Interview with Carol Zelaya, author of "Emily Waits for Her Family"

Read Emily Waits for Her Family and follow the true story of the special bond between a tiny bird and a little girl, from first meeting to leaving, from new life to old friends. This story is told in a timeless, three-part series, with an easy-reading rhyme, and is certain to delight and touch your heart.

Could you please tell us a little about your book?
The 1st book is the springtime book, when Emily builds her nest, waits for her eggs to hatch, and feeds her chicks until they are able to leave the nest on their own. The 2nd book is the summertime book that teaches children how to take care of the birds in their yards by providing food, water, shelter and a birdbath. The 3rd book finds the little girl in the story moving away to a country home and going through an entire winter missing her little friend Emily, wondering if she will ever see her again. The following spring provides a big surprise.

Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book?
Yes, this is a true story, and I was inspired by a chickadee repeatedly making her nest in the flowers outside my window. I was able to witness the entire process of her building her nest and caring for her young firsthand.

Who or what is the inspiration behind this book?
The mother chickadee who I named Emily, of course!

Who is your biggest supporter?
My biggest supporters have always been my friends and family, who without their constant support and encouragement during the entire 7 year process (yes, seven years!), I might have not have seen this project through to the end. My late husband was one of my biggest supporters.

Your biggest critic?
My biggest critic has always been me.

What cause are you most passionate about and why?
I absolutely love all animals and support no kill shelters. I am passionate about children with cancer and other life threatening diseases, for they are our heroes.
In the last year have you learned or improved on any skills? My three books were all published last year, and since then I’ve learned a lot about the necessary marketing and media.

Do you have any rituals you follow when finishing a piece of work?
I go over and over it a hundred times myself first and then ask family and friends for their opinions and that of their young readers as well…how did their grandchildren like the story?

Who has influenced you throughout your career as a writer?
Every book I have ever read has had some small influence on me as a writer.

What is the most important thing in your life right now?
The most important thing in my life right now is family. Keeping close with my grown daughter, son and all my family have become even more of a priority to me since losing my husband to a fatal heart attack in November of “08. Family is everything.

What are you currently working on?
Marketing and promoting my three children’s books, which were all published and released last year.

Do you have any advice for writers or readers?
If you get an idea, put it down on paper, rather than relying on memory alone. Keep a writing journal. Most importantly, always listen to your own inner voice.

Is there an author that inspired you to write?
Maya Angelou has inspired my own poetry.

What are some of your long term goals?
To have my children’s books handed down to future generations and withstand the test of time. To leave behind a little part of me and something that I have contributed to this world. Eventually, I would like to write and publish a book for adult readers too.

What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as an author?
To have a parent write to me telling me how much their child loves Emily’s story and that they want to read my three books over and over again!

What do you feel is your biggest strength?
I never give up, no matter how great the obstacle is.

Biggest weakness?
That I sometimes don’t know when to give up.

What do you feel sets this book apart from others in the same genre?
The fact that it is a true story from which children can learn about nature really sets it apart. Children are taught to interact with nature through observation, never interference. The back of each book has a log where children can record their chickadee findings. The rhyming also helps children learn to read. The art in these books is also realistically depicted, down to the tiniest detail of a bird or flower.
You know the scenario – you’re stuck on an island.

What book would you bring with you and why?
A blank notebook and a pen to write my own book.

If you could go back and change one day, what would it be?
The day my husband died, I wish that I would have been able to get him to a hospital right away, as soon as his symptoms started. Because we were in a Mexico, it took 15 minutes for paramedics to arrive at our hotel room. Had I known that it was our last day together, I would have never left his side for a moment. I regret that there was no opportunity to say good bye. I would not have gone to the beach to read my book while he was resting in our room that afternoon. I would have told him that I loved him.

Are you a different person now than you were 5 years ago? In what way/s?
Yes, five years ago I didn’t know anything about building a house or publishing books. I have knowledge and experience now that I didn’t have 5 years ago.

What is the most important lesson you have learned from life so far?
Never assume anything. Say and do everything now while you have the opportunity, because your life can change in an instant.

Is there anything you regret doing/not doing?
I have no regrets because everything in my life, good or bad, has led me to become the person I am today…the university of Carol Zelaya.

What is your favorite past-time?
I love to be with my four little dogs, read when time allows, see a good movie, share a good meal with family or friends, and travel. Reading a good book on a beach would be my favorite thing to do on vacation.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Yes, in my dreams Emily the Chickadee is read world wide and even becomes a favorite movie character of young children, like Disney’s Tweety Pie!

Carol Zelaya lives and writes in the Portland, OR area. She has written Emily’s story in hope of educating children about nature’s precious gifts that are all around us when we take the time to notice.

Zelaya is touring the Pacific Northwest in 2008 and is donating signed copies of her book to several low-income neighborhood schools and libraries to share her love of reading and nature.

You can visit Carol online at


Carol Zelaya is a former nurse, recently widowed, and mother of two grown children. She grew up in the Chicago area, where she eventually met and married her husband and where they raised a family. Having relocated to Oregon in 1996, Zelaya began her love affair with nature and its beautiful creatures. Inspired by her surroundings, she started taking pictures and writing. Writing poetry led to writing three children’s books, of course, in rhyme. Zelaya’s Emily the Chickadee books are the true story of the special bond between a tiny bird and a little girl and the true meaning of family.

Carol is now moving to the San Diego area to be near her children. You can visit her online at


Read Emily Waits for Her Family and follow the true story of the special bond between a tiny bird and a little girl, from first meeting to leaving, from new life to old friends. This story is told in a timeless, three-part series, with an easy-reading rhyme, and is certain to delight and touch your heart.