The Backstory: OUR WORLD OF DUMPLINGS
The Backstory welcomes Francie Dekker with her picture book, OUR WORLD OF DUMPLINGS (Little Bee Books, 2022) with illustrations by Sarah Jung. Read on to learn all about this delicious book and for your chance to win a copy of your own.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind OUR WORLD OF DUMPLINGS.
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
Thank you for inviting me to The Backstory! Our World Of Dumplings is a story that celebrates the many different types of dumplings that exist in our world and how food brings people and cultures together. In the book, a group of friends, who all live in the same apartment building, teach each other their family’s dumpling recipe. From kreplach to khinkali and Johnny cakes to jiao zi, each household has its own way of making dumplings, hand-crafted and based upon their culture. As the children cook and eat all the different types of dumplings, they learn how dumplings are the ultimate labor of love. At the end of the book, they host a rooftop dumpling party for all their families and neighbors.
What a great entry point to diversity, acceptance, and community! I love how this book highlights the power of food to bring people together.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
My family is Polish and growing up we made pierogi. As I got older, I realized how many cultures have their own variation of a dumpling. I was inspired to write Our World Of Dumplings to teach children about the many types of dumplings that exist around the world as well as to show them how food has a great power to connect us as people. While we may come from different places or backgrounds, I believe the best way to get to know someone is over a plate of something delicious.
Having an emotional or personal connection to the story being written always comes through in the end product and it sounds like that is exactly what we have here. It is wonderful that you were able to take this lived experience and this realization you had to craft a story that would celebrate differences and community.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now OUR WORLD OF DUMPLINGS? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
I always knew I wanted to write a picture book about dumplings. I started by doing a lot of research about “what is a dumpling?” It was fascinating to find that chefs, food historians, etc. don’t all agree on one definition or what qualifies as a dumpling. My favorite part of the research process was talking with friends about their family’s dumpling recipes. After researching, then I sat down to write.
Connecting with friends for research sounds like the best type of research there is. I hope there was some taste testing involved for you.
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
Everywhere! I have two little kids, ages 1.5 and 3, so I have to create opportunities for silence during the week to “hear” the ideas in my brain. I used to listen to music, podcasts or call friends while on walks or in the car, but now I walk and drive in silence so I have quiet time to think and let story ideas marinate!
Yes! It can be so hard to find the quiet to let those brilliant thoughts rise to the surface and be heard. Good for you for acknowledging the need for this and creating the time to accomplish it. I think you have provided such an easy and actionable tip for other writers.
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
In terms of improving my craft, a critique group member shared the The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression which is amazing!
With two littles still at home, I feel fortunate to be able to spend time reading picture books with them everyday! This year, I’ve really been inspired by:
Saturday by Oge Mora
It Began with Lemonade by Gideon Sterer and Lian Cho
The Emotion Thesaurus is a huge asset to any writer. I find just perusing it can spark new ideas for stories. And I love being inspired by other picture books! Those are great titles that you have listed.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
Quiet, water and spell check (I am a TERRIBLE speller). At home, I work when the kids are sleeping, usually at 5 AM, from the dining room or a quiet spot in the house.
When I’m lucky to have some alone time out of the house, I love working at our local library!
Ah yes, the early bird writing hours. I think many of us with young children have been there or the opposite end as a night owl, trying to find those quiet moments to create in. I also appreciate your acknowledgment of your spelling woes because I think we all have something that could interfere with our success and it is all about acknowledging it and finding a workaround or strategy to be successful.
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
Keep going! After finishing my first manuscript, it took about a year to find my agent, Ariana Phillips with JVNLA, and another six months to sign with little bee books! Find/create space in your week, even if it is just an hour, to work at your craft.
Great advice! Publishing is a marathon filled with many, many "no"s. Being able to persevere is paramount to finding success in this industry.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
Nothing I can officially share yet!
I hope that means yes!!! I can't wait to hear what you are working on.
Where can people connect more with you?
Readers be sure to connect with Francie on social media and check out OUR WORLD OF DUMPLINGS (Little Bee Books, 2022) with illustrations by Sarah Jung.
Francie thank you so much for joining us and for sharing the backstory behind, OUR WORLD OF DUMPLINGS. I loved getting to know more about your book and your process.
Francie is generously offering a copy of OUR WORLD OF DUMPLINGS to one lucky winner. (US only)
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT FRANCIE DEKKER
While growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Francie Dekker spent her summer days walking to the local library and checking out as many books as she could carry home. Despite a love of reading, Francie never imagined a career in writing was possible. She had (still has) horrible grammar skills and never managed to earn a grade higher than a C+ on a spelling test.
After graduating from the University of Missouri with duel degrees in journalism and plant science, Francie began working as garden educator in Wisconsin. A part-time gig as a garden and food writer for Edible Milwaukee Magazine showed her that with hard work (and a good editor!), a writing career might be possible after all. In 2016, Francie received a Food Writing Fellowship from the Culinary Trust for her work exploring how gardening, food, culture, and youth intersect.
Francie is passionate about writing children’s books designed to engage and excite young minds about growing, eating, and enjoying food. OUR WORLD OF DUMPLINGS is her first picture book.
Francie lives in the Milwaukee area with her husband and two kids. When not writing, she can be found enjoying the four seasons with her family outside.
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew Hacket is a teacher by day, parent by night, and writer in the nooks and crannies of life. When it comes to his books, Andrew aims to create stories that tickle the funny bone and hug the heart of readers both young and old.
Andrew is the author of the early reader, CURLILOCKS AND THE THREE HARES (The Little Press, 2023) and the picture book, OLLIE, THE ACORN, AND THE MIGHTY IDEA (Page Street Kids, 2024). Additionally, his short story, THE TUNNEL, has been chosen for inclusion in the SCBWI anthology, The Haunted States of America.
Andrew lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three young children, and puppy, Gus.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.