Thursday, October 4, 2012

HIGH FIVE #21: Nothing Like a Puffin

It's time for another HIGH FIVE interview to spotlight a debut picture book author. Today, please welcome Sue Soltis, author of Nothing Like a Puffin. With two active boys, Sue is well qualified to discuss Halloween, superheroes, and patience. Take it away, Sue! And by the way, her boys are nothing like a puffin...

Here’s a big HIGH FIVE congratulations to you for your debut picture book.

Title: Nothing Like a Puffin
Author: Sue Soltis
Illustrator: Bob Kolar
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release date: September 2011
Word count: 460
Short summary:
A puffin is an amazing creature. It's completely unique and one-of-a-kind. A ladder is nothing like a puffin. A house is nothing like a puffin. A newspaper is nothing like a puffin... But wait! Who would have guessed? Could these things be more alike than you think? Young children will love following this mischievous puffin in an entertaining exercise in creative classification - and are guaranteed to start looking at everyday things in a whole new way.

Question ONE: What are three of your favorite picture books? Just three mind you.

  1. One Witch by Laura Leuck, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (since Halloween is coming!)
  2. What the Ladybug Heard by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Lydia Monks
  3. Monster Sleepover! (kind of Halloween-ish too) by Scott Beck
I have heard of What the Ladybug Heard before; it sounds quite intriguing. (Is Halloween your favorite holiday?)

Question TWO: What is your bedtime routine like with them? How do books play a part in that?

I have two boys, 9 and 4. They have introduced me to the fine details of worlds I only dabbled in before—like superheroes, Star Wars and dinosaurs. We read to our younger son every night and are always carting books back and forth from the library—mostly because it’s an unusual book that wants to be read again and again. We don’t always agree on favorites, but a lot of times we do. Right now, we’re on an Oliver Jeffers kick, everybody loves his books, even my 9-year-old—who mostly reads on his own every night. Somehow he’s claimed the best seat in the house, but what a pleasure for me to be able to just sit down, even in the second most comfortable place and read. Of course, books are the best part of bedtime and the one lure that makes it even possible. Books are always at the tail end and usually earlier too!

I agree; books are the best part about bedtime. My 8-year-old son still does not read much to himself, aside from Pokemon books. I hope he will eventually catch on to the fire of reading. I wonder what book will make the change for him.

Question THREE: How might teachers use your book in the classroom?

I think teachers like it because it’s a fun take on a compare and contrast lesson. Kids can come up with their own comparisons to puffins—things that are really unlike puffins or that have a lot of similarities. Also, I think it’s a great book to read out loud to a class. It’s the kind of book that kids will have something to say about in the middle; its’ not so much a very quiet bedtime book. For older kids, teachers could use it to teach Venn diagrams. And, all of this logical thinking is a basis for math too!

Yes! Venn Diagrams, for sure! Imagine that…literature and math combined. You’ve written a cross-curricular book! We should share it with every teacher we know.

Question FOUR: Can you tell us a little bit about your revision process and the illustrator’s role in your book?

My first draft did not have illustrator notes, but somewhere along the way there was one revision that did. That was totally discarded. I’ve come to the conclusion that illustrator notes should be avoided, and most editors and publishers will tell you that. But, actually, I’d take it further than that—I avoid writing stories that would even need illustrator notes. Sometimes, when I review my work I take out things that can be shown—but it can be a delicate balance as to what to leave in, what to take out (as usual!). Because of a piece I’m working on that is more character-centered, I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

A good illustrator really does have the ability to visually create a story. I was amazed by Bob Kolar’s illustrations; I think he really captured the tone of the text and he created a page-to-page swing. On the flipside, in the final edits of Nothing Like a Puffin, a line or two of text was taken out because the illustration covered it. So those lines served as illustrator’s notes, in the end, although they weren’t conceived that way.

My title never changed. In fact, it was the springboard for the story. But otherwise, there were so many revisions! I did not keep count, and to tell you the truth, I’m still reluctant to go back and check. But there were pre-contract revisions, post-contract revisions, final revisions, re-wordings for a UK version, and revisions once the illustrator was on board.

Bob Kolar is awesome! It’s a good thing writers are flexible and they we enjoy revisions (okay, maybe some of us do).

Question FIVE: What are your top three writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?

  1. There’s a question, because I don’t feel like I’m there yet. I’m still ready for people to give tips to me. However, patience must be number one because it’s the rare writer that doesn’t get snagged somewhere: looking for an agent, shifts in editors at publishing houses, getting the next book contract, deciding to throw away that last story and start with something new.
  2. Second is the craft; it’s startling how you can always make it better. So while you’re waiting, work on the next thing, and make it better. Make it better again. Is that three?
  3. One more—recently I started a critique group after running out of excuses. I had many: I’ve been in so many workshops I think I’ve internalized the process, I don’t think I can find people, and I don’t have time! But I’m finding it’s a great motivator for writing, wonderful for combating that reality of working in isolation and a pleasure to see people’s work in progress.
Thanks so much for being with us today, Sue! It was delightful. Hope to see your second book, soon!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations Sue and thank you for the great advice.


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