I come from an extensive entertainment background. My mom started the ﬁrst entertainment agency in Miami, and my brother was a magician. Luckily for me, I was born into a “platform.” (I only wish that the internet was available at this time!)
As young as 16, I was already dreaming up stories to produce. My ﬁrst interactive production was The Disappearance of Dino Dinero. I cast celebrity look-alikes for all of the parts. It was a blast!
Along the way, people took credit for my work, I experienced self-doubt, and my knees knocked when an authority ﬁgure insinuated that they were the only conduit to success. Taking from my knowledge, if I can empower children to own their creative power, then I will feel more accomplished than any big professional title.
What are your earliest memories of books?
My favorite book was about a ﬁsh who swam in the wrong direction. When all the ﬁsh were going this way, he’d go that way. I believe the name of the book was Arthur. My dad would read it to me when I was a starry-eyed six-year-old. Maybe that’s why I have always leaped into the unknown, ﬁnding my north star.
How does your background in musicals crossover into creating picture books?
My first children’s musical was The Sticky Bun Bandits. Children were encouraged to participate in the interactive production which featured rock-n-roll bandits, a rapping ant and a reggae dancing zebra. They traveled with Wickelsnacker and his grandchildren, Sarah and Drew, as they encouraged children to come up with their own sugar-coated solutions. I created and produced The Sticky Bun Bandits in 2002.
During this time, the internet was not what it is today. So, going viral was unheard of. Yet, malls, festivals and schools had healthy budgets. We would average $850 to $3,000 for each performance. It was a no-brainer to go in this direction.
My next children’s musical was The Luckiest Penny. It follows a 1943, rare copper penny, who learns how much he is worth... and why! It is a rollicking and fun way to learn about self-worth. For this endeavor, I partnered with Ability Explosion, SUNY OT’s, and Zylofone Org., rather than taking on the entire production by myself. I have loved every minute of bringing my message to children.
If the internet was what it is today, I may have made the decision to become a children’s book writer back then. Yet, it was so rewarding to create and produce unforgettable productions and get immediate feedback. The audiences, made up of families, would have a blast during our performances. Their energy was contagious!
Now it is a different world. Malls and festivals no longer have the budgets that they used to for those productions. But with the advent of the internet and all of it’s opportunities, I have turned to the art of writing children’s books to reach that audience.
I have found that musicals and pictures books have a lot in common. When kids are singing, they subconsciously take in your message. It’s also easy for them to sing the lyrics over and over again. Children will read a good picture book over and over again, especially a lyrical one. So, I draw from the same place of creating musicals in creating lyrical stories that children will want to read again and again.
What is your creative process?
My creative process is very personal. I want children to celebrate their creativity without giving away their power! The message is what drives me. I’ve always been a storyteller, so coming up with the story is the easy part. What Is difficult is to keep it simple, fresh and compelling.
Every day, I polish, polish, polish. One of my best qualities is that I’m focused on celebrating joy, empowerment, and a memorable story. The words can change a million times over, just as long as the message stays strong.
Tell us a little bit about your current project.
My current project is Paisley’s Very Last Quill. The story is sort of The Devil Wears Prada meets Winnie the Poo. I feel as if the story about Paisley picked me. It won’t let me go!
Paisley, a wide-eyed, imaginative porcupine, dreams of being a fashion designer. She enters the backbiting animal fashion world, using her quills to pin up the swaggeriﬁc creations for a snarly Diva. Overworked and down to her last quill, can Paisley use her creative power to come out on top?
This whimsical picture book celebrates imagination, originality, and believing in oneself. As Einstein says, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
I recently completed a Children’s Book Academy (CBA) picture book course, which gave me the tools and conﬁdence to start submitting my work. I have created artwork for my book, but I’m still considering whether to create a dummy or to have a publisher match me with the perfect illustrator.
You mentioned that creating picture books has turned out to be quite a bit different than you ﬁrst imagined. Can you expand on that?
I think in musicals! So, how do you condense a musical into 600 words? Before attending the CBA's 'Craft and Business of Writing Children's Picture Books' this year, writing picture books seemed easy. Now I realize that it is an art! To come up with a beginning, middle and end, use vibrant words and own your inner child, is not for the faint of heart.
What I learned is that writing a children’s book demands that we reveal our true nature. I was a sarsaparilla sipping, always skipping, perpetually smiling little girl. Over the years, big words, fancy suits, and impressive titles put that little girl into time out. We’re talking about for decades.
At one point in my career, I was Director of Development for Citibank, FL, for 19 branches. I never smiled, as being serious made me feel like a more professional person. Although accomplished, everything around me was crumbling. Instead of skipping, I was trudging through the day.
As I dust off the old me, leaning into joy and hanging up old ways of thinking, it’s as if time is moving backward. My inner child made a mad dash to the land of the unrecognizable. All this to say, rejoicing and creating children’s stories keeps us vital! I remember my happiest days, favorite people, and things that made me laugh. My writing is coming from my heart, not my head!
Thank goodness my path has led me back to myself!
If there was a book written about your life, what would the title be?
CreaLIVEity! How My Imagination Saved My Life! Creativity is the thing that brought me back to life during one of my life challenges.
Thank you Deborah for taking the time to visit with us and for sharing your story. We will be rooting for you and Paisley as you make your way toward being published and onto bookshelves everywhere.
If you would like to find out more about Deborah's work with the Self-Worth Initiative, please follow her on Facebook or see her website.
**ALL IMAGES ARE THE PROPERTY OF DEBORAH WEED AND MAY NOT BE USED WITHOUT HER PERMISSION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED**