reporter, because that way I could be a writer AND get health insurance (it worked!). But after six years as a newspaper reporter I wanted to spend more time making up stories (which is frowned upon if you are employed by a newspaper) (or at least it was between 1982-88 at the Cape Cod Times, Concord Monitor, and New Haven Register, where I plyed my trade). I decided to apply to graduate school to get a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. I knew that universities provided students with health insurance… I wound up spending three years at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, where I wrote all kinds of short stories and started working on a memoir that I might actually finish before the end of this year. My thesis was a collection of short stories. (Good thing it wasn’t the memoir or I’d still be in graduate school.)
YEG INSPIRED : Where can people order your books from?
DEBBY: Locally Audreys carries some of my books, and I understand that “Miriam’s Secret” has been spotted at (and purchased from) the Chapters at West Edmonton Mall. My books are also available on a lot of web sites, including Chapters, the Amazons, and Barnes & Noble. You can buy massive quantities of them from my publisher, Orca, and I think you should all do that right now.
YEG INSPIRED: I think I will! I'm looking forward to reading it!
YEG INSPIRED : One thing that you love about Edmonton?
DEBBY: Only one thing??? Besides my family being here? Okay, I love the river valley. I could go on and on but I will not. (Maybe having to limit myself is a good thing!)
YEG INSPIRED : A favourite past time?
DEBBY: Reading – but since I’ve already explained that, making music, especially with other people. I teach music at our synagogue Sunday School (which is shared with another synagogue in town), mostly because it gives me a chance to take out my guitar and sing with people every week. Plus, I can teach the kids my favorite songs, which ensures that I’ll get to sing them. Our new Rabbi has also been asking me to accompany her at our Friday night worship services, so that gives me another chance to sing with people. (Sometimes I also bring my violin and then I have to decide which instrument to play. It is times like that that make me wish I were an octopus.)
YEG INSPIRED : For young writers, is there a piece of advice you'd give to those starting out?
DEBBY: Again, just one? Hmmmmm. Lemme think.
Believe in yourself. That is the best advice I can give. When it comes to writing, you can do anything you set your mind to do. Think about it: you don’t need much to be a writer: you need an idea and something to write with (pencil or pen or computer or typewriter*) and something to write on (paper, a computer). The biggest challenge is the discipline (part of which is believing in yourself). If you want to succeed (at anything, not just writing) you need discipline. As a writer, you need to stick with your story and be wiling to rip it apart and start all over again if it’s not working. You may have to do that more times than you imagined possible. But if you believe in yourself and in your story and writing is what you want to do, you will make it happen. I’ve seen it over and over again. (And really, you’ll never succeed if you give up, so stick with it. If you want to do it, and you love to do it, you will do it.) *look it up in the dictionary
To find more information about Debby, you can connect with her through her website at https://www.debbywaldman.com/