Local author/illustrator Denise Fleming talks about creating children’s books

Denise Fleming, children’s author/illustrator and Toledo mom, “never aspired to be a writer.” Instead, she wanted to “make books — to combine pictures and words to tell a story or share a concept.” Fleming has penned and illustrated more than 20 children’s books, including The Cow Who Clucked, The Everything Book, and Sleepy, Oh So Sleepy.

An avid reader, as a child Fleming’s favorite book was The Giant Golden Book of Cats; she was “crazy for anything about cats” and loved the stories and pictures. Her love of animals and nature permeates her children’s books, particularly her first book, In the Tall, Tall Grass, which just celebrated its 25th birthday. Fleming says, “Nature is a big part of my life. I would much rather spend time outdoors, surrounded by birds, insects and wild creatures, than at a party or a museum. By creating books, I can share my fascination with the natural world.” That childlike wonderment is imparted to children all over the world through her words and art.


A family affair

Fleming is also a mom, and her family is her artistic team. Fleming explains, “My husband, David Powers, an artist, is my sounding board and booking agent for speaking presentations and workshops. He also does the mechanicals for my books. My adult daughter, Indigo, is my web mistress and PR person.”

Flemings has been writing for more than 25 years, when Indigo was just a child, but she managed to make time for her passion. “There is always time,” she says. “You just need to make choices. Set aside the time, early in the morning, late at night, during swim lessons, or waiting for kids at pickup. If you have the passion, you will find the time.”

Work and life are one and the same for Fleming–she is incessantly working. Even when she appears to simply be staring into space, she is turning over ideas or images for a book in her head. “Ideas come out of everyday life. Sometimes an image gives me an idea for a book…often a phrase or play of words will inspire me.” She writes her first drafts in longhand, and she writes whenever and wherever the mood strikes her. Thankfully for all of the children and parents who love her books, Fleming continues to pursue her passion, writing and creating art with each book.

What’s your favorite activity to do with your family?
Just hang out.
Best vacation memory you have from when you were a kid?
Climbing the dunes in Upper Michigan.
What’s your go-to activity when you finally have a few minutes to yourself?
Reading. I read constantly. Books are my weakness.
Name one thing you swore you’d never do as a mom, but totally do.
Give unwanted advice to an adult child. Can’t help myself.
Describe your life in five words:
Pretty dang wonderful, oh yes!!!!!