Monday, January 11, 2010

Interview with author, Donna J. Shepherd of Topsy Turvy Land

Meet author, Donna J. Shepherd of Topsy Turvy Land

Children's and inspirational writer, Donna J. Shepherd, is a columnist for The Dabbling Mum and NABBW. Her articles and poetry have been published in Reminisce Extra, Just Between Us, Guideposts for Kids, Penwomanship, Wee Ones, and many more. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, most recently in Daily Grace for Women, Devotional Reflections to Nourish Your Soul (Honor Books), and Anytime Prayers for Everyday Moms (FaithWords).

Donna's children's book, Topsy Turvy Land (Hidden Pictures Publishing) has been described by one reviewer as "a perfect read for young children...a world full of bright hearts, where it isn't difficult to find God's love."

How long have you been writing?
I never really thought of writing for children until the summer of 2003 when I penned a short poem. I submitted it to Guideposts for Kids. The editor replied favorably with a couple of suggestions, but never formally accepted the poem for publication. I thought I might be onto something, and wrote a couple more stanzas, and then a few more. The resulting manuscript became "Topsy Turvy Land", the first picture book published by Hidden Pictures Publishing.

And in the meantime, I continued to submit to magazines, and GP4K published one of my first poems, "My Tooth Is Missing."

How did you get started?
I jumped in with both feet! Making up for lost time, I suppose, I researched and read every thing I could get my hands on about becoming a writer.

Did you always want to be an author?
I can't say that I did. I've never been one to journal, and besides a few things written for English class in high school, I didn't write. But once I started, I wrote every day!

What makes a person a real writer?
A writer is someone who writes. Many people talk about becoming writers, but rarely put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. The most successful authors I know are prolific, disciplined, and determined.

What type of stories do you write?
For children, I write about classic themes - the loss of a front tooth, the first sled ride of the winter, or a bad sunburn. For grownups, I mostly write devotionals and inspirational articles.

How many books have you written?
Children's Picture Book: Topsy Turvy Land, Hidden Pictures Publishing (July 2005)

Children's Picture Book: The Lonely Lightning Bug, Guardian Angel Publishing (October 2005)

Donna Shepherd, et al:
Daily Grace for Women, Honor Books (April 2005)
Anytime Prayers for Everyday Moms, Warner Faith (November 2006)

Where do your ideas come from?
I like to think of God's pleasure as He created. Can you imagine Him smiling when he put that humongous beak on the toucan? And then, with a flourish, added all the beautiful colors?

As writers, we are blessed to be able to create. And as a children's writer, sometimes I'm really blessed, and the words I write are illustrated with pictures. It's so much fun to see my words come to life. I thank God every day for the joy of writing, and for allowing me the pleasure of seeing my words in print, and sometimes illustrated.

How do you know an idea is worth following?
Occasionally, I've brainstormed about a topic only to reach a dead end. If I find it too difficult to be inspired, I might put the scribblings away to ponder at a future date. I never throw them away though. You never know when I might be inspired in a fresh new way.

How do you create your characters?
In Topsy Turvy Land, I have specific characteristics for each animal. Chizzy is mischievous. Dotty is his best friend, a sweet hippo who loves being with Chizzy, while Sully, the Snake, is a bit more independent, ready to entertain his friends with his be-bopping beat. I like to think the characters in children's books should be as diverse as children are in real life.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies. Sometimes the ideas come easily. Other times, I mull over concepts, storylines, and the characters a while before putting them down on paper.

What are some of your favorite books/stories?
I have always been a voracious reader, and when my children were little, I enjoyed reading to them just as you do. In elementary school, my daughter set new records for the number of books she read, and my son followed suit. Shel Silverstein became his favorite poet, and soon became mine as well. I like to inject humor into my pieces.

How about your favorite movie? Food? Color?
Can you believe my son got me "Cars" for Christmas? I enjoy the children's movies so much, and own many like Shrek and Finding Nemo.
My favorite food-Easy! Chocolate!
My favorite color would be pink, followed closely by blue.

Do you have any hobbies you like to do besides writing?
I sing and play the piano, and read. I have stacks of books in my 'to be read' pile.

Have you ever wanted to be anything other than an author?
For a long time, I thought I would be a professional singer, and I still sing and play the piano at church, and sing for weddings and funerals.

What are you working on right now?
I have two children's books circulating, a couple of inspirational books I'm working on, along with a Bible study. I like the challenge and diversity of writing for children and grownups.

If my students write you a letter(s), will you respond?
I'd be delighted to!

Where can I purchase your books?
Copies of Topsy Turvy Land are available at any Waldenbooks and Barnes & Noble or online through

Autographed copies can be obtained through

If you could give one piece of advice to every new writer, what would it be?
Read what you want to write. Then write. Don't just talk about writing. Write every day if you can. Join a critique group, either online or in person, or both. Join SCBWI. They have excellent conferences where you can meet with other writers. And research and submit. It won't get published as a file languishing on your computer.

Information on other books:
Kevin Scott Collier and I a series of three books, the Topsy Turvy Tales, which follow on the heels of Topsy Turvy Land featuring Chizzy, Dotty, and Sully.

Donna J. Shepherd's Website:
Devotionals by Donna

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