Chat with Deborah Freedman, author and illustrator of This House, Once

You guys, please give a very warm welcome to the incredible author and illustrator, Deborah Freedman! Debbie is a stellar picture book creator (ahem, I'm referring to all those stars in review journals) and the sweetest person you could hope to know: brilliant, kind, funny, quietly feisty, deeply passionate. Her newest picture book, THIS HOUSE, ONCE is going to be one of your favorite books of the year when it comes out in February. 

Debbie kindly agreed to talk with us today as part of my Super Evil Plan to get you all inspired to create and encourage you to enter contests. (Hmmm. Shouldn't've said that.) Debbie's very first picture book, SCRIBBLE, was actually a winner of the Tassy Walden Award in 2003, so she has some great insights into the benefit of entering contests!

Hi, Debbie, and welcome! Can you tell us a little bit about your newest book, This House, Once? What is it about and why is it special to you?

THIS HOUSE,ONCE is a meditation on a house and where its different parts came from. It’s very quiet and cozy, and suggests that readers be mindful of all that surrounds them.

Illustration from This House, Once by Deborah Freedman

When I read through the pages of This House, Once, I literally turned the last page with goosebumps creeping all over my arms. The words and pictures are gorgeous and speak directly to my love of houses and homes, of little things taking on great meaning, of the importance of understanding our connection to the natural world. One thing that made that reading incredibly moving was that I was standing in your very special house, designed by your husband and made into an incredibly cheerful and art-filled home by you and all your family! What ideas influenced the type of home you created? And do you have advice for how to make one's home an art-friendly environment?

Faith, that is the best response I could hope for — thank you!

As you know, my own house does not look like the house in the book at all. “This house” is straight out of my imagination, the idea of a house and not an actual house. Our real house in New Haven, Connecticut was originally built in 1928, altered by owners before us, and added onto and changed by us over the twenty-three years we have lived here. It’s a never-ending work in progress, and very autobiographical; for instance, in our loft-like living room, Ben transposed drawings that our daughters did when they were little into shapes on one wall — a giant girl in a polka-dot dress, a butterfly…

The girls are grown now, but we still have their childhood artwork on display, so our kids grew up knowing that we valued what they made. And recently we started adding art by our grandchildren —we just love how it all keeps accumulating, our family’s history told by children’s art! My daughters-in-law keep homes like ours, full of artwork and no shortage of art supplies.

Can we talk a little about contests? You were one of the early winners of the Tassy Walden Award; what did winning mean to you as a writer and illustrator? How did entering help you grow as an artist?

Sure, let’s talk about the Tassy! I won awards in two categories in 2003 — illustration portfolio and illustrated picture book. I did eventually sell that book, SCRIBBLE, to Knopf, but only after two more years of revision, revision, revision — with the Tassy providing much of the encouragement I needed to keep at it for so long.

The other important thing for me personally was that through the Tassy, at the awards ceremony, I found our tribe of children’s writers. And that has meant the world to me.

Photo by Ben Ledbetter

Yes! I agree wholeheartedly with that! 

Finally, do you have any thoughts you'd like to share with anyone considering entering the Tassy or another competition this year?

Competitions are a great motivator — to get that story done already, meet that deadline, take yourself seriously. Just entering is a win!

Again, thank you so much for putting so much time and thoughtfulness into this interview, Debbie! I can't wait until all the world can read your newest book!

You can find Debbie at her website (complete with some great resources for educators and readers) and on Twitter (where her tweets are a little oases of happiness amid the chaos :).  
To learn more about the Tassy (and download the entry form--you only have a week!!), visit the site of the Shoreline Arts Alliance, here.


  1. Oh, I love the illustrations for this book! And even though I don't have little ones in my house anymore (my daughter is 16 now), I still adore children's books. Thanks so much for this!


Post a Comment

Comments make me happy.

Popular Posts