What Can (Might) Doodles Do? By Vicki Burris Risbeck:
I interviewed Vicki Burris Risbeck about her life and career & ” What Can (Might) Doodles Do? By Vicki Burris Risbeck”, her independent publishing company, Sunburst Books, and her latest release, What Can (Might) You Do When You Are A Doodle?
Tell me who you are.
Hello! My name is Vicki Risbeck and I live in Grove City and write Might Doodles, a southwestern suburb of Columbus, Ohio, USA. I live with my husband Tom – a retired metal engineer – and my two rescue dogs, Sophia Rose and Luna (short for Lunatic…that’s for sure.
I have two adult children and four grandchildren. Oh… and a granddaughter, Maeve, who is the subject of my latest book! I retired three years ago after more than forty years of teaching and managing at all levels from kindergarten through college. I now own my own business, Sunburst Books, a small independent publisher founded in 2019. I’m also increasingly involved in the anti-literacy movement here in the United States.
When did you first want to write a book?
I come from a large and rather poor family, where many books at home were just a dream. However, my mother managed to get us used books as she seemed fed up with me spitting up every time I brought home a new packet of cereal.
Since I was very good at learning to read and write (I read a lot before I started kindergarten), with my ability to read came the desire to write my own stories. School only increased my love for both sports. When I couldn’t find paper for my short stories at home, I would often go to those tattered books my mother had brought home and carefully tear out the first few blank pages so no one would notice or lose them. You created beautiful landscapes for my words.
When did you decide to start writing?
As I said, as soon as I could read, I wanted to write Might Doodles. Quite often I stayed up at night filtering different scenarios and building new exciting scenarios. I’m sure my elementary school teachers knew that one day I would be an author, no matter how limited.
How long did it take you to complete your first book, from idea to publication?
I seriously write stories in my head long before I put anything on paper. And rewrite. and edit. I think I’m a planner in a way that’s not so obvious in other areas of my life. So my first published book A Lens View~Family was Vicki Cloud, written in 2020, but it wasn’t published until June 2021.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book, from initial idea to publication?
Well, my last book was finished (written) over the weekend because it was just a picture book. However, the wait for the illustrations took at least six months, mainly because Dixie, my illustrator for my first and last book, had shoulder surgery and was unable to draw for at least two months. For that I would say six months from start to finish.
Focuses on its latest version. What inspired you to write What Do Doodles Can Do?
My daughter Sara’s family had a wonderful Great Dane, Daphne, who died violently when she was less than a year old. After Daph’s death, the family vowed never to buy another dog. Oh, but wait…a few months later, my nephew posted Facebook pictures of Doodle Dogs from his Mommy and Daddy Doodle neighborhood—and of course Sara and Co., who are dog lovers that we all are. He published.
When they went to the puppies, Maeve decided it was them.At first it was a soft, shiny, fluffy ball…but that didn’t last long! I laughed hysterically at his antics and the stories Sarah told; It was a daily joy to see and hear. So the book wrote itself. Title? What can you do if you are a Doodle?This was the second book in which I have used mixed media illustrations and real photographs.
What were your biggest challenges writing What Can Might Doodles Do?
Waiting for the artwork was so frustrating! Of course, I decided to let Dixie do the work, so I was willing to wait. This is one of the perks of being a freelance (freelance) writer: I chose an illustrator and carefully worked with her to capture the images I wanted. Most of the time, big publishers hire their own illustrators, which can be a good thing for some people. However, I wanted the graphic to match my vision on the shirt. And I was definitely pleased with the results!
Who or what inspired you to create The Protagonist?
In the final book, the only Maeve-a-Doodle! The protagonist Penny in my young adult novel In Search of the Best has the same beautiful red hair as my oldest granddaughter Emma Grace.
Who or what inspired you to create The Antagonist?
The first and last books had no antagonists because they were written that way. Interestingly, The Search for the Best’s antagonist isn’t a person at all – it’s the death and grief that follows. It was exciting to use something other than a person to advance the story and see the hero win!
What is the triggering incident? What can doodles do?
As said, in Searching the death of Penny’s father occurs before the start of the book, so it would be a provocative accident.
However, there is another one that continues the story, and so Penny is “forced” to take a mangy bitch named Rue from the shelter, against her wishes and beliefs. He wants the best dog, but has to settle for what he thinks is the worst.
What is the main conflict in What Can (Might) Doodles Doodles?
Coming back to the Doodles book, the main conflict is that there are ways Doodles can (and should) behave… and then there is the reality of how they CAN behave in the same situation.
The differences are sometimes dramatic! The main conflict in the quest is that Penny, who always wanted the best, couldn’t see the good that lay right in front of her, perhaps until it was too late. The main conflict in A Lens View is Dax’s attempt to understand how her father’s new family affects her family tree with her “old” family.
Did You Predict What Doodles Can Do? in advance, or fly under your pants and write freely?
As I said, these books swam through my head for months before my fingers touched the keys.
Did you get editing help and how many changes did you make? What can (can) Might Doodles do? Need?
I am quite comfortable editing my own work, having edited textbooks and other material. I was so proud of my work on A Lens View that I edited it to perfection. That is, until Brynn, my second granddaughter, flipped through a few pages of a printed copy and immediately pointed out several errors to my attention. This prompted me to invest in an online editing program for the next two. I used it for grammar and spelling, not content.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give someone that inspired you to write a story?
The first piece of advice is: Recognize yourself as a writer. This way you set reasonable and achievable expectations and a deadline. So many writers are in clouds of excitement but second and third guesses on every page because they really don’t know. As a result, they have “writer’s block” and sometimes never produce their work. Perseverance is a great strength for anyone who writes.
Can you tell me what books you want to write next?
Sure. The second lens view lets you see amazing images of “scary things,” according to some kids, but it’s proven that sometimes what we think is scary can actually be very helpful — and even beautiful! The quest has a real epilogue that leads Penny and her friends into a looming mystery surrounding a missing classmate. A class of CM1 students who heard this reading aloud insisted on going on!
There really are no plans for a sequel to Doodle. This, like Maeve, is unique. I’m also considering a textbook, but that’s in the distant future. However, it is published independently as the Sunburst books are primarily for children and intended to be read aloud.
And finally: Are you proud of your success? It was worth it?
Being a freelance writer is very rewarding. Expensive but satisfying. I see writing as an art and as an artist I can paint the story and characters exactly how I want. So yes, I am proud of my efforts and hard work. What makes me even prouder is the feedback I get from the students. They love stories. They want more.
After recently reading a Doodle book to second graders, a mother emailed that her son got home from school that night — Friday night at least — and spent the night writing his own family book about dogs creation. For me, all the effort I put into this book was worth it. If we could all touch at least one child like this, imagine the positive wave we could create!
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