Dori Hillestad Butler, Author of the Month: Deadlines…and a giveaway!

Hi! I’m Dori. I’m one of the newer members of the Online Author Visits team. I’m also relatively new to the Seattle area, though I don’t know how much longer I can play the newbie card. When I do the math, I realize I’ve been here 21 months now.

It wasn’t easy to leave Iowa. I had a life there. A community. But I was fortunate enough to meet many of the other Online Author Visits members in real life soon after I moved here. If you’ve checked out the author bios on this site and thought to yourself, “Wow, those authors all look so nice. And talented. And smart.” Yes! They are all of those things! I am so happy to be part of this group, both online and in real life.

I’d heard about the “Seattle Freeze.” That’s the idea that people in Seattle are standoffish, cold, distant…and that it’s difficult to make friends here. I was not to be deterred. I gave myself a sort of “deadline.” I gave myself five years to build my community. That may sound like a long time, but the friendships I had in Iowa had been built over 5, 10, in some cases even 20 years. I couldn’t expect to walk into a new community and instantly be part of it in the same way I was part of the children’s writers community in Iowa. So I resolved that for five years I would not even entertain the idea that there could be such a thing as a “Seattle freeze.” Instead I would take action to build my community. I would invite people to coffee or to lunch. I would join groups. I would get involved.

Guess what? I think I’ve met my deadline. I’m part of a community here. Part of many communities. And it happened faster than I expected it to.

Giving myself a “deadline” to find a community helped! I was confident I would have what I wanted within five years, just like when I have a book deadline I am confident that I will complete a book by such and such date.

I know some writers like to write a book on a deadline. Others prefer to just write, to take as long as a book needs and not think about a deadline. I’m definitely a writer who needs a deadline (real or self imposed). Here are four reasons why:

1) Deadlines help me structure my time and my thinking. They give me a goal and remind me that while things may not happen as quickly as I want them to, I still have some control over my own destiny.

2) I’m a perfectionist. I can revise forever and ever and ever and ever. And ever. But I’m NEVER going to make a book perfect. A deadline tells me when to stop writing, when to stop revising. I won’t ever miss a deadline without a very good reason. So when the deadline comes, I turn the book in.

3) Having a deadline gives me confidence. Someone believes in me, my work, and my ability to get things done enough that they’re willing to give me a contract before I’ve ever actually written the book. Nothing gives me more confidence than someone else’s confidence in me.

4) Sometimes unexpected things happen in my story as a result of seeing a cover sketch for the book I’m currently writing. That happened to me just a couple weeks ago when I saw the cover for Haunted Library Book 9: The Ghost at the Movie Theater (Grosset & Dunlap, 2017). Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to share that cover just yet. But I can share this one:

The Ghost in the Tree House is Book 7 in my Haunted Library series and it’ll be available on March 29!

If you’re a writer, do you like to have a deadline?

If you’re a teacher or librarian, I’d love to talk about deadlines and the writing process with your students, either in person or via Skype.

And if you’re “just” a reader of this blog, here’s an opportunity for you to win a copy of my most recently published Haunted Library book: The Ghost at the Fire Station. Leave a comment on this blog to enter. I’ll draw a winner on Friday, March 11.

Thank you Online Author Visits friends for inviting me to be part of this group!


Author: Laurie Ann Thompson

I write books for curious young minds and open hearts, no matter what their age. BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, a teen guide to saving the world, will be published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September of 2014. EMMANUEL'S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH, a picture-book biography, will be published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January of 2015. And MY DOG IS THE BEST, a heartwarming fictional picture book, will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers/Macmillan in May of 2015.

10 thoughts on “Dori Hillestad Butler, Author of the Month: Deadlines…and a giveaway!”

  1. Wonderful post, Dori! SO glad you found your community, although we miss you so much in our Iowa one. I greatly admire you and your ability to write with a deadline. Maybe I'll get there one day… 🙂


  2. What fun, Dori! And just so people know, yes, she may be organized and a perfectionist, but she's also lots of fun, approachable, and definitely already part of this amazing author community. In fact, I just called her on that “newbie” line a couple of days ago. I think she's more connected here than most of us! And we're keeping her as long as she'll have us. ; )


  3. Hello! My third grade class absolutely LOVES your Haunted Library Series! We read book 1 as a read aloud and my students continued the series on their own. My librarian had the series available in our school library, and students even went out and bought the books at Barnes and Noble just to find out what happened next. Thanks, Mrs. Butler for writing a fantastic book series that kids LOVE!!! My books fans hope to win book 6 for our classroom library! 🙂


  4. Great post! I am terrible with deadlines. I should learn a thing or two from you.
    Our 4th graders at Tallwood Elementary loved visiting with you online. They learned so much from you, and they are true fans of your books. I'm a fan too.


  5. Loved this! Dori is a mover and a shaker. I'm so glad you moved to the Seattle area and forged connections among the children's writing community. We have all benefitted as a result of your deadline determination!


  6. Hi Dor! Great post. I prefer a deadline when I'm writing and when I'm teaching. A deadline gives the structure I like and at the end, it's an item I can “check-off” my to-do list. Whether it's an article for publication or my WIP YA novel or teaching lessons in a unit.


  7. Great post, Dori! I'm definitely a Type D(eadline) personality. The structure actually frees me up creatively in many ways, making it easier to just go for it.


  8. Welcome to the OAV crew, Dori, it's great to have you aboard! Thanks for the excellent post about deadlines, in life as well as work. I'm a writer that needs them, self-imposed or set by my editor. I, too, could endlessly revise if left to my own devices!


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