Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW Interview with My Word Playground

As part of the BBAW festivities you could sign up for New Treasure-An Interview Swap. I was fortunate enough to be partnered up with Lynne from My Word Playground.

Lynne is a writer for magazines. She also writes picture books. Her first picture book, Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten will be published by Scholastic in May 2011. Her blog offers a plethora of writing tips from a variety of authors.

Welcome Lynne to Reading in Color!

Describe your blog Twitter-style. 140 words or less

Turn right @mytweetcorner and head for http://www.mywordplayground.blogspot.com/ for wonderful writing tips, prompts, inspirations and lots of great reading recommendations from talented authors and illustrators of a variety of children’s writing genres. Recent features include Lisa Wheeler, Tammi Sauer, Mark Peter Hughes, Dori Chaconas, Melanie Hope Greenberg and MORE!

How do you find the time to blog and write?

As a writing columnist for The Writer’s Journal, I love to share creative prompts, tips and inspiration. As a Book Reviewer, I love to promote books. And, as a writer, I need my own time to writer. So, being a bit on the enterprising side, I came up with the idea to have well-respected authors and illustrators share THEIR creative prompts, tips and inspirations in my blog forum in exchange for promoting their books there. It works out for me, as I can use those blog posts when I don’t have time for my own, and in addition to inspiring me and others, it increases my knowledge base of authors and their books for my own reading list.

It is important to note though, that my blog is brand new. We have just finished sending my son off to Italy to study there for a year. As soon as we catch up from getting him settled there, I have several conferences experiences I would like to catch up in sharing, like the 2010 Annual June NJ-SCBWI Conference and the 2010 LA Summer Nationals Conference, both of which were fabulous! Oh, and I’ll be going to the NJ-SCBWI Annual Retreat October 1-3, which will be just 14 attendees and two editors!

You write for magazines and now you have your first picture book coming out (Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten). Why did you decide to write a picture book?

First of all, I love picture books, as they combine two things I love – word and pictures <3

But although I had been studying the art of writing picture books for many years, both through college courses, the Institute for Children’s Literature, and even on-line courses, like those given by Barbara Seuling and Anastasia Suen, I first achieved my success in publishing poetry, crafts, puzzles, rebuses and magazine articles.

For me, it was easy to study a year’s worth of magazine back issues for content and style and make a sale. I found it more difficult, because of the size and structure of a publishing house, to do the same, but when I felt I had marketable pieces, I began to submit and was fortunate enough to get personal rejections and the contract with Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten. I did wait a long time before submitting my picture books. And that manuscript had gone through many rounds of revisions before I submitted it.

Do you still write for magazines?

Yes, I do. In fact, I have a rebus coming out in Highlights for Children this month. And a folktale forthcoming from Spider magazine. I enjoy writing for both genres and find that they supplement each other.

Your blog is dedicated to sharing writer advice from other authors and/or illustrators.

Yes, that is the main focus, as I put great value in prompting others to write and providing inspiration. Perhaps that is a small gift, like a cup of morning coffee! However, from time to time, my blog will focus on sharing conference experiences and my reading experiences and inspiring people toward that end as well.

What's some of the most helpful advice they've shared?

Because I feel what spoke to me may not speak to everyone, I am going to duck this question and ask that people go to my blog and seek out the advice that THEY find most inspiring LOL. My blog is brand new, but I’ve already featured about twelve different authors and illustrators spread across different genres and I have a lot more in store. As I select authors, I am trying to make certain they are diverse, so that there will be seeds of inspiration for everyone!

What advice would you give to aspiring published authors?

I do have one bit of advice to share that has worked for me and I do believe will work for EVERYONE. Jane Yolen once gave advice to put your Butt In a Chair (BIC)! In essence, if you’re going to make something of yourself, you need to sit down and do it!

8. Not all of my readers (including myself!) know how picture books are created. Can you take us through that process?

For the creative process of making picture books, the writer must remember that it is a marriage between pictures and text. So when the writer writes, he/she must try not to use descriptive words (especially colors and such unless it is extremely important to the story). In addition, the author must leave as much as he/she can (even 50%) to the illustrator, while still telling a satisfying story. For example, I might write Sniff searched underneath the apple tree. Bonk! “Ouch!” said Sniff. And that would allow the illustrator to draw an apple falling down toward Sniff and hitting him on the head and bouncing off, which words wouldn’t be needed in the text. That’s where the illustrator is telling his part of the story. For a complete 32-page picture book, the writer should make certain that he/she has 14 good spreads to work with. So although the writer is not the illustrator, making a story board of what would happen on each spread is an important part of the process. Once the story is all settled and works seamlessly, I fine tune things like word choices and tighten word count. I probably revise each picture book 10-20 times, many times with the help of one of my critique groups for feedback.

What is Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten about (besides the obvious of a hedgehog going to kindergarten!)

It is actually about a nervous little hedgehog on his WAY to kindergarten. But the bigger theme is to keep trying even when it seems like things aren’t working out. If you give up, you certainly won’t find a solution, but if you keep moving on, sometimes the solution will present itself. And even then, you may have to take a deep breath and come out of your shell…but that’s how the payoff comes.

What is your favorite genre to read? What is your favorite book in this genre?

As far as Picture Books…

I love reading picture books and usually read a picture book a day. I like a wide variety of picture books, probably mostly anthropomorphic characters, but usually unique and with humor or heart a WOW factor. Every week I think Kayla and I change our favorite book because we read so many, but this week our favorite re-read is DESERT ROSE AND THE HIGHFALUTIN’ HOG by Alison Jackson. It’s a Southwestern retelling of a familiar folktale and the language in this one is just fun, fun, fun!! It tickled our tailfeathers --we could read it 100 times!

As far as MG/YA…

I always love something that can make me laugh. And although I don’t like to cry, I think I have great respect for a book that can make me laugh AND cry. I absolutely love books that I wouldn’t expect to like because of the topic, and love nonetheless. Like “The Hunger Games Trilogy” for example. There’s nothing about the “topic” of those books that would ever interest me and yet, I was hooked from the first chapter of the first book and plowed through them all. However, that’s where voice, character, universal truth, theme, compelling story, tactful humor, grace, etc., all come into play.

If you could have dinner with any two characters from a book, who would it be and why? What type of food would be served?

I would love to choose someone lofty, but Alice and the Mad Hatter are STUCK in my mind and they have been since I was a child! Because there would be so much fun and frivolity and nonsense and I think there is so little of that in the world. I liked that. Of course, cupcakes and tea would be served.

And I do so LOVE looking at cupcakes and frostings and sprinkles (they are a beauty to behold) and a table with mismatched china! I even had an Alice in Wonderland Tea Party for my daughter’s fifth birthday, where I went around to antique shops and bought one place setting of each tea cup!

What are your favorite things to do besides read and write?

Take pictures, taking notes and traveling! I absolutely LOVE to travel and experience new people, places, things and events. And of course, in the cracks of that, I find so many wonderful things to write about! And it’s funny when you travel to a new place or meet a new person, or touch or experience a new thing, it’s often not the big picture, but one little detail from which the story springs forth. That’s where the taking pictures and taking notes comes in hand. So you don’t miss the little details.

I love to travel too, there is nothing like being in a new place and getting the opportunity to meet people who come from a culture different from your own (and than realizing you similarities). I need to slow down more and take in the little details because I tend to miss those (a small part of why I'm not a writer).

Lynne, you must invite me to your next Alice in Wonderland themed tea party! I agree, we need more harmless frivolity in the world. And the sight of a table set for tea presents such a lovely picture. One day I want to attend a tea party :) (NOT the political event).

Thank you so much for the interview Lynne! Everyone be sure to keep your eyes out for Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten and visit My Word Playground


  1. I agree...that Alice in Wonderland tea party should be open invitation! Nice interview - I'll have to check out Hedgehog when it comes out!

  2. Tea parties are such fun, especially with 5-year-olds. Did your daughter partly inspire the Kindergarten picture book?

  3. Great interview Ari and you are a writer!!

  4. Great interview, thanks both of you!

  5. How cool that you got to interview an author, Ari. The process of creating a picture book was really interesting -- glad that question was asked!


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