Monday, November 30, 2015

Interview with author Julie Dillemuth--plus a giveaway!

For my first ever interview, I get to talk with Julie Dillemuth, author of LUCY IN THE CITY, a beautiful new book from Magination Press. Welcome, Julie!  

Where did you get the idea for Lucy in the City?

    For a long time, I wanted to write a story about a raccoon who got lost. It’s fascinating to think about nocturnal animals coming out to ‘start their day’ when people are tucked into bed, sound asleep and completely oblivious. Especially for kids, who have to go to bed earlier than they want to. It’s fun to read about something that you normally don’t get to experience, like running around the deserted streets of a city in the middle of the night.
    In Spring of 2012 I took a UCLA Extension writing course on easy readers, with Terry Pierce, and the story of Lucy in the City just popped into my head. But I realized that the illustrations, with the owl’s bird’s-eye view, were really important, and the big, sweeping spreads don’t mesh with an Easy Reader trim size. So I decided it just really wanted to be a picture book, and went with that. 

Your subtitle is "A Story About Developing Spatial Thinking Skills." What does that mean?

    Spatial thinking is how we understand and think about concepts of space and the world around us, and how we use these concepts for problem solving. So everything you do in your daily life that involves space or location—remembering where your car keys are, loading the dishwasher, getting all the containers to fit in your kids’ lunchbox, etc.,—these all require spatial thinking. A lot of it we don’t really think about, but for more challenging things like assembling furniture, or finding your way with a map, some people have better skills than others.
    We know from research that if kids have good spatial skills, it helps them learn math and science in school, not to mention everyday problem solving, playing sports, etc. The problem is, we don’t formally or systematically teach kids these skills. My area of expertise is spatial thinking, especially for navigation and wayfinding, and I wanted to write a fun, engaging story that would encourage spatial thinking in kids and their parents or teachers.

What was the publishing process like?

    Working with the editors at Magination Press was really wonderful. I got to give input at every stage of the process — reviewing the editor’s notes for the illustrator, giving feedback on character sketches and the storyboard, as well as on the final art. I think at many publishing houses the author doesn’t get to stay in the loop as much, so I really appreciated it. It felt amazing to see my story coming to life, step by step. And it was pretty quick; I was offered the contract in late November of 2013, the book was printed in January or February 2015, and came out in August. So, just under 2 years.

Is there anything in particular you want people to know about your book?

    Yes! The Activity Pages that appear at the end of the book can be downloaded and printed from the publisher’s website, and my own website, We didn’t do a good job of making that clear in the book, so I’m trying to spread the word on that so people don’t have to mark up their books. Also, there is a free Teacher’s Guide, written by Marcie Colleen, that aligns with Common Core for English language arts, math, science, and social studies. It’s also on my website.
    Another thing I’d like other writers, ‘pre-published’ writers, as we say, to know is that it took a lot of rejections to get here. By the time I got this first picture book contract, I’d racked up 81 rejections for various manuscripts. For this story, I had sent it to 8 other editors, and 7 agents. There’s a lot of rejection in writing for kids, and you have to try not to take it personally but keep plugging away, keep making your writing better, and have faith that you will get there if you set your mind to it. The best way to head-off rejection blues is to start writing a new story as soon as you send something off for submission. That way, by the time the rejection comes back you are excited about the new project and you don't feel like all your hopes are resting on that one freshly-rejected manuscript.

Your book is an introduction to mapping concepts —do you ever get lost?

    Oh, heck yes, all the time. I have a terrible sense of direction! It used to be that I would go the opposite direction from where I thought I should go, and then that would be correct. I’ve gotten a lot better, though, at using maps, and just being aware that I’m prone to getting lost has helped me really work hard to figure out where I’m going ahead of time.

Julie Dillemuth is a children's author and spatial cognition geographer. She earned her PhD in Geography and Cognitive Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her stories have appeared in Highlights for Children and Odyssey magazines, and she won the 2012 Highlights Fiction Contest. Lucy in the City is her first picture book.

Julie will be giving away a signed copy of Lucy in the City! Leave a comment by Monday, December 7, and one lucky winner will be randomly chosen to receive this beautiful book!


  1. Great interview! You have a new follower...:)

    -Tricia Candemeres

  2. Hey Julie! Thanks for the shout-out for my class. I'm so happy for both you and Lucy. I enjoyed reading about your process from idea to published book. It is so true that sometimes you write a story thinking it will be of a certain format and then realize it's a different format. Congratulations again!

    And Lynn, your blog looks great! :)

    1. Thanks, Terry--and I've heard quite a lot of people shouting out about how great your class is, btw!!

  3. That's pretty darn awesome! Congratulations Julie. And thanks for the interview Lynn!

  4. And what a wonderful interview to do as your first!

    Gwen Dandridge

  5. Wahoo to you both, & to direction-imparied raccoons all over the world.

    1. Too funny--thanks for checking this out and for rooting for the raccoons!!!!

  6. Love your new blog, Lynn. And what a great interview! Thanks! Lucy in the City sounds like an awesome book. :-)

  7. Great interview and blog! Congrats Julie!