Studio Feature: Stephanie Wallingford and Dawn Rynders
As a Girl Scout, you find out what it means to be part of a team. You learn how to hear other people’s points of view, how to include others, and how to make a group decision. That’s what Stephanie Wallingford and Dawn Rynders did as co-authors and collaborators of their picture book A Day at the Lake.
“One of the best parts of working on a project with two people is the accountability to stay on a project,” the co-authors and friends explain. Stephanie and Dawn say that they have a built-in support system to share the hopes, concerns, goals, and expectations of publishing a book. And they have fun. “We laugh a lot,” they admit.
Writing as a pair takes compromise, trust, willingness to listen, and the ability to share equally in the creative process. “I think that learning to tell a good story is like solving a puzzle,” Dawn says. “You have to discover the best words and phrases to create an emotion, a location, or an event. There might be lots of words that would do the job, but finding the word that twinkles and brings it to life is the real result that you’re looking for.”
In her writing, Stephanie likes to reveal what other people are thinking or feeling. “I think it gives me a way to connect to readers—by naming or describing things they can identify in their own lives.”
Both writers feel strongly that to be good writers, girls need to read. “Notice how different types of writing appeal to you as a reader,” Stephanie advises. “Do you like to be surprised? Do you want happy endings or realistic situations? Just be aware of how things are written as you are reading them.” Dawn agrees: “Reading lots of different kinds of literature is a big part of becoming a good writer. You have to have a fair amount of ‘that’s a great way to say that’ and ‘that doesn’t make sense to me’ before you know what your own writing voice might sound like.”