The Storyworld is available for download for the iPhone on the App Store here: Bedtime Stories — read & tell App.
Today, we meet Elizabeth Ditty, author of My Sister the Werewolf.
Thank you for joining us and welcome to my blog. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you.
I’m Elizabeth Ditty, and I’m a writer in Kansas City, Missouri. My husband and I have two kiddos, ages 4 and 2, who are simultaneously inspiring and exhausting.
What’s the name of your Storyworld and what is it about?
My Storyworld is “My Sister the Werewolf,” and it’s about a young boy named Ferdinand who discovers his baby sister, Luna, is (you guessed it) a werewolf.
How did you come up with the stories and characters?
When my son was a baby, it seemed his worst nights sleeping always happened near or during the full moon. It was uncanny. We started joking that he must be a werewolf. So that experience was the fertile ground for baby-as-werewolf, and then watching my son and daughter get to know each other also provided a lot of inspiration for the brother-sister relationship.
Tell us about the themes in your Storyworld. Why are they important?
I think one of the themes that runs through each story is how we can learn to love people who seem totally different than we are. Ferdinand is 5 years old when his sister is born, so there’s already a big difference between how he sees himself and how he sees Luna. When you throw in the fact that she’s a werewolf, that’s a whole other set of factors that sets them apart. But ultimately, it’s those differences that bring them together as brother and sister and help them develop an unbreakable bond. That’s important for any family unit, but I think those lessons can also extend to how we meet and treat people anywhere.
Are there educational aspects to your work? If so, what are they?
Whenever Ferdinand runs into a problem, he has to research the facts and analyze data, create a plan, and then use his own ingenuity to come up with ways to overcome unexpected obstacles. My hope is that Ferdinand’s creative problem-solving serves as a way to recognize and celebrate the synergy between known facts and imagination, while acting as an age-appropriate introduction to the scientific method.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing as a child and haven’t ever really stopped. I grew up on stories, so it made sense to try my hand at telling a few of my own. As for why I’m still at it, I’m not sure why I write beyond the fact that I can’t seem not to. And believe me, it’s a tough business, so it’s a thing I’ve considered from time to time! For any writers on the brink out there, the question I always ask myself is, “Does it hurt more to quit or to keep going?” For me, the answer every time so far has been that it hurts more to quit, so here I am.
How many books have you written to date? What inspired you to write your first book?
I actually tend to focus more on screenwriting than writing books, though I do participate in National Novel Writing Month every year in November. So to that extent, I’ve written 11 novels, but none of them have been published, and most of them will stay that way.
I’ve also got a bushel of completed (for now) screenplays under my belt. I was a semifinalist in the comedy category at the Austin Film Festival in 2011, and I’m heading back this year in the one-hour pilot category as a Second Rounder, which is a nice motivator to keep putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys, as the case may be).
I’ve also got a children’s picture book waiting for me to give it the attention it deserves in getting it published.
Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your genre that you find particularly challenging?
Most of my stories could be very broadly categorized as magical realism. The challenge is always setting up the rules of the universe. I do my best to only ask my readers for one leap of faith each time.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’m not sure if this is a regional thing, but we have something called the Young Author’s Program, to which elementary-age kids submit pieces of work. I think I was in first grade, and I believe I had an acrostic poem about a brontosaurus (back when apatosauruses were still brontosauruses) accepted. It was published in a little booklet, and there was this cool little ceremony, and it all felt pretty amazing. Maybe it’s a little silly, but something about that experience stuck with me, and from that point on, it always felt like maybe I had stories worth telling.
I wrote on and off over the years and finally started tackling the task more seriously, with intent, a year or two after I graduated college, in large part thanks to NaNoWriMo.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
I read a lot, from many different types of media. News stories will catch my interest sometimes as a jumping off point, and sometimes a turn of phrase in a novel, or the juxtaposition of words on images in a comic can unlock a door you’ve been struggling against in your own work. I watch films and sample a lot of television for the same reasons. I also take in as much live theatre as I can afford (yes, I have seen Hamilton and it was even more amazing than I’d hoped).
I also recommend travelling as often as you can, because you gain a different perspective when you immerse yourself in a different culture. And that can be within the country or even city you already live in, by the way. Just going to a place you’ve never been before, even if it’s just around the corner, expands your horizons. I also highly recommend taking up hobbies as they strike you (and letting them go as needed as well). For instance, on a whim a number of years ago, I took a summer of horseback riding lessons and an introductory fencing class, which have been able to inform my writing from time to time. Plus they were just fun!
What were your favourite books as a child and why?
I’ve been an avid reader for quite some time. The Bunnicula series in particular provided inspiration for My Sister the Werewolf. There was a book called The Dollhouse Murders that I read once a year as a kid, and I was captivated by the Rats of Nimh. I was also really into the Fear Street series in my later elementary school years. I feel like I’m naming a lot of darker stories, but my parents were truly wonderful to give me full and perhaps oblivious access to basically anything I wanted to read. I am truly grateful to have grown up in a house full of books and am trying to do the same for my kids.
What book are you currently reading?
I was in a bit of a reading slump, so I’m reading my way through the Harry Potter novels again. It’s my first time going through them in about a decade, my first time as a parent, and I am enjoying them immensely. I’m also on several comics pulls, like Saga, Bitch Planet, and The Mighty Thor. And I have John Green’s new book waiting for me on my nightstand.
What advice do you give to writers starting out on their career?
Read broadly. Write toward your heart rather than the market. Write the stuff you want to read (or watch). Get out into the world and have adventures. Be interested in people. Meet, encourage and celebrate other writers. This is a lonely craft, and knowing others who are fighting the same fight can help you through the tough spots.
What are you currently working on and what is your next project?
I’m currently working on a screenplay about a woman who finds out her parents didn’t have the idyllic marriage she thought they did and sets off on a road trip to try to understand who they were and who she is in light of the demise of her own marriage. It’s sort of Sabrina meets Little Miss Sunshine. I’ve got a moody horror romance on deck for NaNoWriMo this year. And after that, I’ll focus on revisions to my one-hour pilot about notorious and brilliant pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I do! You can visit www.elizabethditty.com to keep up with my admittedly sporadic updates. There’s also quite a bit of free short and flash fiction there if you’re in the mood for a story.
Thank you for telling us about your Bedtime Stories Storyworld and your books! We can’t wait to read them!
My Sister the Werewolf is available for download now on the Bedtime Stories — read & tell App on iPhone and iPad