Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Q&A with writer, illustrator and publisher Corkey Hay DeSimone

Corkey Hay DeSimone is the president of Gentle Giraffe Press, an educational publishing company. She has written and illustrated more than two dozen books, and has worked with a variety of organizations to create websites, apps and other content for children.

Q: Your company, Gentle Giraffe Press, publishes your own books as well as custom-made books for museums and other groups, works with authors who are interested in publishing children's books, and collaborates with organizations and schools on a variety of multimedia projects. What's the most rewarding part of the business for you?

A: I absolutely love what I do. With every project my main objective is to build strong foundations so that children will have a lifelong love of learning, whether it is for World Wildlife Fund on how to conserve energy and habitat for animals; for the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, teaching children all about Haiti; for Sundance on the animals of the Rocky Mountains and the Wasatch Range; or for the Smithsonian on the history of the cherry blossom trees, the history of flight, learning about mammals, dinosaurs, and pandas. However, I would have to say that the most rewarding part of my work is when I get to go to schools and read my books to the kids.

Q: One of your books, All About Me in DC, is a Washington, D.C., guidebook for kids. How did you decide what to include in the guidebook and how to present it for kids?

A: All About Me in DC was a labor of love. I grew up in Washington, DC, and wanted to share this incredible city with kids. For 7- to 17-year-olds, there are really not many books that allow them to explore the city on their own terms. I wanted it to be not only for kids visiting DC, but also for kids that live here.  My concept was the kids would become the tour guide.  All About Me in DC is way more than a guidebook. It’s an activity book and it has over 250 trivia questions about Washington, DC.  There are places to doodle and journal and it’s so much fun that they won’t even realize how much they are learning. They can pick up the book and say where they want to go, then look at the maps and find out how to get there. It’s all about them! When you engage children they learn more.

Q: The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund is one of the organizations you've worked with. Can you tell us more about how you happened to work with them, and what's happening with your project now?

A: When the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund came to Gentle Giraffe Press in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, they had seen a great outpouring of support from children, teens, families, and schools. They wanted a place where we could teach children all about Haiti. For them, we created the For Kids page on the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund website. Now that the Fund has fulfilled its mission and invested in helping to build a sustainable economy in the aftermath of the earthquake, we are redesigning the website to be a resource to teachers and students to learn about Haiti.  
Q: You headed a children's clothing company, Corkey's Kids, before starting Gentle Giraffe Press. Why did you make the switch, and what do you find is similar or different about the two businesses?

A: I was the founding owner and designer of Corkey's Kids children's clothing company.  In 2003, after a very successful and exciting twelve years, I sold Corkey's Kids to start my own creative content and educational publishing company. I absolutely loved designing clothes, and my company still lives on and is thriving. However, after 12 years I decided to follow my passion for education.  Since I started I’ve written and illustrated over 24 books and created custom content in the form of websites, lesson plans, maps, apps, products, and books for amazing groups like the Smithsonian, National Zoo, World Wildlife Fund, Sundance, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, National Park Trust, and many more. Designing clothes and writing and illustrating books for children are very different and also very much alike. You really have to know what children like and what is age appropriate for each developmental level. However, writing and illustrating nourish my soul and allow me to fulfill my desire to teach while still allowing me to illustrate and be creative.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I always have many projects going on at once. I have a book that I am working on for a very special client and I hope to publish it next year. I am also working with all my clients to continue to offer students and teachers, parents and children good, strong, engaging educational content that will make them lifelong learners.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: As I mentioned earlier, I absolutely love visiting schools for our book readings and workshops. There is nothing I enjoy more than interacting with the kids and understanding how they perceive the world.  I learn so much from them and their teachers. I truly don’t think I could do what I do if I didn’t have the opportunity to share and experience my work through their eyes. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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