Nov. 3 2010 12:00 AM

Deborah Diesen reels in a ’Pout-Pout Fish’ sequel


Grand Ledge resident and children’s book author Deborah Diesen likes to work underwater and has two books to show for it, including the New York Times best seller “Pout Pout Fish.”

In Diesen’s new book, Mr. Fish is back for another adventure, but finds himself in deep water — real deep water. Although Mr. Fish may be as “fast as a sailfish … strong as a shark and smart as a dolphin,” he has a secret: He’s scared of the dark.

Diesen said the idea to take Mr. Fish to the deep dark ocean was inspired by the book’s illustrator, Dan Hanna.

“Dan Hanna wanted to include art from the deepest part of the ocean in the first book,” she said. Hanna and Diesen had never met before the first book was published, but at a joint appearance in New York they did some brainstorming, which resulted in the new storyline.

“Fear of the dark is a popular theme for young kids,” Diesen said, and the resulting book sends the strong message that friends can help overcome fears.

“I got to know (Hanna) and this book feels very jointly owned,” Diesen said.

In reality, writing children’s books is often like venturing into uncharted waters. Diesen said she has “hundreds of stories she has written — some of which may find a home and some not. As a writer you just have to continue to write things that, as a writer, you want to do.

“It doesn’t get any easier once you get published. You are still writing in a lonely room, but now you have more voices in your head: the agent, the editor, the publisher. It’s hard and wonderful at the same time.”

Diesen said an author is always in a state of chaos and “you have to ride it out. There are a lot of creative things going on and there’s never a stagnant moment.”

Diesen is one of those authors who gives credit for success to a writer’s group. She has been a member of Write Brainers for nine years.

“They haven’t been able to get rid of me since," she said. "The writing group has been a great benefit.”

Her group includes eight writers (onehalf of them are now published and she predicts success for the others soon) who work in the children’s book genre, which includes the categories of picture books, young-adult, middle-school and non-fiction.

“There are some benefits to cross pollination,” Diesen said.

She admitted she was ready to give up trying to get published when the phone call from a publisher came. But even then, it was still almost three years between getting the call and being published.

During that time, she sold a second book, “The Barefooted Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade,” to another publisher. It has also been a success.

She is working on fourth book, tentatively called “Picture Day Perfection,” in addition to seeking a publisher for a young-adult novel.

Diesen is one of those authors who enjoy doing public events. “A lot of authors struggle with what to do at public events. I enjoy events with kids. It is very special to be out there.”

Young children are easily caught up in her lyrical, expressive style of writing and she soon has them singing along with her books’ rhyming verses. She said public appearances have been an unexpected benefit of getting publishing.

Deborah Diesen

a.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, Schuler Books & Music - Eastwood 2820 Towne
Center Blvd., Lansing (517) 316-7495