Mother-daughter writing team Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton have...

Mother-daughter writing team Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton have written another children’s book; this one called “Waiting in the Wings.”  Credit: Dane DuPuis

The mother-daughter duo of actress Julie Andrews and creative writing teacher Emma Walton Hamilton have written their 33rd children’s book — a picture book about a family of ducks — and they’ll launch it on April 28 at a Q&A event for adults at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor.

They might read an excerpt from “Waiting in the Wings” (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $18.99), which is based on a true story that happened at the theater while Hamilton, who was one of the theater’s founders, was at the helm. But primarily they will be interviewed by theater executive director Tracy Mitchell about how they write together, and presigned copies will be available.

Andrews and Hamilton, both of whom live in the Hamptons, spoke with Newsday's Beth Whitehouse about the new story, their families and what questions Andrews invariably gets asked at their book events.

What’s the true story behind the “Waiting in the Wings"?

Hamilton: It was so charming when it happened. These ducks did nest in the planter in the courtyard, and we protected them from the audiences that came through. But when they started hatching … they were spilling out of this flower box into the courtyard and heading straight for the road and the oncoming traffic. We mobilized the entire company at Bay Street, and we all ran outside and formed this sort of human barricade or protective force, and we shepherded them all the way down the wharf.

Were you there, Julie?

Andrews: No, but Emma told me about it right after. She said, “You won’t believe what happened.” She was so filled with joy and wonder, and it was such a sweet story.

How did you adapt the story for the book?

Hamilton: While Mrs. Puddleduck is warming the eggs, Mr. Puddleduck sneaks inside the theater and watches rehearsals and is completely enchanted by the lights and the scenery and the costumes and the music. But he actually ends up learning that theater is more than just how to put on a show, because when the chicks begin hatching, he’s got all these newly acquired theater skills that come to the rescue and help him get them to safety.

The ducks didn’t actually enter the theater, did they?

Hamilton: They did not. But you can’t write a book about ducks nesting next to a theater for children and not have at least one duck come inside.

Andrews: One duck had to be curious.

How do you work together? Sit in the same room? Send versions back and forth?

Andrews: Everything really. We try to be together as much as possible. First of all, it’s a wonderful sandbox to play in and when writing together we really don’t think about much else, do we, darling?

Hamilton: We basically write out loud. We brainstorm an outline together and then we start just finishing each other’s sentences …

Andrews: … and what resonates for either one of us. The best idea wins.

Hamilton: I’m the scribe. I take dictation while we think out loud.

Andrews: Emma is very, very much the nuts and bolts.

Hamilton: Mom’s the idea person.

Andrews: I’m not the idea person! I certainly love to do the initial character development.

Hamilton: We might hammer out an outline in a week but the story itself usually takes several months to get right and to revise so we feel like the right words are in the right places.

Andrews: It became such a joy to write together that I can’t write anything without Emma now.

Emma, you now teach creative writing at Stony Brook University. Julie, would you have written children’s books without Emma’s influence?

Hamilton: She did it before me. She wrote two middle-grade novels before we started writing together.

Andrews: I fell into it because when Blake [Edwards] and I married, I inherited two stepchildren and had my own Emma and then Blake and I adopted two children. So, we had a big family. One day we were actually playing some kind of a game and I lost the first round.

Hamilton: She had to pay a penalty and my stepsister said, “Write me a story.”

Andrews: And out of that came my first book, “Mandy.” [Published in 1971 under the name Julie Edwards.] Everything about it was serendipity. I became aware just how thrilling it was to develop the stories and read to them as they were great audiences, thank God, my kids were. I don’t know if you remember any of this.

Hamilton: Sure.

How many children and grandchildren do you each have?

Hamilton: I have two young adult kids.

Andrews: I have five children, 10 grandchildren and … three great grandchildren.

Julie, do you get questions about your acting experiences at book events?

Andrews: I get lots. It depends what era, with whom I’m speaking. Lots of questions about “The Sound of Music,” lots about “Mary Poppins.” And these days, it’s “The Princess Diaries.”

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