Deborah Froese is passionate about the power stories have to shape people and build relationships. It’s a lifelong passion, one that naturally led to her profession as a writer.
Twenty-five years ago, she quit her full-time, paying job because she wanted to become a published writer/illustrator of children’s books. She thought that surely, if she worked hard, she could have a book “out” within the year.
“I was just a tad naive,” she says. “Almost seven years passed before I was published – and I didn’t do the illustrations for the book!”
Since then, while raising three sons with her husband, Henry, Deborah has published plenty – from countless non-fiction pieces to fiction and a column about writing that ran for three years in WordWrap, the former news magazine of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild.
Deborah has written two award-winning books for young readers. The Wise Washerman (illustrated by Wang Kui, Hyperion Press, 1996) received the Canadian Children’s Book Centre “Our Choice” award. Her young adult novel, Out of the Fire (Sumach Press, 2001), was included on the American Library Association’s list of the Best Books for Young Adults, 2003. It was one of 11 books out of 203 nominations to receive a unanimous vote from the ALA’s selection committee for inclusion on that list. It also received a 2003 Honour Certificate from MYRCA, the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award. Beltz and Gelburg published a German translation of Out of the Fire in 2004 under the title In meiner Haut. Both of Deborah’s books received positive reviews from the likes of Booklist and School Library Journal.
Her latest picture book, Mr. Jacobson's Window, was published in November 2014 by Peanut Butter Press of Winnipeg and was shortlisted for the McNally Robinson Books for Young People Award, younger category. She says it is particularly special for her because she had the opportunity to create the illustrations as well as write the text.
Since 1996, Deborah has shared insights and experience about writing through school workshops and readings, and in various venues with adults who are interested in learning to write for younger audiences, including Writing Books for Children at Red River College in Winnipeg, Manitoba since 1997. Currently she serves in a part-time role as Director of News Services for Mennonite Church Canada and as the editorial director for Rebelight Publishing Inc., a writer-friendly company she started with Melinda Friesen, Suzanne Leclerc and Melanie Matheson.
Reading and writing continue to fill empty pockets and corners of time.
“As a reader, I find that books add a measure of experience to my own life story. They open my eyes to other perspectives and share something of worlds I have never before encountered,” she says. “As a writer, that tells me I have a responsibility to recognize the direct and indirect power of words. When I write, I need to consider what I want to leave with readers.”
That perspective and her experience working with other writers inspired Story Matter.
Q & A
When did you first begin writing? I don’t recall when I first put pen to paper, but I’ve been inventing stories from early childhood. Falling asleep was always a challenge for me; I’d stay awake, figuring out the details of my latest fantasy. Years later it occurred to me that I was actually plotting. Plotting still keeps me awake at night.
Why do you like writing? I like the unfolding adventure that comes with writing, and I absolutely love exploring new characters. I'm compelled to do it, but it’s hard work.
Is there anything else that you might have enjoyed as a profession? As a child, I dreamed of becoming a musical actress like Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins), but I had trouble with the high notes and, well, I'm stuck with two left feet. For a while, I thought it would be great fun to work at Disney Studios as an artist. I took a double major in high school – regular studies directed toward university along with commercial art and graphics. Then, terrified I’d never make a living as an artist, I studied economics in university. Go figure. My secret dream of dreams was to become a musician/songwriter. Unfortunately, although I wrote gobs of music, I was too shy to get up in front of people and share it.
What others kinds of jobs have you held? I've had a number of employment experiences, from waitressing to puppeteering and entertaining as a member of a song and dance team. I worked for several years as a photographer and an audio visual producer – back in the old days when "audio visual" meant multi-projector slide shows. I also worked on a survey crew for a spell, slashing through brush with an ax.
What inspires your writing? Life. People. Other stories. There is no one factor. I like to ask the question “what if” a lot and I am particularly passionate about encouraging people to see others from more than their own inherent perspectives.
How do you fill your time you are not writing? Hmm. Cleaning, cooking, laundry – but only when I have to! Family time is a treat but harder to come by as the boys grow older and busier. I spend a lot of time editing the work of other writers, but I also love to read, sing, take photographs, and engage in anything creative.
What is important to you? Faith, family and friends. Writing stories that matter.