Author Interview -- Caralyn Buehner
Caralyn Buehner grew up in Salt Lake City, the youngest child in a family of bookworms. She remembers being read to as a child by her mother, and has very fond memories of some children named Sally, Dick and Jane, and seems to remember a dog named Spot. By the time she was in 6th grade, she had perfected the art of undetected nocturnal reading, and had written a chapter of a romance novel. She won state and national awards for her writing in her teenage years, but didn't plan to be an author.
Her marriage to illustrator Mark Buehner brought some changes. When Mark began illustrating children's books, he encouraged Caralyn to write. In the past decade they have collaborated on seven children's picture books, and eight children. Caralyn's writing has been honored with two Utah Children's Choice Awards, a CBC Children's Choice Award, Parent's Choice Award, an ALA Notable Book, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award.
Her favorite writing, however, is the chronicling of everyday events for herself and her children in journals. She believes that sharing our personal perspective is the most powerful and important writing we may do, and can make an "ordinary" life extraordinary.
Published picture books by Caralyn include:
The Escape of Marvin the Ape (1992)
A Job For Wittilda (1993)
It's A Spoon, Not A Shovel (1995)
Fanny's Dream (1996)
I Did It, I'm Sorry (1998)
I Want to Say I Love You (2001)
Snowmen at Night (2002)
Superdog: the Heart of a Hero (2004)
1--Why did you decide to become a writer?
It wasn't a conscious decision - and still is a peripheral part of my life. I'm more of a reader, and am perfectly happy to relax with a stack of other people's books. This is not to say that I didn't do any early writing; I have two chapters of a romance novel that I wrote at about age 13, and a few state awards for poetry, and one national award, all before leaving high school. But writing was never a strong drive, and once in college I floundered around in history and human development, and didn't even consider an English major. I'm still very drawn to the human mind.
It was Mark who pulled me into the business with him (bless him!). He was already publishing, and urged me to write a story and collaborate with him. He may have gotten tired of hearing me complain about other manuscripts and other people's writing - I was always itching to edit them myself. I was fortunate to work with an excellent editor, who let me have my own voice and style, and who encouraged me until I could feel confidence in my own abilities.
2--Who is your favorite character that you have written?
Probably Fanny, (from FANNY'S DREAM). There's so much of myself, my mother, and my grandmother in her that she is very real to me.
3--If you could change one thing about being a writer, what would it be?
I am a homebody in every sense of the word. I would like very much for someone else to market my books, and for them to sell wildly without me ever having to go to any events.
4--Do you remember the very first piece of fiction you wrote?
It's funny - I've been getting attention for my writing from my family and teachers since I was in elementary school. But even with the praise and awards, I never felt any confidence in what I wrote. I had an excellent paper recommended for publication in college - but was too chicken to pursue it. The first real piece of fiction that got any attention from the general public would have been THE ESCAPE OF MARVIN THE APE; all 13 lines of it.
5--Who are your favorite authors?
I love Sharon Creech, Ray Bradbury, Madeleine L'Engle, Louisa May Alcott, Kristin Randle (a Utah author!) and host of others. I find myself reading YA fiction more and more. But the last book I couldn't put down was a T. Davis Bunn novel.
6--Do you have any specific goals as a writer?
I would like to be a stronger voice, and would especially like to develop better and more disciplined habits about my writing, instead of approaching it sporadically. As far as my writing goes, I am changing from wanting to get a deep point across to just wanting to bring a little light and joy into my work.
7--What was your favorite book as a child?
I read LITTLE WOMEN so often that I have long passages memorized. I loved Marie Killilea's books (biographical), and still read them. I read all of the Sue Barton and Three Investigators books that I could. As a teen I found MRS. MIKE, and that's probably my all-time favorite book - always good for a reread. I didn't last long with picture books, as I jumped into reading early, but was the lucky owner of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE - and it was pretty new then!
8--What are you working on now?
I'm supposed to be revising a text for my editor at Dial, but my mind is desperately wandering into other trails. I'm hoping to develop another story to replace this one, as I can't get excited enough about it. I have two waiting for Mark, so it's hard to feel rushed.
9--Do you ever write about UT?
Not per se, but many elements of our local area find their way into the illustrations.
10--What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
Generating that creativity - actually sitting down to it and sticking it out.
11--What is the easiest thing about being a writer?
You work with the nicest people in the world, and meet the nicest people in the world.
12--What good advice do you have for people who want to be writers?
Three things: Read, and read good writers, read your work out loud, don't be afraid of critiques and editing.
UCWI Interviews children's author-- Caralyn Buehner
This interview first appeared in the UCWI Newsletter