Poetry Friday: An Interview with Georgia Heard

Poetry Friday is hosted by  
Amy at The Poem Farm

Lately, I have been having great fun sharing BOOM! BELLOW! BLEAT! by Georgia Heard with classes when I sub. It’s such a fabulous mentor text. Georgia graciously answered my questions as well as a second and third grade grade class.

ST: Why did you think of animals to write this book? What made you write about this?

GH: I love listening to animal songs. It makes me happy when I’m outside and I hear a bird singing in a tree, or I listen to spring peepers peeping a spring chorus, or crickets chirping their summer concert. We have an animal orchestra all around us and, even those animals that we can’t hear or see, have a song or a call and a way to communicate just like humans do.

ST: How did you think to create this book?

GH: I grew up with 100 acres of woods behind my house and I listened every day and night to the sounds of the forest. I saw a video once of a forest where all the trees had been cut down and it was completely silent – no bird songs, or insects buzzing.  I kept thinking that if the world were silent, and we couldn’t hear birds’ singing, frogs calling, and other animal sounds, we would miss one of the amazing ways animals make our world beautiful with their songs.  I wanted readers to listen, and read the animal sounds in Boom! Bellow! Bleat!and be delighted by the poems and songs. Maybe then when we talk a walk outside we’ll notice all the sounds around us. 

ST: Why did you choose those animals? Why did you decide to include facts in the book?

GH: I chose some of my favorite animal sounds but I also wanted to include animals that I didn’t know much about. For example, I was surprised to learn that fish are very noisy creatures, and I was amazed to discover that the tiny snapping shrimp is one of the loudest creatures on the planet.

I included facts in the back of the book so readers could learn more about the animals such as how and why they make their sounds.

ST: How did you study the animals?

GH: I did quite a bit of research mainly from books, and scientific articles I found on the internet. I also listened to videos of animals making sounds so I could try to find the right words to describe their sounds. 

ST: What animals do you wish you had in the book?

GH: One of my favorite animal sounds is the hoo-hoo-hooof a barred owl. When I visit my family in New Hampshire a barred owl always serenades us at night as we sleep. I tried writing a poem about a barred owl, and I worked on it for months, but it never come out like I wanted. So, sadly, I had to leave the barred owl out of the book.

ST: How long did it take?

It took about three years to write and revise all the poems. I had many wise revision suggestions from my editor, and I also had a science editor read the poems, and the Nature’s Notes in the back of the book, to make sure that all the information and facts about the animals were 100% correct.

ST:  Could the sound of the snap of the Bigclaw Snapping Shrimp make you deaf?

GH: I sound of a snapping shrimp could harm your hearing if the snapping shrimp snapped its claw right next to your ear. But because water absorbs sound I believe that some of the loudness would be absorbed and the damage to your ears wouldn’t be as severe.

JRM: Were there some animals that you wrote about but they didn’t make it into the book?

GH: (repeat from above) One of my favorite animal sounds is the hoo-hoo-hooof a barred owl. When I visit my family in New Hampshire a barred owl always serenades us at night as we sleep. I tried writing a poem about a barred owl, and I worked on it for months, but it never come out like I wanted. So, sadly, I had to leave the barred owl out of the book.

JRM: What surprised you the most about the book?

GH: The more I researched animals, and their sounds, the more I was amazed by the variety and beauty of their songs. I was surprised every day as I was writing the book!

For example, I never knew that most of what elephants say to one another is infrasonicmeaning humans can’t hear their sounds, and that scientists in Africa are working on an elephant listening project to create an elephant dictionary of their complex sounds.  Since scientists can’t hear most of their sounds, they record the elephants, then play back the recording slowly so they can hear what the elephants are saying. 

I was also surprised that animals in a forest have adapted different tones so they don’t drown each other out when they sing together – birds sing with the highest voice, insects with a middle tone, and mammals with the lowest sound. When you listen to the animal sounds in a forest it truly is a “Forest Orchestra.”

JRM: How did you decide the order of the book?

GH: I knew I wanted to begin the book with “Animal Songs” which describes a bunch of different animal sounds and makes the connection that humans make sounds for similar reasons as animals because, after all, we’re animals too. And I knew I wanted to end the book with “Forest Orchestra” which is about the forest sounds I listened to when I was a girl growing up with the woods behind my house. Plus, it kind of makes a BIG ending with a lot of different animals singing together. I also wanted to vary animal sounds across the book so, for example, I placed the snapping shrimp’s loud but short snap… BANG! next to the melodic WOOOOO’s of the Humpback Whale, and so on.


Meet Carole Boston Weatherford

Late August an email appeared for a free SKYPE visit from Carole Boston Weatherford. She has been talking to students about the fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 Birmingham Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. I though what a great opportunity for my fifth graders. It was a great visit two weeks ago. Have you read Birmingham, 1963? If not, you should.

Today Carole is stopping by to share about her reading and writing life.

Your Reading Life

MsMac: What books are on your night stand?
CBW: Arthur Alfonso Schomburg: Black Bibliophile & Collector, A Biography by Elinor DesVerney Sinnette

MsMac: Where’s your favorite reading spot?
CBW: In bed or in the passenger’s seat of a car or on a train.

Your Writing Life

MsMac: What does a day of work look like for you? What is your favorite time of day to write?
CBW: I like to write in the morning or afternoon. But if I’m grooving with a manuscript, I can keep writing until late at night.

MsMac: Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?
CBW:I like revising because I am able to see progress with each subsequent draft.

MsMac: What does your writing space look like?
CBW:It has two legs and a soft cushion and most often denim upholstery. It’s my lap.

MsMac:What might readers find you doing when you’re not writing?
CBW: Teaching. I am a college professor and teach children’s and adolescent literature and professional writing courses.
In my spare time I like to travel and to visit museums, parks and historic sites.

MsMac :You have been conducting SKYPE visits in remembrance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Birmingham church bombing. What has been the response from the students you have visited?
CBW: They can’t believe that such hate violence occurred in the United States. They are appalled, and rightly so.
MsMac: I would agree that was the feeling of my students. I kept wondering why they would ask the same question. Then I realized that it was their way to process and confirm such a horrific event.

MsMac: As a child, how aware were you of the protests, the bombings, and the fight for civil rights?
CBW: I saw news reports of protests such as the March on Washington and the aftermath of the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. However, my parents shielded me from the news of the church bombings when they incident occurred. I was only seven years old at the time.

MsMac: How has writing poetry informed you as a person?
CBW: Poetry sings to my soul. Sometimes, I think and feel in poetry.

MsMac: Why is poetry important?
CBW: Poetry distills emotions and makes music with words. For children, poetry contributes to creating a language-rich environment so crucial to early literacy.

Just for Fun

MsMac: Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
CBW: Very dark (85 or 90 percent)
MsMac: Me too. With nothing else.

MsMac:Coffee or tea?

MsMac: Dance: funky chicken or the tango?
CBW: Tango

Favorite Quote:

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.
~George Washington Carver

Be sure to stop in Friday as I will have a poem by Carole Boston Weatherford.

Happy Reading.


Interview Wednesday: Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Your Reading Life

MsMac: What books are on your night stand?
Amy: At the moment, my nightstand holds two very different books: THE CELLIST OF SARAJEVO by Stephen Galloway and IF YOU WERE A CHOCOLATE MUSTACHE by J. Patrick Lewis.

MsMac:What was your favorite book as a child/teen? As an adult?
Amy: I loved so many books. As a little girl, I would get lost in RICHARD SCARRY’S BEST STORYBOOK EVER and A CHILD’S GARDEN OF POEMS, illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa. As I got older, I was a real Nancy Drew fan, enjoying 15 nightly minutes of reading in bed. My mother always checked out library books for my sister Heidi and me, and we kept them on a deacon’s bench in our front hall. Now I have the bench, and it reminds me of those days. As an adult, I have many favorites including WORDS TO LIVE BY by Eknath Easwaran and David Shenk’s THE GENIUS IN ALL OF US.

MsMac: Where’s your favorite reading spot?
Amy: I love reading in bed, in the bathtub, under the Christmas tree…anywhere, really!

MsMac: What do you think about the trend to e-books?
Amy : E-books are amazing, and although I don’t own an e-reader yet, I wouldn’t be opposed to reading on one. But just as I love drafting on paper and then moving to computer, my heart will always hold paper books dear.
MsMac: I have to agree with you, Amy. I have an IPad but I have yet to read a book with it.

Your Writing Life

MsMac: What does a day of work look like for you? What is your favorite time of day to write?
Amy: My daily work often finds me planning to teach or teaching workshops in schools. Writing is something I tuck into nooks of both day and night, often when the rest of the house is sleeping. Some days I am more disciplined than others, and those days make me happy.

MsMac: Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?
Amy: I love both! I adore the surprise of drafting, being visited by a mysterious sparkling idea. And I love revising, getting to know the idea better, helping it find its shape and voice. Drafting allows me to free my mind, to accept quirky trinkets from the universe. Revising requires me to read, reread, listen, tune, and rewrite. Both are exciting.

MsMac: What does your writing space look like?
Amy: I write everywhere: at the kitchen table, on my bed, lying on the living room floor, outside in the grass, snuggled up in our fat purple chair, on my steering wheel, at my roll top desk…

MsMac: What are your current projects?
Amy: Right now I need to finish up READING TIME (WordSong), a collection of poems about reading. I am also working on my first picture book and brewing a few other poetry collections.

MsMac: What advice do you have for poets of any age?
Amy: Listen to that small inner voice, the one tossing you mysterious sparkling ideas. Build in some daily quiet so you can hear it.

MsMac: What might readers find you doing when you’re not writing?
Amy: Oh, you might find me just visiting with my great husband and children, or baking, or reading, or working on this enormous granny square afghan, or laughing at the antics of our many pets.

About The Poem Farm

MsMac: How did The Poem Farm Get started?
Amy: I began The Poem Farm as a one-month blog in April 2010. My intent was to write and post a new poem each day for the whole month, but when April ended, I was not finished! I decided to continue posting daily poems and notes to students for a whole year and now still post regularly. Keeping this blog has widened and deepened my little world in more ways than I ever could have dreamt.

MsMac: You have a couple of poetry books that are going to be released. What can you tell me about them?
Amy: FOREST HAS A SONG (Clarion) will be published this March, and it is a whimsical collection of poems about a forest through the seasons. My husband Mark, a science teacher, taught me to pay lose attention to nature on our many hikes together. With this book, I hope to pass on his reverence for the wooded world.

READING TIME (WordSong) is a celebration of reading, inspired by watching our children – Hope, Georgia, and Henry – fall headlong into books of all sorts.

MsMac: What do you hope readers take away?
Amy: I love reading poems that make me whisper, “Yes! I feel that way too, but I didn’t know I felt that way until now.” And I hope that in some small way, my poems will give readers this “not alone” feeling. I always hope that people will be able to find themselves in my poems.

Just for Fun

MsMac: Chocolate: Dark or milk?
Amy: Any!

MsMac: Coffee or tea?
Amy: Tea

MsMac: Dance: funky chicken or the tango?
Amy: Tango

Favorite Quote:

Here is one I love, from Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Kindness.”

“Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.”

Poetry Friday: Meet the Rest of the CYBILS Poetry Panel

With Thanksgiving last week, it escaped me that I had more interviews from the CYBILs Poetry panel:

MsMac What is your day job?
Misti: I’m a children’s librarian at the Licking County Library in Newark, Ohio

Tricia: I teach future elementary and middle school teachers at the University of Richmond. My areas of specialty are math and science

Irene: I’m the mom of three sons, and my husband and I run a small business.

Jone: I am a K-5 teacher librarian.

MsMac: Who are your poetry mentors?

Misti: When I think of a poetry mentor, one of my undergraduate professors comes to mind — Dr. Devin Brown, who is himself a poet, and who has a gift for inspiring a greater appreciation of poetry in his students. If you had asked me who my favorite poet was at age 10, I would have said Shel Silverstein; at age 15, Robert Frost, at age 20, John Donne, at age 25, William Shakespeare — and beyond that, some combination of all of those, with many others thrown in!

Tricia: My poetry mentors are Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Billy Collins, Wallace Stevens, J. Patrick Lewis, Douglas Florian, Jane Yolen, Avis Harley, Helen Frost, Marilyn Singer and of course, Lee Bennett Hopkins. I could name many others as well! I have a whole set of mentors just for science poetry!

Irene: I admires so many, both living and dead, famous and not-yet-famous, including the entire Poetry Friday community…and because I know you want an actual real-person, famous name, I’m happy to share that I feel a real affinity for Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Jone: Naomi Shihab Nye, Janet Wong, William Stafford, Valerie Worth, Basho, William Carlos Williams, Helen Frost, and Ellen Hopkins.

MsMac: What qualities are needed in a poetry book to make the finalist list?

Misti: As for the qualities of a top-notch poetry book, everyone else has stated it so well, that I will just agree — language used intelligently and purposefully, that readers of all ages can connect with.

Tricia: I agree with Mary Lee and Carol that poetry should be accessible. I’m big on language. I look at the words poets have chosen and how they use them. I probably shouldn’t look so deeply into craft, but I do. I will also say that I look at coherence. I like to see the big picture and how the poems hang together or are connected, either by form, introduction, topic or order. For example, I loved the way Mary Ann Hoberman connected all the pieces in THE TREE THAT TIME BUILT, even though there was a huge variety of poem types. I loved Avis Harley’s book AFRICAN ACROSTICS for the way she handled the form and kept things connected through the topic of African animals. I think Linda Ashman’s book STELLA UNLEASHED and Lee Wardlaw’s book WON TON are terrific examples of order, using the poems to tell a story. (I know that WON TON) was not in the poetry category last year, but it’s really a fine example

Irene: There are a number of things, but the one quality that really sets a collection apart for me is the “surprise” element. I want to see fresh images and analogies, poems that widen my eyes and introduce me to something unexpected, something special, something beautiful.

Jone: Accessibility, lucious words and rhythm, and something original and unique
MsMac: What is your favorite chocolate?

Misti: I like all chocolate, but really good, high-quality, creamy milk chocolate is my favorite.

Tricia: I like my chocolate dark and unspoiled. I don’t like fillings or flavor, just something like 60-70% chocolate. Once in a great while I do like a bit of spice and will go for a dark chocolate square with a hint of pepper in it.

Irene: I like my chocolate any which way, but especially dark (give me a bag of Ghirardelli 60% cacao chocolate chips, and I’m a happy gal!).

Jone: Dark, dark chocolate. Pure.

We are as busy as the elves in preparing the top sekrit CYBILS finalist list.

Poetry Friday is at The Poem Farm today.
Happy Reading.

An Interview with Laura Purdie Salas

Today I have Laura Purdie Salas sharing about her reading and writing life as well her new poetry book, BookSpeak! Poems about Books. Welcome, Laura.

Your Reading Life

 MSMac: What books are on your night stand?

 LS: A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park.

The Innocent, by Harlan Coben.

Picnic, Lightning, by Billy Collins.

What’s Looking at You, Kid?, by J. Patrick Lewis.

Poets on Teaching: a sourcebook, edited by Joshua Marie Wilkinson.

 MSMac: The Linda Sue Park book is on my TBR list. What was your favorite book as a child? As a teen?  As an adult? What particular genre stands out?

 LS: I haven’t ever had a favorite book. As a kid, I was a voracious reader and loved any book that took me in for a few hours. I did read Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile many, many times  (maybe that’s where my alligator phobia comes from?). In upper elementary school, I was especially into Agatha Christie and read every one my library had. Flowers for Algernon was a favorite of mine as a teen, and so were James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small and the sequels. As an adult, I read mostly adult and children’s poetry, picture books, adult mysteries, and  nonfiction.

 MSMac: Where’s your favorite reading spot?

LS: I’m a traveling reader and can read anywhere, anytime! In my grey chair with a storm outside is my favorite reading setting, though I don’t get that often!

 MSMac: Yes, there’s nothing better than a good stormy day to read or a wonderful summer day outdoors to read. What are your thoughts about ereaders versus a book? Do you have an ereader?


LS: I don’t have an e-reader, though I’ve read a few books on my iPhone. I’m not against e-readers, per se. I love being able to spend a few minutes before yoga class reading a poem or two on my phone, for instance. And it would be nice not to break my arms carrying luggage overweighted with books every time I travel. But a real book is so solid and dependable. It doesn’t run out of batteries. It doesn’t tempt me away from itself with emails and podcasts. It doesn’t suddenly go blank with no explanation. I expect I’ll get an e-reader soon, but I don’t plan on giving up paper books at all!


Your Writing Life


MSMac: What does a day of work look like for you? What is your favorite time of day to write?

 LS: A day of work looks like me frantically pounding away on a keyboard. I only get to actually write for a few hours a week, if I’m lucky. Most of the time, I’m answering emails, working on promotional stuff, corresponding with editors, blogging, critiquing, etc. When I am going to get an hour of actual writing time, I love to do it first thing, right after the house empties out for the day. My brain is somewhat fresh then:>)

 MSMac:Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?

LS: First draft—it’s so full of possibility!

MSMac: What does your writing space look like?

LS: I write everywhere. Lately, I’ve mostly been writing at the kitchen table, looking out the picture window into the backyard.

MSMac: What are your current projects?


LS:I’ve been working on three new prose picture book manuscripts—all funny (I hope). One features a cowboy who is NOT happy about an event he has to go to, one has farm animals setting very bad behavior examples when kids come to visit on a field trip, and the third has a giraffe with a long problem. And I have one poetry collection bubbling in my head, but I haven’t got a good handle on it yet.

MSMac: What advice do you have for poets of any age?

 LS: Read tons of poetry! Start writing. Don’t judge yourself.

MSMac: What might readers find you doing when you’re not writing?

LS: Reading.Being active—walking, yoga, zumba, etc. Volunteering with the Minnesota Brass drum corps (my husband and I both marched last year).Playing board games.Watching cooking shows (those who can’t, watch)

About BookSpeak! Poems about Books

MSMac: Tell me a bit about this book.  What was your process? Did you set out to    specifically write a set of  book poems or were they written over time?

LS: I wrote most of these in a space of a few weeks.

MSMac: What inspired you to create BookSpeak?

LS: I was invited to submit for an anthology, but none of my 13 poems was accepted. I was really bummed out. My agent looked them over and sent them to my editor at Clarion, and I was so thrilled when she said she wanted to make a book from them. Then I needed to write more poems and start the long revision process.

MSMac: What kind of input did you have with the illustrations and the layout? Did  you see your poems being arranged as they were when you wrote them with  the different fonts like in the poem, “Skywriting”? (which by the way, is one   of my favorites in the book)

LS: On the illustrations, basically, none. I did get to see early versions and offer feedback. There was one poem that was hard to follow because it’s for three voices (“The Middle’s Lament”), so the editor and wonderful artist, Josée Bisaillon, worked together to make it simpler for reading aloud. And there were a couple of poems that the editor asked if I could change line breaks a bit or the layout somewhat to work better with the illustrations. I was very open to that.

 There’s one illustration that, to me, doesn’t match the content/viewpoint of the poem, so that kind of bothered me. But they didn’t change that. And I’m actually not a big fan of different fonts (though that’s one of my favorite poems, too) within a poem. I expressed that, and my editor had some justification for it (which I honestly can’t remember). So that didn’t get changed, either. The illustrator’s goal was to make the best art she could to expand and illuminate the poems. And the editor’s goal was to make the best book possible, marrying my words and Josée’s art. Nobody’s goal was to make a book perfect for Laura or perfect for Josée, and that’s the way it should be.

Plus, I have to say that Josée Bisaillon’s art for BookSpeak is just fabulous! Colorful, whimsical, mysterious, playful…I love 99% of it, and I’m thrilled with that. In a true collaboration, which is what a picture book is, each person has to give in a little. I bet there were times when she said—probably in a lovely French accent, “Oooh, I wish Laura would have written sailboat instead of shark here,” or something like that. Some detail that might have worked better in her illustration. But we both went with the established process, and I think it came out wonderfully.

MSMac: What do you hope readers/viewers take away?

 LS:I hope they start to wonder what their favorite books (or the characters inside those books) might say. And I hope readers remember again the magic that words and pictures can create. And most of all, I hope they enjoy the moment of reading, without worrying about taking anything away at all. It’s always hard to know how any particular book will affect any one reader, but the reading itself unites all of us.

 Just for Fun

MSMac: Dark chocolate or mild chocolate?

LS:Milk chocolate.

MSMac: Coffee or tea?

 LS: Tea!

 MSMac: Dance: funky chicken or the tango?

 LS:Ooh, can’t I do both?

MSMac: Favorite quote?

 LS: “All I can do is the best I can do.” That’s mine. It’s what I tell myself when I’m struggling with writing, an athletic activity, keeping up with various commitments, etc.

I love your quote, Laura.  Iti’s a good reminder for those days of struggles and doubts.

Thanks for sharing your reading and writing life with me.  I enjoyed BookSpeak! Poems about Books so much. 

For Poetry Friday I will feature a poem from BookSpeak! Poems about Books.

More great interviews are at The Flatt Perspective.

Happy Reading.




Interview with Annette Simon

Annette Simon is about to welcome her new book, Robot Zombie Frankenstein into the world on April 23,2012. I interviewed her for  the Robert’s Snowflakes several years ago.  So I was thrilled when she contacted me a while about her new book Robot Zombie Frankenstein.  Today she’s stops by for a new interview.

Your Reading Life

MSMAC: What books are on your night stand? 
Annette: BLUE ASYLUM, by Kathy Hepinstall. A GOOD AMERICAN by Alex George, and A.S. Byatt’s THE CHILDREN’S BOOK, which is definitely not one. Also (not pictured on the stand, because it’s on the bed), an ARC of SHOW ME A STORY, WHY PICTURE BOOKS MATTER, foreword by Leonard Marcus.

MSMAC: What was your favorite book as a child?
Annette: Dr. Seuss’ GREEN EGGS AND HAM was the first book I read on my own. Other standouts? Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew, Charles Schultz’s Peanuts. FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konigsburg, and ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET by Judy Blume.

MSMAC: As a teen?
Annette: Stephen King–though I don’t recommend when you’re babysitting.

MSMAC: As an adult?
Annette: Far too many….Current faves are THE RULES OF CIVILITY by Amor Towles and anything by Anne Lamott. Hillary Jordan’s books , MUDBOUND and WHEN SHE WOKE, are haunting. Also loving middle-grade and picture books galore.

MSMAC: Does any particular genre stand out?
Annette:Anything but horror. (It’s those babysitting years.)

MSMAC: Where’s your favorite reading spot?
The kitchen counter, the dining room table, the left corner of the soft brown couch in our t.v. room. The striped chair with the footstool in our living room. In the shade, poolside. Ditto, seaside. An aisle seat when flying. With lots of pillows, in bed.

MSMAC: There are rapid changes in the world of publishing now that tablets/ereaders and such are in the market in a big way? What are your thoughts about ereaders versus a book? Do you have an ereader?
Annette: I’m a part-time bookseller at a small indie, and this is an almost daily topic of conversation among our customers. Many have received ereaders as gifts; they try them, but they don’t love them. Those with vision problems enjoy enlarging the font, and frequent travelers are happy not to have to lug heavy material. But by and large, in our store at least, the printed book is the hero. I believe that books and ereaders can and will coexist. I have no plans for an ereader, because I need a device on which I can also create. Have you seen Oliver Jeffers’ HEART AND THE BOTTLE ipad picture book app? It’s beautiful–but so are his books!

Your Writing Life

MSMAC: What does a day of work look like for you? What is your favorite time of day to write?
Annette: Morning’s my favorite time, but like any parent, I’ve learned to be flexible. Ideally though, it’s coffee with the local paper (old school: newsprint, from the driveway, comics first, then horoscopes); email; a quick spin around cyber space; then, go.

MSMAC: Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?
Annette: I like both. A first draft is promising, exciting. Revising is a challenge, a dare to make things better.
MSMAC: What does your writing space look like?
Annette: Welcome!

Our hodgepodge ‘gallery’ entrance includes a flea market oil painting of 30 pansies, a gift from my husband for my 30th birthday; a print of a Picasso rooster that had hung in the office of famed ad man, Mr. Chick McKinney; a silkscreen of jockeys from Lexington, Kentucky; a photo of milk bottles labeled ‘Simon Dairy;’ a page from a Dick and Jane book; and an acrylic Spiderman my dad painted for my sons years ago.

 Do you know my friend, Mac?

 The view with BIC.

Looking left. Seen through the windows: palm trees! (I grew up in Ohio. This never gets old.)

Seen through the far right window: a bald eagle! MSMAC: Lucky you!!

On the opposite wall, more mishmash.

Continuing left, closet shelves.

Treasures on the shelves include the Japanese translation of my oldest son’s, THIS BOOK IS FOR ALL KIDS.

 More treasures include THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR, a gift from our youngest son when he returned from Japan as an exchange student.
MSMAC: Wow! that was like getting a personal tour o your writing space!! Thanks. What are your current projects?
Annette: More picture books! Three more Robot and Robot stories in various stages, a non-robotic adventure at sea, and the inklings of something that may be somewhat spooky….
MSMAC: What advice do you have for poets of any age?

Annette: It’s that page from Dick and Jane.

MSMAC: That’s perfect advice for any type of writer. Thanks.  What might readers find you doing when you’re not writing?
Annette: Drawing, reading, walking. Matchmaking books and guests of the store. And after 23 years, trying to embrace our next chapter: an empty nest!

About Your Book
MSMAC: Would you elaborate on your “trickiness of your little sister and the deliciousness of your Grandmother’s pies” for Robot Zombie Frankenstein?
Annette: My Grandma Carroll of Fowler, Indiana, was a first-class cook, and made the world’s best…everything, but especially, pies. My sister and I are a year apart, with all the games that go on between siblings and being each other’s best and worst friends. I still love to make her laugh.
MSMAC: Do you use the computer for all illustrations? What other mediums do you like to use?
Annette: On the computer, I draw in Quark, which is a program designed for layout, not illustrating. I also love using vine charcoal, photography, and collage. I’d like to get back into oil painting, and maybe experiment with watercolor.
MSMAC: I see the potential for a book app for this book.  Anything in the works?
Annette: Wouldn’t that be fun?!

Annette, thanks for a great interview.


Do you want a copy of the book? There’s a great opportunity: Robot Zombie Frankenstein Giveaway Prize Packages, and the Support-An-Indie-Bookstore Pre-order Special–the last day for both is April 23. Details, HERE.

Happy Reading.


Interview Wednesday: Laurel Snyder

This year, the fifth graders at my school had the opportunity to join the Fifth Grade Lunch Bunch Bookclub.  I read an advanced copy of Bigger Than a Breadbox. It was very fun and great that not only girls joined but several boys as well.   A couple of weeks ago, we Skyped with author, Laurel Snyder.  Here’s their interview.

Students during the SKYPE visit asking Laurel questions.

LUNCH BUNCH: Why seagulls? Do they have meaning?

LS: I think we talked about how the seagulls are “home” to Becks, because they’re part of what she never noticed or appreciated until it was gone. But also worth mention: seagulls are sturdy birds, strong scavenger animals.  They’re pretty from a distance, but up close they’re pushy and they fight for what they want. They survive. I think that was in my head too.

LUNCH BUNCH: How did you get the idea?

LS: Initially it was all about the box.  I was driving fromAtlanta toIowa, just staring out the window for hours, and the idea for the box popped into my head– a box that gave you whatever you wanted, but took it from someone else…

LUNCH BUNCH: Why did you want to write the book? What inspired you?

LS: So, that was the initial idea, but once it took on a life of its own, the story was mostly about the family, which was modeled on my own family, in different ways.  Reaching back for those memories was the true motivator once I realized it was happening.

LUNCH BUNCH: Did the characters talk to you as you wrote the book? Did you change anything as a result?

LS: YES!  Absolutely.  I think the main things were that Jim (dad) became weaker, and Rebecca became stronger.  Also, the stuff where Becks gets information that makes her sympathize just a little with hannah– see her as NOT just a villain/bully. That was something that “came” to me.

LUNCH BUNCH: Were the old lady and the spoon real?

LS: No, not at all. Adda is modeled on several aspects of my grandmother (sadly) and I have a little spoon.  But the stories around them were an invention.

LUNCH BUNCH: How could she know the spoon was in the ground?

LS: How could Adda know that?  Because she was there when her husband was buried.  ANd then she told Rebecca.

LUNCH BUNCH: Why the bread box and not something else?

LS: I like old things. I like thrift stories and yard sales, and hunting around in them.  Bread boxes are something you see a lot at places like that. I like things that have been discarded.

LUNCH BUNCH: Did Grandma know that the box was magic?

LS: What do YOU think? I think she did know something, but I don’t think she knew exactly what was happening. I think Gran has had her own experience with the bread box.

LUNCH BUNCH: What are you working on now?

LS: A book about Annie, when she was 12 years old. She has her own magical adventure.

LUNCH BUNCH: What was the first book you wrote?

 LS: The first book I published with a traditional publisher was for grownups, a book of poems.  The first book I wrote was when I was in the fourth grade. I did a lot of them, and can’t quite remember the very first one, but “Classroom Masquerade” was one of them.

Tales from the Rushmore Kid() is hosting Interview Wednesday.

Happy Reading.


Poetry Friday: On the Eve of the CYBILS

It’s actually four more sleeps as I tell my grandgirls when waiting for time to pass.  I thought it a good time to interview last year’s CYBILS winner, Marilyn Singer.  Her book Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse was named best book in the poetry category.

Your Reading Life

 MsMac: What books are on your night stand?

 MS: I have different books for different reading locations.  On my night stand, for reading in a chair or in the bathtub (see below), I currently have THE CUPCAKE QUEEN by Heather Hepler, which I’m finishing, and BIRD IN A BOX by Andrea Davis Pinkney, which I’ll read next.  For reading on the subway and in coffee shops, in my tote bag I have THE UNDERCOVER ECONOMIST by Tim Harford, which I’ve also nearly finished.  The next book in that queue is HOW CARROTS WON THE TROJAN WAR by Rebecca Rupp.  For sitting outside on a lounge, once the weather gets warm, the first book I plan to read is Stephen Sondheim’s LOOK, I MADE A HAT (I read FINISHING THE HAT last summer).

 MsMac: There are some books on the list that I will need to check out. What was your favorite book as a child? As a teen?  As an adult?

 MS: That’s really hard to answer as I’ve liked so many books.  I loved Grimm’s fairy tales, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and Sydney Taylor’s ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY a lot when I was a kid.  As an adult, I reread Shakespeare whenever I’m going to see one of his plays.    Some books I loved and have given often as gifts include R.A. MacAvoy’s TEA WITH THE BLACK DRAGON; SILK ROAD by Jeanne Larsen; M.T. Anderson’s FEED; Louis Sachar’s HOLES; and Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy.

 MsMac:  What an eclectic list.  FEED was banned at middle school in my district. Any particular genre stand out?

 MS: I don’t think so.  You can tell from my current list that I like both fiction and nonfiction, though I don’t get to read much adult fiction these days.  I also read much children’s poetry, and you can guess why.  😉

 MsMac: Where’s your favorite reading spot?

 MS: I love reading in the tub and also outdoors in natural light (I can’t wait for winter to end!), as well as on the subways.  But needless to say, a comfy chair is also good.

MsMac: Which do you prefer a real book or ebook?

 MS: I don’t read e-books—don’t own an e-reader.  I can see that they’re great if you do a ton of traveling or have to lug textbooks, though.

 Your Writing Life

 MsMac What does a day of work look like for you? Favorite time of day?

MS: I’m an owl, not a lark.  Though I do sometimes start writing immediately when I wake up, I usually do most of it in the afternoon/early evening.  Occasionally, at 2 a.m. as I’m about to fall asleep, I have to jump out of bed and write something down because I just had an idea.  Groan!

 MsMac: Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?

 MS: Well, I revise as I write, but I guess I like that first burst of creativity the most.  However, revising is essential, so I like that, too.

  MsMac: What does your writing space look like?

 MS: I write everywhere—in my house in Brooklyn (both in my office, which is a room filled with books, objects, and three live birds and in my living room/dining room, in coffee shops, on the subway, by the pond at our place in Connecticut, at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, and in the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, which has been called “Marilyn’s office.”

MsMac: What are you currently working on?

 MS: I’m working on a book of poems about the U.S. presidents and I’m doing a lot of research, both through books and on the Internet, for that.  I also have a number of poetry books coming out this year and next:  A STICK IS AN EXCELLENT THING, ill. by LeUyen Pham (Clarion); EVERY DAY’S A DOG’S DAY, ill. by Miki Sakamoto (Dial); THE BOY WHO CRIED ALIEN, ill. by Brian Biggs (Disney-Hyperion); THE SUPERHEROES EMPLOYMENT AGENCY, ill. by Noah Z. Jones (Clarion); A STRANGE PLACE TO CALL HOME, ill. by Ed Young (Chronicle) and another book of fairy tale reversos (Dial), once again illustrated by the divine Josée Masse.

MsMac: What might readers find you doing when you’re not writing?

 Taking swing/ballroom/Latin dance classes with my husband, birdwatching, walking, shopping, playing with and training my dog, going to the theatre, watching TV, eating, sleeping, and, of course, reading.

 About Your Book

 MsMac: Where did you find the inspiration for Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse?

 MS: As I mention in the back matter to MIRROR MIRROR, I was watching my cat asleep in a chair and a poem came into my head—plus its reverse.  I wondered if I could write more poems like it, so I tried.   I showed that first batch to an editor.  Among those poems were some based on fairy tales, and she suggested that I write more fairy tale poems.  I thought that was a great idea because these tales often have two points-of-view, which is perfect for the reverso form.  So I took her suggestion.  The word “reverso” was my husband Steve Aronson’s brainstorm.  I was calling them “reverse poems,” but he said, “How about something Italianate,” and presto!  Just one of the reasons we’ve stayed married for over forty years.

 MsMac: Where there any challenges during the writing of the book?

 MS: As you may imagine, there were many challenges.  It’s not an easy form to write.  A reverso is two poems in one.  The first poem has to say one thing.  When reversed, changing only punctuation and capitalization, it has to say something different.  That’s hard to pull off.  First I had to think about what things the poems would say.  I looked for stories or characters with dual points-of-view (or a point-of-view that I could MAKE dual, as with the Ugly Duckling).  I usually write on a legal pad, but I wrote the reversos on my computer so I could shift lines and words, to see if they made sense.  I think of it as creating and solving a puzzle—sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately satisfying if I pull it off.

MsMac: What kind of research was required before writing the poems?

MS: I read a lot of fairy tales, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  That was pretty much it for the research. 

 MsMac: How did you find out that you had won the CYBILS award for Poetry?

MS: On the web site when I woke up.  What a lovely valentine!

 Just for Fun

 MsMac: Chocolate:  white, dark, or milk?

 MS: Dark.  White isn’t even chocolate!

 MsMac: Coffee or tea?

 MS: Tea only—but caffeinated.

 MsMac: Dance: funky chicken or the tango?

MS: Just learned some American tango.  But my favorite is Lindy.

 MsMac: Favorite Quote:

 MS: Here’s my favorite quote about poetry by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

 “Prose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in their best order.”

Thank you, Marilyn.  We’ll have to stay tuned for who wins this year’s CYBILS Award in poetry on Tuesday, February 14. 

Poetry Friday is hosted at Writing World for Kids by CYBILS very own poetry judge, Laura Salas.

Happy Reading.