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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Danielle Dufayet

It's a great day when you get to interview your critique partner on the eve of her debut picture book's release.

Danielle Dufayet says she “read her first picture book (Little Raccoon and the Thing in the Pool) when she was 18 whereupon she was blown away by its simplicity, timelessness, and transformative power. That’s when she knew it was her calling. Forty years and a master’s degree later, she's celebrating the release of her debut picture book, You Are Your Strong.


Welcome Danielle,

MARIA: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? How did you get started? What is your favorite type of book to write?)

DANIELLE: I was not read to and I really didn’t read as a child…OMG, I know and look at me now! I loved writing poems, however. When I was around eight, I was over a friend’s house that had older sisters. One of her sisters had written a poem that touched me. It was so beautiful and simple. I think it was about a boyfriend or something. That’s when I started writing poems. It was my way of expressing my inner thoughts and feelings. Then, in junior college, I took a Creative Writing class and fell in love with essay writing. These are my two favorite writing genres- so far.

The power of poetry is amazing and definitely infuses your PB stories! What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

I studied Flamenco dancing and wanted to go professional at one time.

I love that image. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

Again, books were really not part of my childhood. Sniff, sniff. In third grade, however, I read Baked Beans for Breakfast and I discovered the magic of living vicariously. I got to experience being a kid stranded on an island with only a can of baked beans to eat – all from the comfort of my own home. That’s when I discovered the magic of reading!

The greatest power of books is their ability to transport the reader through new experiences. Where did the idea for You Are Your Strong come from?

I got the idea for You Are Your Strong from asking myself what keeps me strong and centered – especially when going through a difficult situation. At the same time, I saw the movie Room about a mom and son held hostage in a room by a psychopath. Five-year-old Jack had long hair and his mom wanted to cut it and he said, “No, my hair is my strong.” I loved that he used those words. Later (spoiler alert) he ends up cutting it to give to his mom who’s had a nervous breakdown. That’s when I knew I had a children’s book. I had to ask myself, what’s my strong? It turns out, it is me! I am my strong because I discovered everything I need is inside of me. It’s like that for everyone.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, as long as it touches a chord within yourself. What was the most rewarding part of the publishing process for You Are Your Strong?

All of it is so rewarding. It’s hard to pick one thing. I guess I’d have to say getting my first yes – which is the very first step in the publishing process. I had been trying to get a book contract for so long. It was an absolute joy to read the email that confirmed my book had been chosen for publication – beyond exhilarating!

Nothing quite like that validation. So, what's something you want your readers to know about You Are Your Strong?

It was originally titled I Am My Strong – because it was a journey of self-discovery. What were the things that kept me from “losing it” when I felt my life was falling apart? I wanted to share those simple tools I used (and still use) with children so they can start early to control their minds and emotions. My strong, it turns out, is self-love and self-compassion – which led to my second book coming out in the fall, Fantastic You!

I love how this spurred two books. Congratulations on the next book! What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (Either as a child or now as a writer.)

I am inspired continually by a lot of people and things, but I’d have to say my children and grandchildren inspire me to be the best version of myself – to be a good role model. When your kids are grown it doesn’t mean they’re not still watching and learning from you.

So very true. What is something you learned from your critique partners?

I have learned that my critique partners bring a unique perspective to my writing that I couldn’t even imagine – it’s fresh and unique and smart. Sometimes I resonate with their comments and sometimes I don’t, but more often than not I do…and for that I am so grateful! I couldn’t have gotten published without them – I really mean that!

We love you, too. Your second picture book, Fantastic You (releasing in Fall 2019), feels almost like a companion or sequel to You Are Your Strong. Do you feel you have a trend going?

They are both part of the same journey. I guess they are the lemonade I made from lemons. Both came from a difficult time in my life where I had to learn to love and honor myself above all else. So, after I figured out how to not fall apart, I had to figure out how to love myself and not be afraid of being alone – in essence becoming my own best friend – which was one of the best things I have ever done!

Being your own best friend is a great (if at times difficult) goal to strive for, by children and adults. If you could share one thing with your younger self and/or kids today what would that be?

Don’t worry and stress so much about things you can’t control. What is, is, what was, was, and what will be, will be. That’s my motto now. I just go with the flow as much as possible. In order to do that, however, you have to have a strong (spiritual) faith – and that is certainly strengthened when you truly learn to love yourself.

Great advice. Did you have any input into the illustrations of your book(s)? Either at the beginning or in a later review stage?

Yes, I had input and am so happy about that, especially since I’m an artist. There were some important little tweaks (color background choice, facial expressions, etc.) that I was invited to comment on - which I did –and I think they made a big difference.

Since your other passion is art, do you see any possibility of illustrating your own picture book some day?

Yes, I do want to do that someday. I think about it a lot.

Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

Always looking for ideas – revising a couple of manuscripts and doing a lot more work on marketing right now.

Have fun with your debut launch! Is there anything about getting an agent, writing, or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started? Or maybe something you are glad you hadn’t known at the time?

I’m glad I didn’t know it was going to take me 40 years to finally get my first published book in my hand. There’s nothing like hope to keep you moving forward and thinking…today might be the day!

40 years folks! How's that for a lot of hope, stamina, and persistence. What is your favorite animal? Why?

I love animals, but I think my favorite is a dog. They are loyal, smart, and give you unconditional love – how can you beat that? Plus, puppies are the cutest things in the world (next to babies).

Thank you Danielle for stopping by to talk with me.

Thank you, Maria!!! xoxoxo

Be sure to stop back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on You Are Your Strong.

To find out more about Danielle Dufayet, or get in touch with her:

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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