How to Write Like a Professional

How to Write Like a Professional
6 Surprising Writing Mistakes That Make You Look Like an Amateur Author... and How to Avoid Them

Saturday, November 6, 2010

High Five to Tara Lazar

Who better to debut on my newest feature, the HIGH FIVE interview, than PiBoIdMo's own Tara Lazar! Tara's debut picture book, The Monstore, isn't out yet, but is scheduled for release from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in the summer of 2013. 
The Monstore is a shop that sells very useful monsters, just right for doing tricky stuff around the house. The Monstore has only one rule: no returns, no exchanges. In other words...what could possibly go wrong?
Here’s my big HIGH FIVE congratulations to you!

right_hand_print_benji_p_01Question ONE: What are three of your favorite picture books (because we all know you really have way more than three)?

  • That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown
  • Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood
  • Arnie the Doughnut 
  • Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type
  • The Louds Move In 
  • Spoon
  • Otto Grows Down. 
  • The Mermaid Queen (great non-fiction read) 
  • Pete’s a Pizza
  • Bark George
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs are classic faves. I’m sorry, how many did you say?
Question TWO: How did you come up with the idea for your debut book?

I’m a sucker for word play. One day during PiBoIdMo 2008 (before it was PiBoIdMo, since it was just me attempting this crazy idea-a-day exercise), “The Monstore” popped into my head. A store where you buy monsters. It wasn’t until months later, when an agent friend said she’d review some of my book ideas, that I forced myself to create the premise—a boy wants to return the monster he bought because it doesn’t scare his little sister, but there are no returns or exchanges at The Monstore.

Question THREE: Will you share your top three tips for writers about writing, publishing, or whatever you have learned along the way that stands out as being very important, but no one ever tells you about?

Everyone hears the advice to read a lot, write a lot and learn about their chosen genre. But one thing I wish I’d known sooner? “Create the hook before you write the book.”

Writing conferences often hold pitch sessions, where you get a few seconds to tell an agent or editor about your book. You have to boil your story down to one attention-grabbing line. That’s the hook. Some writers find that more challenging than writing the book! So I turned it around. Instead of crafting a hook after I’ve written my story, I craft the story after I’ve written my hook.

Question FOUR: What are some of your ideas for instilling a life-long love of reading?

I think the best way to instill a love a reading is to let kids select books they want to read. Don’t push them or hold them back. Take them into the library and let them run wild. (OK, walk wild.)

I also love what my daughter’s 1st grade teacher did—she created a class of authors. Students wrote stories, reviewed them with her, then “published” them. They typed their stories into the computer, printed the pages, illustrated them, bound them, and left them in a reading corner for other kids to check out, like a library. At the end of the year they held an “Author’s Tea” and each child picked one of their published stories to read aloud.

Question FIVE: What is your biggest challenge in parenting? Do you read picture books to your own children?

My parenting priority is making sure my kids have plenty of time to play, explore and be creative. Kids need time to be kids, with unstructured, unscheduled play free from adults and expectations. That’s how I built the world of “The Monstore”—it’s a place only kids know about. The adults are clueless.

I have read to my kids before bed since they were infants. They look forward to it every night. I never withhold reading together as a form of punishment. If they don’t eat all their veggies, they still get a book. (And we read Little Pea, about the veggie who doesn’t want to eat candy for dinner.) Reading is never a chore, either. If they want to skip it one night in favor of a movie, we do. I also read a lot, so they see me with a book constantly. Hopefully it rubs off.


Thanks so much, Tara, for joining me today on HIGH FIVE! I hope everyone enjoyed the interview and will buy Tara's book as soon as it hits the shelves. And have fun at PiBoIdMo!

See you next month, with another debut picture book author on Saturday, December 4th.

7 comments:

  1. Nice interview Christie and Tara!

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  2. Congratulations, Tara! Good interview!

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  3. Love the interview, ladies! I love the teacher's idea of the Author's tea at the end of the year!

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  4. Thanks for the interview. Congratulations Tara on your debut PB. It sounds like a fun read.

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  5. Thanks for the interview, Christie! And thank you for the nice comments, everyone. High five!

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  6. Great interview, Christie and Tara! You are so right about the hook. You can write the cutest book in the world, but if it doesn't have a fantastic hook, it's going to be a very hard sell indeed.

    Love the "Author's Tea"! How wonderful!

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  7. Fantastic interview, Christie and Tara. Love the adv ice about writing the hook before the book.

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I love comments just as much as the next gal, so go ahead and tell us what's on your mind. Thanks for being here!

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