Today I will be interviewing Diane Z. Shore:
What made you want to write about this topic?
It was at an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators )fall conference back in 1998, where a panel consisting of a librarian, an editor and an agent all expressed the need for more Thanksgiving books. I really like the Thanksgiving holiday, but wouldn’t say I was gung ho about writing a book about it. A year later, I was checking out books at our local library and one of the books I checked out was titled This Is the Pumpkin, a contemporary story about Halloween, written in a variation of cumulative rhyming verse. I thought that this format could work for a contemporary story about Thanksgiving and started out writing This Is the Turkey. That story was going nowhere, so I thought why not write about the First Thanksgiving using the same cumulative rhyme format, and calling the book THIS IS THE FEAST. FEAST was the first book I sold, back in Nov. of 2000, but because of editor and illustrator changes it has taken eight years to come out! ( I sold three books after FEAST which came out before FEAST was published.)
Did you do a lot of research before you began to write?
Yes, definitely! For This Is the Feast, I checked out every book I could find on the First Thanksgiving, both adult and children’s. A couple of the Pilgrims kept diaries so I had primary sources, too! I found the research to be very interesting and exciting, or as I tell the students when I visit schools, “very wowing!” I discovered I really loved non-fiction, and thought about other historical events that might work written in the cumulative rhyme format, and that’s when I came up with THIS IS THE DREAM. That book actually started out as THIS IS THE MARCH, about the 1968 march on Washington D.C., but decided that was too narrow an approach, so I expanded it to the entire Civil Rights Movement. For research I watched videos and read lots of books. Most of the research material for DREAM was primary sources For THIS IS THE GAME, which comes out in 2010, and is about the history of baseball, I watched Ken Burn’s nine-part documentary on baseball and read lots of adult non-fiction books. For THIS IS THE EARTH, (publication date pending) I read lots of newspaper articles as well as books on the environment. The next book I’d like to write is THIS IS THE FLAG.
The rhymes in your book flow beautifully from page to page. How did you achieve this?
Thank you! Lots and lots of practice. Like I tell the kids when I visit schools, writing is like playing a musical instrument or playing a sport. The more you practice, the better you get at it. You should read some of my earlier poetry, you would cringe! But I would guess that Cal Ripkin and Derek Jeter didn’t start out hitting home runs when they started playing baseball.
Do you have a fixed writing schedule that you follow?
Not anymore. Before I was published I used to get up in the wee hours of the morning (before the cat was awake!) to write. That’s when everything is fresh in my mind. Nowadays, I spend most of my time traveling, visiting schools with my A-Rockin’ and A-Readin’ program. I love to talk to the kids and inspire them to read. Now I only write during the summer.
Some people have the mistaken impression that writing in rhyme is easy. What kinds of problems do you face when you are writing in verse?
It may be easy for others but not for me! I think the hardest part about writing a poem is getting the meter or rhythm right. I actually started writing poetry by changing the words to nursery rhymes. When you use an existing rhythm, you have a pattern to follow. Then I bought a rhyming dictionary which helped explain different meters.
So far you have mostly written picture books, early readers, and articles. Is there a genre that you would really like to try some day, and if so why?
I love to write for children. I think I’m going to stick with that.
What kinds of books did you like to read when you were a child?
I loved Dr. Suess and Amelia Bedelia. I loved the page in Amelia Bedelia where Mrs. Rogers told her to draw the curtains, and Amelia sat write down and drew the curtains. It’s pretty cool that my newest book How to Drive Your Sister Crazy is similar to Amelia Bedelia in that they are both Level 2, I Can Read Books published by HarperCollins.
Here is a little more information about Diane Z. Shore:
After 9½ years, 385 rejections, and a forest of sloppy copies, teacher-turned-author Diane Z. Shore published her first picture book, BUS-A-SAURUS BOP, a rollicking, rhyming read-aloud, and winner of the 2004 Children’s Choice Award.
Now a full time author and read-aloud advocate, Diane writes in a variety of genres and her books have been translated into many languages. Her books include LOOK BOTH WAYS, ROSA LOVES TO READ, THIS IS THE DREAM (Civil Rights Movement), THIS IS THE FEAST (Thanksgiving), and the forthcoming THIS IS THE GAME (Baseball), plus her new beginning reader, HOW TO DRIVE YOUR SISTER CRAZY, a HarperCollins I Can Read!™ inspired by and written especially for reluctant readers.
Diane travels across the US with her lively “A-Rockin’ and A’Readin’ school presentations inspiring thousands of kids to read! Visit her website at http://www.dianezshore.com/
I hope that you enjoyed this blog book tour.