Monday, July 8, 2019

Q&A with Cori Doerrfeld

Cori Doerrfeld is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend!. Her other books include The Rabbit Listened. She lives in Minneapolis.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend!?

A: After two of my closest friends moved away a few years ago, I spent a good chunk of time feeling lonely. I wasn't sure I wanted to reconnect with others, especially when making adult friends can be so difficult!

Eventually, however, I put myself back out there and met a group of women in my neighborhood. These women have become a rock-solid anchor for me. Meeting them made me reflect on how important good friends really are. 

It made me remember how awkward I felt as a freshman in high school with nobody to sit by at lunch, until my friend Niki invited me to sit with her. It made me think about how I never would have survived the first few years as a new mom without my friend Eszter. There are so many tricky situations I was able to come through because of my friends.

This book pays homage to all of that--all the ways friends can help you see the upside, stay positive, and stay strong. I want people to remember that power! Especially since I see my daughter forming close friends as well. The two main characters are named after her and her best friend!

Q: In our last interview, we discussed your process of creating the pictures along with the text. How did it work with this book?

A: Some books come easily, this book took several drafts. It started with lots of text. I wrote down as many different transitions, like inside to outside and tall trees to tall buildings, as I could think of. Once I had a text I was happy enough with, I drew out all the rough sketches for the illustrations.

In the original dummy, the girls lived across the street from each other. I also tried a version that took place in a more abstract white space. It was really drawing, and redrawing the pictures again and again that helped the final story and pacing play out. In the end, it also kept the text fairly minimal.  

Q: What do you think the book says about friendship?

A: I think this book highlights how one good friend can change your life. I also think it shows what a good friendship looks like, how to be there for one another through anything and everything. I especially tried to capture what that very first best friend is like. It is so intense. It feels like your whole world. 

Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?

A: I really hope kids take away bits and pieces of how to be there for the friends in their lives. I hope it helps them think about difficult transitions they might be facing, and how reaching out to someone can help them cope. At the same time I hope it makes them think about the kid who might feel left out, or nervous, or alone and choose to be their friend.

I also hope there is a message of always seeing the positive side to life, and that it is always worth it to put yourself out there. You never know who you might meet!

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I always have several drafts in progress! I did just finish illustrating a book by Ame Dyckman that is due out next year. I hope to keep producing books that hit people on an emotional level and continue to add to social and emotional learning.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! is full of little nods to my friends. From the names on the lockers, to certain scenes, to the dog, I was thinking of them all.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Cori Doerrfeld.

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