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If you’ve seen the movie Freaky Friday, you know that its premise is about change and growth through role reversal. For my Friday Blog entry I thought it would be interesting to interview aspiring writers; the same writers who spend lots of time reading the interviews of published authors and dreaming of the day when they might get their book on the shelves...
This week's Freaky Friday Interview is with Tara Lazar. She has a wonderful blog called Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) and I can certainly relate to that. Like I usually do, when I ask someone to get their Friday Freak on and join us, (by us I mean me and my cat that likes to drool on my computer and YOU since you did stop by) I asked Tara to jump in an tell me a little bit about herself.
Tara, could you give me a brief intro about yourself? I like to let the interviewee pick a starting point because it's interesting to see how people choose to describe themselves.

I always cringe when people ask me to briefly describe myself. I'm not a high-concept novel. I cannot be boiled down to one line, people!
(How's that for a start?)
Oooooo that is perfect. I love a sassy interviewee LOL! We will jump right in and see where we land. What do you write and how did you start writing for children?
I write picture books, short stories and middle grade novels. Well, the novels are in progress so I suppose I can't claim to have written one until they're actually done.
When I was seven years old, I wrote a book of fractured fairytales and my best friend Francine illustrated it. I stretched the truth and told my great-grandparents that we had "published a book." This 70 year-old Italian couple--who only got in the Buick once a year to attend midnight mass--drove 30 minutes to the nearest bookstore and gave the evil eye to the manager when they couldn't find it. Whoopsie.
I got serious about writing for kids exactly two years ago, when my youngest daughter turned one year old. Now, instead of being up with a crying baby at 2am, I'm crying over my baby (my manuscript) at 2am.
Your great-grand parents are the BEST!!!! I see a future book dedication in there.

I've talked to many aspiring authors who are working in some combination of picture books, short stories/articles, middle grade and young adult novels. I know from my own experience my YA is deeply routed in my own development. I think my social/emotional growth hit a speed bump during the teen years so now I find myself writing the things that I needed to read and still think about. My picture books are driven a bit more by the day to day life of my three boys. How does this work for you? Since your MG is your current work in progress, do you want to tell us a little bit about it?

Right now I'm focusing on picture books. In November, instead of doing NaNoWriMo, I'm sponsoring PBIMo (Picture Book Idea Month), where picture book writers are encouraged to develop one new picture book concept a day. It's an exercise in idea generation. We've already got some awesome authors participating: Tammi Sauer (CHICKEN DANCE), Michael Sussman(OTTO GROWS DOWN), and Corey Rosen Schwartz (HOP! PLOP!). Illustrators Sarah Dillard,Jannie HoJennifer Thermes and others are going to create one illustration a day to join us. Hey, join us, too! You don't have to pledge anything, just give it a try. You might end the month with 30 new picture book ideas.
Wow!!! I heard about PBIMo at Rutgers last year and it sounds great. Where can other interested PB writers go to get on board?

(Not sure you heard about it at Rutgers last year. I did it on my own last year and it didn't have a name. I may have mentioned I was doing it on the blueboards, when people said they were going to try to write a PB a day during November and I said I'll do an idea a day instead. Paula Yoo did a PiBoWriWee last May, which isn't the same thing as this.)
You're right, it was a picture book a day. I remember, now that you mention it. I love your idea of having an idea every day. Its something that can be done no matter where you are or what else you're doing. What a great treasure box to have when writer's block hits.

We had the pleasure of briefly meeting at a Blue Boarder event at the Rutgers One-on-One Conference last year, but we've gotten to know each other better on-line. Your blog captured my attention because you had the best notes post-conference!!! Now you might think that I'm going to ask about conferences and on-line relationships, but I want to know about attention to detail. Obviously, from your notes, you have that skill. I could use more of it *sigh*...I tend to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-kind of a girl. I have moments of organizational brilliance, but sometimes it feels as if I'm trying to find the corner in a round room. It worries me sometimes that my process may come off as scattered and unprofessional when its really just edgy and quirky (I've renamed it in case any editors or agents ever read this). Tell me a little bit about what it feels like to be on the other side?

Regarding my conference notes--I write fast! No big secret there. The best way for me to learn is by taking detailed notes. Then I go home and type them up. If I simply sit and listen, I forget things. Even if the speaker says, "I have a hand-out, don't bother writing this down," I STILL take notes. Because if I don't write it, I don't learn it.
So don't let the notes fool you. I'm not some super-organized A-type personality. The beds are unmade, I've hit the "de-wrinkle" button on the dryer for the 17th time today, and I forgot to defrost the chicken for tonight's dinner. Oh yeah, I'm a rebel!
But as I've learned over the past year, picture books require organization and structure in order to work. While I can sometimes pump out a story in fly-by-seat-of-my-pants mode, sometimes I do better outlining first. I guess I've got both a yin and a yang side to me. I'm ambidextrous, which probably explains it.
Phew...good to know that you aren't in possession of super powers. Maybe the perfect combination is to have a little bit of both. By-the-way...its really cool that you're ambidextrous. You can comfortably color with your kids no matter where you are sitting in the restaurant!
It's that time a year again...Banned Books Week and the The Cybil Awards. Any thoughts on either of these two topics?
I think one of the most disturbing trends is parents asking young adult books to be moved to the adult section of the library, under the falsehood that they're not actually censoring or banning these books. What's more, the books in question are often found objectionable by out-of-context words or passages that don't necessarily reflect the content of the entire book.
One of the best quotes I've heard about book banning is this: "Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; and unlike charity, it should end there." If parents are concerned with what their children are reading, they should read the book themselves and engage their children in a guided discussion. It's okay for parents to tell their child "no" if a book doesn't agree with what the parents teach in the home. It's not okay for parents to assume that the rules in their home are the rules by which the rest of the world lives. Other children shouldn't be prevented from accessing a book that may speak to them. Richard Peck says, "A book might be the companion that a child needs."
Regarding the Cybils, I can't wait to start nominating some of my favorite books!
I love your thoughts on Banned Book Week and we would all be smart to heed the wise words of Richard Peck.

I'm having so much fun, but its about time to find out about your top five books and how they have influenced you.

My top five books include short story anthologies, like Joyce Carol Oates’ “Heat” which I re-read constantly. You’ll often find it in my handbag. I’m obsessed with the story “The Swimmers” which is told from a young girl’s point of view, piecing together details of her uncle’s affair with a mysterious new woman in town whom he meets at the Y pool. I’m drawn to the innocence of the narrator as she analyzes adult situations beyond her understanding. I try to think of that point of view whenever I write for kids. I have to make sense of the adult world, but through a child's eyes.
Story collections from Flannery O’Connor, Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, Tom Perrotta, T. Coraghessen Boyle—these are the favorite books on my shelf, along with the annual anthologies from Pushcart and The Best American Short Stories. I can’t explain why I often get more satisfaction from reading 6 pages than I do from 600. Maybe some novels meander and tell me too much.
My childhood favorite was (and still is) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I thought Dahl had the craziest, most wonderful imagination to be able to create such a deliciously wacky world. The irony kills me, though: I don't even like to eat chocolate! But that's how I want to write--fun, wild, outrageous, on the edge of suspended belief.
It's going to sound trite that some of my other favorite children's books are now movies, but it's true. I'm a foodie, so Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs fascinated me as a child. I wanted to live in the land of Chewandswallow. Imagine eating whatever fell from the sky, and it's all delicious!
And on the non-fiction side, the book Playful Parenting affected my life as a mother. My blog is "Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)", so I can't get away without mentioning the kids. Lawrence J. Cohen showed me how to connect with my children as a fun *and* firm mom.
OK, that's more than five, but I'm lumping all those short story collections into one book. Does that count?
It is perfect...except that part about the chocolate.  :o)

Make sure you join PBIMo, checking out Tara's SUPER INFORMATIVE blog and catch her on twitter or Facebook.  She is a wealth of information and destined for the bookshelves of your local bookstore.  Thanks Tara. 


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 2nd, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
Awesome interview, Kimberly!!
Oct. 2nd, 2009 11:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks Edith-Tara makes it easy ;o)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Kimberly J. Sabatini

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