Six Questions with Wendy Wahman
Updated: Mar 8, 2022
Wendy Wahman worked at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper until its closure in 2009. She now focuses on children’s books and illustration. Her first book, Don’t Lick the Dog, was selected as a 2010 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, starred for Outstanding Merit and accepted to the Society of Illustrators Original Art show. Other books include A Cat Like That, Snowboy 1,2,3, Rabbit Stew, Pony in the City, Nanny Paws, and Old Pearl. Visit Wendy's website to learn more about her and her work.
1. If you could be ANY character in a book, who would you be? Why?
1. She had a horse.
2. She lived on her own with no one telling her what to do, and she had a bottomless treasure chest filled with gold, and good friends.
3. She had a horse.
2. What one piece of advice would you like to give to aspiring kidlit authors?
Watch out for stereotypes, shush your inner editor while writing or drawing early on, and lead with love.
3. When you begin writing a book, do you always know where the story is going?
Nope. I’ll have a key moment, phrase, or action to get to, but they’re fluttery moving targets I may never reach. It’s the surprise, ah-ha’s along the way that write the story.
4. Where did you get the idea for your most recent book, Old Pearl? What was your inspiration?
Watching a flock of pigeons bathing in a downtown gutter. The water didn’t look too clean, but it’s what those city birds had, so that’s where they bathed.
That story was about an old pigeon, Pidge, who was tired of the hard life on the street and longed to be someone’s pampered pet (she’d peeked through windows before). Pidge sets off to try to find a home… and that’s as far as I got.
Years later, something Joe Biden said to Cindy McCain at her husband’s memorial sparked a new "old-bird" story. Biden, who’s suffered so many personal losses, said something like, “… one day your memories will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye.” This has been true in my life, and so it is for Theo, in Old Pearl. Theo is given the time and support to grieve, and in the end, is able to, once again, open his great big, brave, heart to love.
5. If you could tell readers one secret about this book, what would it be?
Originally, Pearl was a pigeon. Contract signed, work begun, I was asked to make Pearl a non-specific, ’story- book’ bird since pigeons are not popular with many people. This was a hard compromise, as I love pigeons. They are gentle, resourceful, beautiful birds (and I still think of Pearl as a pigeon).
6. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?
To love and take care of each another. And when, not if, you lose someone you love deeply, take all the time you need to grieve. And one day, memories of your loved one will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye. And one day, your great big, brave, heart will love again.