Peg366's Blog

Come Say Hello to Dori Butler, Author.

Posted on: March 18, 2010

A picture of me, not Dori.

My interview today is with Dori Hillestad Butler, author of picture books, novels and magazine stories for magazines like Cricket, Highlights for Children, Children’s Digest, and Children’s Life to mention just a few. With Dori that is just the tip of the iceberg as my readers will discover as we talk. I have to say there is so much I want to talk to you about.  Thank you so much for agreeing to come spend some time with me and my readers.    

Dori: Thanks for having me. I’m always happy to talk about writing.   

Peg:  Can you tell my readers why you write?   

Dori: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My mother kept one of those School Days books when I was a kid, and even back in kindergarten I answered the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question with “A writer.”    This is a picture of Dori.


Peg:   It’s cool that it came true. If for some reason, writing was not an option for you as your career, what career would you have chosen?   

Dori: Hmm . . . I guess I could see myself as a children’s librarian, a midwife, a child psychologist, or an attorney who represents children. Are you seeing a pattern here?   

Peg: Yep, it was always about kids.  Have the places you’ve lived or jobs you’ve held played role in what you write about?   

Dori: The only “real” job I’ve ever had was “library page” when I was in high school. Unless you count summer jobs in college and seasonal jobs during the first few years of my marriage? I don’t know that any of these jobs influenced my writing. But the places I’ve lived certainly play a role. I’m a Midwestern girl. I was born and raised in a small town in southern Minnesota. I’ve also lived in Bemidji, Minnesota; the Twin Cities; Rochester, Minnesota; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and I currently live in Coralville, Iowa. I set all my stories in the Midwest because that’s what I know.    

Peg:   I read on your website that you didn’t have any sibling until you were 9 years old, so you wrote stories to entertain yourself. What can you share with my readers about those stories?   

Dori: Well, at that age, what I wanted more than anything was a big family. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins. So that’s what I wrote about…kids with big families. And I mean BIG families. One of my recurring “series” at that time was a series about a family with 26 kids, one for each letter of the alphabet.   

 Peg: Lol. That is a great idea for a picture book. Coming from a family of thirteen children, I would have traded places with you at times. I had to hide to get time to read.     

 Peg:  Many writers have a single genre that they concentrate on. Not you. You’ve written short stories, picture books, novels, magazine stories. Just curious, do you have a favorite genre or a favorite age group to write for?   

Dori: I always used to say middle grade fiction, but that was before the Buddy Files. I enjoy writing chapter books, too…and I REALLY enjoy writing from a dog’s perspective.   

Peg:   You started your writing career with writing for Magazines like Cricket, Highlights for Children, Children’s Digest, and Children’s Life. Do you still submit to magazines? Would you recommend that for a new writer? Did having a writer’s resume help your career?   

Dori: It’s been a while since I’ve written for magazines, but yes, I’d say it’s still a nice way to build credits. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many magazines out there now as there were when I started writing. And many of them purchase all rights.   

Peg:  Unfortunately, that is so true.   

Dori: Writing for magazines probably did help build my career. It certainly built my confidence. Once I had magazine credits, I used those to get work as a ghostwriter for the Sweet Valley Twins series.   

Peg:  I know that writers each have their own timetable for when they write? What about you? Are you someone who writes every day, or are you more of a “jam session” type of writer?   

Dori: I do try to write every day. I start my day with an hour long walk with my dog…then I write until school is out. It doesn’t always work that way, but that’s the goal.   

Peg:  What one or two things have you learned over the years, that you wish someone had told you when you first began writing?   

Dori: Well, when I first started writing, I was scared of the revision process. I didn’t know where to begin. The whole process was overwhelming to me. So I wish someone had told me back then that one day I would actually come to ENJOY revision.   

I would also have benefitted from someone telling me not to focus so much on my writing at the expense of everything else. In those early days, I hung out with my husband, took care of my kids and wrote. I didn’t do much else. (I REALLY wanted to be a published writer!) But there was room for more in my life…I wish I had pursued a few other interests back then. It would have given me more to write about!   

Peg:   One thing I discovered while doing my research for this interview is that you have articles on book packaging on the Institute of Children’s Literature site.    

Note to readers, here are some links for you to take a look at:  “Working with Book Packagers” with Dori Butler http://c/rx/tr01/revised_dori_butler.shtml
Working with Book Packagers, Part 2” with Dori Butler   

I found this talk about Book Packagers very enlightening.   

Dori: Thank you. I enjoyed working for Daniel Weiss Associates (Now 17th Street Productions). The books I did for them were my first published novels. And I always wanted to publish novels. So this was like “on the job training.” I learned how to structure a novel…work with an editor…meet a deadline…and I even got paid!   

Peg:   Getting paid works for me. lol. You also work with teen writers. If someone wanted to contact you about those things in your local area, how do they go about it? Do you also do workshops for adult writers who wish to learn how to write for children?   

Dori: Yes, I’ve taught writing classes to gifted students at the Belin Blank Center in Iowa City. I’ve also led a teen writers workshop at the Coralville Public Library every summer for the past five years or so. I will likely do it again this year. Interested teens can get information on this at the Coralville Public Library. I really enjoy doing this…I think I learn as much from the teens as they learn from me. I’m always amazed by the talent these students have. If you don’t believe me, you can check out examples of their work at:   

I’ve thought about doing a workshop for adults, but haven’t pursued it. Maybe one day…   

Peg:  I’d take your workshop. See you have your first adult student.   

Peg:  You are the type of writer that seems to want to help other writers develop their skills. You have some great resources for writers on your website. I especially liked the one on errors in English which is not my strong point.    

On the Mechanics of Writing:    

    Common Errors in English:   

Note to readers: Check out: for a sample of the resources Dori shares.   

Peg:  You are very involved in your local SCBWI. In fact that is where we first met. How long have you been a member?   

Dori: I’ve been a member of SCBWI for so long that it was just SCBW when I joined! I’ve been a member for about 20 years.   

Peg:  I love SCBWI and I’m excited as a writer to hear that you are one of the presenters at the Spring Iowa SCBWI’s  conference. Can you share the details with my writer friends and other readers on that event?   

Sarah Prineas, Fantasy Author

My friend Sarah Prineas and I will do a joint session on author visits via Skype at the spring conference. It’ll be at the Lodge in Bettendorf, IA from April 23 through the 25th. But don’t just come to hear Sarah and me…Connie (our R.A.) always puts on a fabulous conference!    

Peg:  I can attest to that.   

Dori: She’s invited editors Laura Arnold (HarperCollins), Lisa Graff (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and Allyn Johnston (Simon & Schuster); agent Ammi-Joan Paquette (with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency), and authors, Marla Frazee, Mike Shoulders, and Carol Gorman. For more information (and a registration form) go to:   

Peg:  Another aspect of being an author that we don’t think about is being able to market ourselves, especially with the financial difficulties that publishers face. I stood up at a SCBWI conference to give a first line and I almost choked on my words. How do you do it if you are shy?   

Dori: I feel your pain! I’m very shy, too. In fact, I couldn’t muster up the courage to speak to anyone at the first SCBW conference I attended 20 years ago. And no one spoke to me. But the thing about an SCBWI conference is you automatically have something in common with everyone in the room…and SCBWI people are all so nice. It doesn’t take much to start a conversation…and if you take the risk, before you know it you’ll probably have a new friend.   

What’s helped me most with shyness and public speaking is Toastmasters! (see I joined a local group about three years ago…it changed my life!   

But in terms of marketing, there are a lot of things a shy writer can do to market him or herself without being in-your-face about it. Have an online presence…send postcards…write a newsletter…    

Peg:  I read about your trip to Albert Whitman and I want to encourage my writers frends/readers to check out the pictures and text on your blog on Feb 23, 2010 @ Some of us, meaning me, can’t wait until we get the opportunity to tour our publisher’s office. It was really nice to get a chance to see inside the building and have an opportunity to see an editor as a working person at their desk.   

Dori: Thanks! I think they thought I was a little nuts walking around taking pictures of everything. To them, it’s just “the office.” It’s not that big of a deal. But it is a big deal for us, isn’t it? Now when I call the main switchboard, I know who I’m talking to. When I talk to my editor or the marketing director or the designer, I can picture each one in his or her office. I know where they have their meetings and I know where they spread out page proofs; I even know where they eat their lunches. I think the best part of the trip was simply having an opportunity to hang out with these people some more and get to know them as people. It’s fun to discover we have more in common than just my book. (And hey, editors etc. really ARE people just like the rest of us!)   

Peg:  I’m glad to hear that they really are people just like the rest of us. I read in one of your earlier interviews that you don’t expect to hear from a publisher for six months when you submit something to them. Has that changed now that you have a lot of books published? I mean a new author might expect it to be a little more challenging to get a first book published, right?   

Dori: It depends. I hear from editors I have a relationship with much faster than that. And it’s been a long time since I’ve submitted to editors I don’t have a relationship with…I really don’t even know what a typical response time is now. I’ve heard stories of authors waiting more than a year to hear back.   

Peg: You do a fair number of school visits.  I know that this is a topic that could be discussed in an interview all by itself, so please feel free to give a general type of answer.  Has that been something that you were comfortable doing from the first? Picture below is of Dori at a school presentation.   

Dori: No, I wasn’t comfortable to start with. At first I saw it as “giving a speech” and I’ve always hated giving speeches. But I genuinely enjoy the company of kids and teens (I wouldn’t write for them if I didn’t). And I realized that kids don’t want to sit and listen to a speech. They want to participate. So I threw away my speech and decided to just talk with the kids. That’s when I got comfortable with school visits.   

Peg: Now, have you started doing Skype visits? How is that working out for you?   

Dori: I LOVE Skype visits. They’re so easy…I don’t have to dress up. I don’t even leave my house. And it’s almost always Q&A. Very easy. I also get to show off my dog!   

More information on Skype:     

Peg:  I think many new writers have the idea that once you have a great “writer’s resume”  like the one you have that the days of rejections are done. Do you still get rejections? And how do you deal with them?   

Dori: Sure…I deal with them by sending the manuscript out to somebody else.   

Peg:  By the way, I love your website. On your website,, you mention a old fat cat named Ashley that lives with you and your family. Do you have or plan to have in the future a series of books featuring a cat as a main character. Like your Buddy Files series only with a cat?   

Dori: Well, I think Cat With No Name (from the Buddy Files) will have at least one book (if my publisher agrees)…maybe even a mini spin-off series?   

Peg: As a music lover who has absolutely no skills whatever, I was interested in your ability to play the mandolin. It is something from my own family background, and wondered if you might write a story or article about the instrument? I know. It is not like you don’t have enough ideas all on your own. Here, I am suggesting more work. Sorry. Lol. Maybe your cat mc could be a mandolin playing mystery solver?             

Dori: I have considered incorporating my mandolin into my school visit presentation, but I haven’t actually done it yet. I’m not sure I ever really will…I play with a guitar player and two ukulele players; I’m not sure I’d want to play by myself in public. I can see writing about a character who plays the mandolin, but I don’t think I’d write a full article on the subject. There are others who know far more about the subject than I do…they’re the ones who should write about it. I really just play for fun.   

Peg:  I know you and your dog are a registered pet partner team through the Delta Society. Are your recent books influenced by your pet partner, Mouse?     

Dori: The animal therapy work and the series sort of developed at the same time. I got a new dog and started training him to be a therapy dog about the same time I was talking to people at Albert Whitman & Co. about writing a series. So I thought, “how about a series about a school therapy dog who solves mysteries…and I’ll write them from the dog’s point of view.” They liked the idea and we went from there.   

Peg:   Speaking about your Buddy Files, you had three books in the series launched the first of this month. Did you plan this as a series right from the start? 

 These three books were released March 2010 by Albert Whitman. They are available now to be purchased.   

Dori: Yes, I planned it as a series.   

Peg:  Did you send in a full manuscript or a proposal?  

Dori: I submitted a proposal. We’d been talking about doing a series for a few months. Once I actually wrote it up as a proposal and submitted it, it didn’t take very long to hear back from them. Just a couple of weeks, I think.   

Peg:  I want to mention your fabulous illustrator for the Buddy File series, Jeremy Tugeau.My readers can see his work @   I always want to know about what happens with an illustrator. Did you have any choice in who illustrator you Buddy File books? Have you ever met Jeremy?   

Dori: I didn’t have any say in that decision. And I wouldn’t have expected to. I was pleasantly surprised to hear it was going to be Jeremy, though. I HAVE met him…he and his wife spoke at an Iowa SCBWI conference a few years ago!   

Peg:  You have another book coming out in the Fall 2010. Tell my readers about the book The Case of the Fire Alarm? Is it another of the Buddy File series?   

Dori: Yes, it is. That’s #4. #5 is scheduled for spring 2011 and is tentatively entitled The Case of the Library Monster.   

Peg:    Tell us where your books can be found, so my readers can rush out and get one.   

Dori: Try your local bookstore…if they don’t have the books, ask them to order them.   

Peg:   I want to share with my readers some of the places where people in Iowa can see you and get a signed book.   

Dori: The next place will be the Iowa SCBWI conference in Bettendorf April 23-25.   

Peg:   Thanks so much Dori. I have really enjoyed this interview. Would you consider coming back in the future to discuss some of the other projects that you are involved with?   

Dori: Sure! Thanks for interviewing me!


3 Responses to "Come Say Hello to Dori Butler, Author."

Great interview! Thanks for mentioning the teens and the Leaky Pen too! 🙂 I did want to mention that the url is actually :
(no “default” at the end) Just in case folks want to check it out.
We look forward to having Dori here again this summer to help our teens create some great work!

Susan Winkler
Web Resources Assistant
Coralville Public Library


Thanks for the great comment. Dori Butler is a super lady who was a lot of fun to interview.

I’ll go and fix the link on the blog page for the Leaky Pen.

Peg Finley/peg366

Hello admin do you need unlimited articles for your page ? What if you could copy article from other blogs, make it pass copyscape test and publish on your blog – i know the right tool for
you, just search in google:
Ziakdra’s article tool

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I am an aspiring picturebook writer with some magazine credits just no picture book contract yet. I know it is coming and I am more than willing to work for it.

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July 2009

March 2010
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My Favorites:

I love the children's movies Wizard of Oz and the Neverending Story. Both movies make me feel the lesson that hope is alive and well. After seeing UP this past week, it just might have a chance at being added to this list.

I love the cool colors of blues and purples.Those colors are peaceful for me.

I love The Velveteen Rabbit. Even as an adult, I still feel the urge to cry when he becomes real. I know, silly, but a good book can make me laugh and cry as it takes me on a magical journey.

Authors and Illustrators:

Authors, Author/Illustrator, Illustrators that I know and/or Like.


C= Children

MG= Mid Grade

T= Teen

YA= Young Adult

A= Adult


Bonnie Adamson *

Kathi Appelt *

Tedd Arnold


Natalie Babbit

Molly Bang

Bonnie Becker

Jan and Stan Berenstain

Judy Blume

Tracey M. Cox

Linda Crotta Brennan *

Jan Brett

Janie Bynum *

Eric Carle

Pam Calvert

Nancy Carlson

Beverly Cleary

Kevin Scott Collier

Sharon Creech

Doreen Cronnin

Tomie dePaulo

Kate DiCamillo

Kathleen Duey *

Dotti Enderle

Jan Fields *

Denise Fleming

Mem Fox

Kelley Milner Hall

Amy Heist

Kevin Henkes

Ellen Jackson *

Jeff Kinney

Jackie French Koller

Ursula K. LeGuin

Leo Lionni

Lois Lowry

Mercer Mayer

Robert Munsch

Laura Numeroff

Linda Sue Parks

Dav Pilkey

Patricia Polacco

Peggy Rathmann

Bethany Roberts

David Shannon

Aaron Shepard

Donna J. Shepherd *

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Jerry Spinelli

Diane Stanley

Chris Van Allsburg

Rick Walton *

Lisa Wheeler

Mo Willems

Karma Wilson *

Audrey Woods

Jane Yolen *

Favorite Websites:

Favorite Blogs:

• ShelfTalker: A Children’s Bookseller’s Blog
• Alice’s CWIM Blog
• A Fuse #8 Production
• Cynsations
• Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent
• Editorial Anonymous
• Miss Snark’s First Victim
• Writing for children and teens

Favorite Quotes.

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