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Children’s author earns accolade, again

Dori Hillestad Butler

For the second year in a row, Fairmont native and children’s author Dori Hillestad Butler is celebrating.

Having previously won the 2018 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor Book, she has picked up the award again for 2019. It celebrates her accomplishments in writing “King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth,” part of a children’s series.

Butler shared what it is like to achieve the honor a second time around.

“[It feels] pretty amazing,” she said. “The major children’s book awards for the year are always announced at [The American Library Association’s] midwinter meeting and then they’re presented at the summer convention. About 10,000 people (librarians, publishers, authors) attend the midwinter meeting and 25,000 people attend the summer convention.

“This year, midwinter happened to be in Seattle, which is where I live. About five minutes before my phone rang on Jan. 27, I was remembering when I got ‘the call’ a year ago and the thought went through my head, ‘I wish I could have gotten that honor this year instead of last year, because then I could have gone to hear the announcement live on Monday morning instead of watching it online.’ Five minutes later, my phone rang, and it was this year’s Geisel Award committee calling to tell me they were awarding my ‘King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth’ a Geisel honor.”

Butler noted what it was like to hear about her award in person.

“Several of my friends found seats behind me,” she said. “There was a lot of hugging going on in my row, so they suspected something was up. When my award was announced, there was a lot of cheering. It was pretty incredible to actually be there for it in person.”

When asked about her writing process, Butler, who majored in English and child psychology, said the psychology part helps far more than anything else, because it helps her understand the characters she creates.

She also gave some insight into her day-to-day authoring.

“I generally write Monday through Friday during the day. But if I’m on a deadline, I might work evenings and weekends too.

“It’s hard to say how long it takes to write a King & Kayla book. They’re early readers, so they’re only about 1,200 words total. But every word has to be just right.

“I might write a draft of one of these books in a day or two, but then I’ll tinker with it off and on for weeks. I’ll get feedback from writer friends and then I’ll revise. I’ll get feedback from my editor and revise some more.

“Once we see the art and text together, my editor and I do a lot more revising and tinkering. Most of the job of a writer is rewriting rather than writing.

“In general, I’ll start a King & Kayla book in the fall and generally that book will be published a year and a half later.”

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