The Authors Words: Deb Hockenberry, Children's Author

Deb Hockenberry

The Authors Words:     

Deb Hockenberry entertaining Children one word at a time. Where Can We Have The Party? is Deb Hockenberry’s debut children’s book. She has always wanted to write stories for children, and has taken multiple courses from The Institute of Children’s Literature and is a member of The CBI Workshop to keep with the ever-changing world of children’s writing. She has also been published in several online magazines. Deb is a Pittsburgh transplant now residing in Altoona.

Hi Deb,  Thank you so much for doing this interview with me. You and I have been in many groups together over the years and I'm so happy we have this opportunity to talk. 

Tell us a little about yourself and your background? My background is, what I think, very ordinary. I come from a large family and have always had pets. You name the type of animal and I think we’ve had it whether it barked, meowed squeaked, squawked, or swam! I’ve always loved to read. In fact, that was one of my summer activities: to go to the local branch of the Carnegie Library. I think I read every book in the children’s section.

If you’re asking about my writing information, I’ve taken multiple courses from the Institute of Children’s Literature. In fact, I’d love to take another course from them. Since the world of KidLit is always changing, I joined the CBI Clubhouse. They teach everything in this online course from writing magazine articles, picture books, middle grade and young adult books, picture book apps, to marketing. These are just some of what you’ll find in there.

When did you realize you wanted to be a storyteller? I’ve wanted to write for kids since I was a kid myself. This is going to sound silly, but in the library I mentioned above, I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted to read. Oh sure, there were many talking animal books and many birthday books, but none with the two combined.

Where do you get your stories ideas from? My ideas come from everywhere and anywhere. I often use my own childhood experiences.

Why did you want to write for children? I really don’t know how to answer this except I’ve always been drawn to children’s writing. I knew that I’d be a children’s writer at a young age.

When writing a children’s book or story, how much does your own childhood influence it? My own childhood experiences influence my fiction stories quite a bit. Even ‘Where Can We Have The Party?’ has a little bit of my own experience in it. I didn’t realize that until it was written.

What is your book about? Where Can We Have The Party?’ is a simple little story for children ages 3-8. It’s about a giraffe who wants to have a party for his friend but can’t think of a place where to have it. He asks a few other friends for ideas and they do have some, but for one reason or another they won’t work. Will they find a place to have the party? I don’t want to give the whole story away, so you’ll have to read it to find out!

Does the book convey a theme or message? I didn’t mean for it to, but after I wrote the story I found that there’s a subtle problem-solving problem running through the background. I hope it’s subtle enough that ‘Where Can We Have The Party?’ doesn’t lose it entertainment value!

What were some of the pitfalls of writing a book? Every writer knows that you should keep your words age appropriate, watch your grammar, punctuation, and flow. In ‘Where Can We Have The Party?’ there was a bit more to it. I got the idea for the story when I was a kid. The original story was quite different. It had evil monkeys and orangutans kidnapping King Lion from his birthday party. They even had guns, knives, and ropes! I guess I watched too many cowboy and Indian shows back then. Well, society and the way we think has changed. So did books. I don’t think books are so violent as they used to be. ‘Where Can We Have The Party?’ has morphed several times through the years until it got to be the happy little story it is today.

What is the hardest thing about writing? That’s easy … marketing. Writing the book is the easy part.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Don’t let anyone influence you in any way not to follow your dream. This happened to me once and it’s my biggest regret.

What will parents like most about your new book? I think parents will like the entertainment in the book. I think my book couldn’t have come at a better time. With everything that’s going on in schools and the world, kids need some plain old entertainment.

What genres and authors do you read? I love to read so many genres. I love to read adult books as much as I love to read children’s books. I also love to read fiction as much as non-fiction. My absolute favorite to read, though, is young adult fiction. My favorite books are the Harry Potter series and anybody who knows me well, knows that! Naturally, my favorite author is J.K. Rowling. I’ve learned so much from reading the first two books of the HP series.

What is your next project? Since Christmas is my favorite holiday, my next project will be a Christmas themed story for ages 3-8. Will it be set in the jungle like “Where Can We Have The Party? Stay tuned!

Where can people find your book and you on line? There are a few places where you can find me. Here’s a list:

KidzTales (my website):
Twitter: @DebHockenberry
 My buy link for Where Can We Have The Party?”

Good luck with you books, Deb. ~JD

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