Today’s special guest is someone I met when we were both at Stony Brook University – Southampton writing conference in 2017. Debra and I were members of children’s literature workshop that worked that summer and beyond. This was the group that helped me revise ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON from the hot mess I presented to submission ready. I’m happy to say we’ve stayed in contact on a regular basis since then. In addition to being a talented writer, Debra is an amazing doll maker and crochet expert. We are celebrating her new book, CLAIRE The Little Girl Who Climbed to the Top and Changed the Way Women Dress, illustrated by Mary Ryan Reeves, and the accompanying coloring book, CLAIRE’S CLOSET.
Debra is offering one lucky winner a copy of CLAIRE’S CLOSET. Comment on the blogpost to enter the giveaway.
What were you like at the age of your target audience?
I was a “stoop girl” from Astoria, Queens. I played with my brother and our neighborhood friends and spent a lot of time under one tree that grew out of the cement in front of our apartment building. I had the best handmade clothes for my dolls, thanks to my grandmother who taught me how to crochet. Most of the time, my nose was in a pop-up book, the Golden Books and the encyclopedias in the glass-enclosed bookcase which I inherited from my grandmother. I loved school.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration when I am not looking for it. I walk about 3 miles every morning and that helps my creative process. I am mostly inspired, though, by people (especially women) who have overcome challenges and maintain a positive attitude. And people who give of themselves. I always respected Helen Keller, and I tend to read biographies of women in American History. Of course, a movie or book that makes me cry will do it too. Oh, and yarn! I can get lost looking at the colors and feeling the textures of yarn.
What’s something you hope your readers will take away from your book?
I hope readers will learn about Claire McCardell because she truly changed the way women dress and wanted women to be independent, and to have clothes that would give us the freedom to “solve the world’s problems.” I also hope it will encourage them to dream big and to make something.
I recently received a letter from a seamstress who learned of my book in THREADS magazine, and she told me how much she was inspired by Claire McCardell and that she will be using it in her curriculum for a sewing camp in August. I never even imagined this would happen, and I was very moved.
What’s next for you?
I am in the process of finishing up a book about 20 first ladies with some connection to the needle arts. I spent a couple of years researching lesser-known stories about them and collecting images of their handicraft from historic homes and presidential libraries. It has been a fascinating learning experience for me. To see a baby cap crocheted by Dolley Madison or a baby blanket knitted by Lou Henry Hoover is a thrill, and I hope others (in middle grade and above) will enjoy this too. It’s a way to touch history.
To learn more about Debra, her books, her dolls, and her crochet :
Check out her crochet dolls on etsy!