Wolfpack Writers: Rebecca Colby
Rebecca Colby graduated from NC State with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish language and literature. Before writing for children, she taught English in Taiwan, traveled the world as a tour director and worked as a librarian. Colby is now a picture book author, poet and screenwriter.
Her children’s book Crocodiles Need Kisses Too paints a story of unconditional love — showing that animals don’t have to be warm and fuzzy to be lovable. We caught up with Colby to learn more about her favorite books, writing advice and time on campus.
What motivated you to write Crocodiles Need Kisses Too?
At the time I wrote this book over 15 years ago, my eldest child was a baby. She didn’t sleep well and woke me up five or six times a night. I loved her more than anyone or anything, but I found her very hard work — at least, at night time. It was during one of those many sleepless nights that I wrote this book. The unconditional love I felt for her (despite her not allowing me to get a good night’s sleep for over a year after she was born) inspired this book.
How does this story differ from other books you’ve written?
It was the first book I wrote. Not the first one published. Not even the second or third one published. But it was always the one I championed. Like the inspiration behind it, it was my baby, and it wouldn’t let me sleep. I felt compelled to get it out in the world and share its important theme of unconditional love.
How did your NC State degree impact your career?
My degree was in Spanish language and literature. It led me to a life of adventure and introduced me to a career in travel and living abroad. That led to a career in teaching. Which led to a career as a librarian. Which led to my current career as an author. I was always going to write books, but I needed some life experiences first and a regular salary to pay the bills. Dare I add that, as I knew while at NC State, writing rarely pays the bills. So most authors need a fallback career until they’re well established.
What was your favorite class at NC State?
Spanish composition. Both the assignments and my professor were a joy. Students were asked to model different authors’ styles of writing. It was the most creative course I remember taking while at university.
What’s your favorite childhood book?
Does favorite mean I can only choose one?! I loved The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss. We didn’t have much money for books when I was a child but we did visit the library regularly. I remember hiding The Lorax under my bed so I wouldn’t have to return it. I also enjoyed Judy Blume’s books (especially Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing), the Laura Ingalls Wilder books — an author I’m distantly related to — and the George and Martha stories by James Marshall. But my all time favorite book as a child was The Golden Book of Poetry which was gifted to me by my elementary school. It’s well-loved and well-worn and was one of the biggest inspirations to my work, which is often written in rhyme.
What advice would you give to a budding writer?
Read everything you can get your hands on, then write, write, write! Don’t wait until the mood strikes you because it might never happen. Write anyway. And remember two things: writing is an apprenticeship and it’s a career where rejection never goes away. Persevere, hone your talent, and grow thick skin because you’ll need it!
In one word, what do you need to overcome writer’s block?
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
I’m a very spiritual gal and, like Alice in Wonderland, tumbled down a rabbit hole. While I write children’s books and admire children’s book authors, I’d sooner talk about the mysteries of the universe and meet and learn from spiritual authors. So let’s go with Shirley MacLaine, who inspired me to walk part of the Camino pilgrimage route in Spain, Rudolf Steiner and Paulo Coelho. Are they literary? They’ve all written books that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading. That’s good enough for me.
What’s next for you?
Where to begin? More children’s books, of course, including a second manuscript about unconditional love that’s a real tear-jerker. Now to find a publisher for it … . I’ve moved from fiction into also writing creative nonfiction. My next move sideways is adding scriptwriting for film and TV to my repertoire. While I can’t discuss specific projects, there are plenty of irons in the fire. Or rather, plenty of words on pages.