I hope you enjoy the interview with Kristyn Crow below. She was so kind to take the time to participate in this project even though she was insanely busy preparing for the Writing For Charity Event taking place this year in Provo, Utah on St. Patrick's Day. Hopefully those attending the conference have something nice to wear in the shade of green!
Gamila: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your work.
Kristyn: I am a mother of seven from Layton, Utah, who loves Beatles music, chocolate, and looking at the planets through a telescope. I write snappy, rhythmic picture books with a musical vibe. Most of my children sing, play piano, guitar, and a few write music, so music is a constant influence in our home.
I have four picture books currently available for purchase, and two in production. COOL DADDY RAT (G.P. Putnam's Sons), illustrated by Mike Lester, was released in 2009. A few months later, BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP (HarperCollins), illustrated by Macky Pamintuan, was released. In 2010, THE MIDDLE-CHILD BLUES (G.P. Putnam's Sons), illustrated by David Catrow became available, followed by THE REALLY GROOVY STORY OF THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE (Albert Whitman, Inc.), illustrated by Christina Forshay.
This fall, SKELETON CAT (Scholastic) is due to be released, and it's illustrated by the incredible Dan Krall. And I have a new picture book from Walker Books which will follow in 2013.
Gamila: What made you decide to publish picture books?
I have been writing stories since I was five years old, when I announced to my parents that I wanted to be an author when I grew up. Writing has been a lifelong passion. I had a mother who read me stories like, ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO-GOOD, VERY BAD DAY, and a father who could recite THE JABBERWOCKY from memory. I was mesmerized by Dr. Suess books and loved movies like THE JUNGLE BOOK with jazzy musical elements. So there wasn't really a decision on my part to write picture books but a lifelong gnawing desire to create more of the literature I already loved.
Gamila: What authors in your field do you admire? Which oftheir strengths so you strive to emulate in your own work?
Kristyn: Rick Walton is a Utah Children's Book Author who is one of my heroes. He has not only been a mentor to me in my writing, but also has connected the Utah writing community in such a way that we are ALL able to mentor, cheerlead, befriend, and serve each other. Writing is a lonely, solitary profession. Rick was able to link all of us together and unite us in great causes. For example, the Writing for Charity Event which takes place this coming March 17th. Over 25 Utah authors will be in attendance to give manuscript advice to aspiring writers. The proceeds will put books in the hands of underprivileged children!
Gamila: The brevity of text in the picture book requires unique storytelling skills. What process did you take to learn this art?
Kristyn: It took me a long time to learn how to do this.When I first tried to break into the picture book market Iwanted to write lovely sentences on a flat page that told a story from start to finish.I wanted to describe the scenery and characters in detail.This was my comfort zone--the kind of writing I'd learned in high school and college.I hoped to absorb the reader in my well-crafted prose and sweep him or her away in the scenes I was describing.I imagined that an illustrator would later read my text and paint the things I'd written--blue skies, yellow daffodils, and freckle-faced kids-- just as I described them. I envisioned the illustrator as someone who decorated my words, not as a partner in the storytelling. I had a lot to learn.
To "undo" this thinking I had to dissect picture books and see how they functioned. I had to change my thinking from 2-D to 3-D. And I had to learn to leave room for the illustrator to do some of the storytelling. It's hard to do this. Especially because the pictures aren't there yet. You have to imagine what the pictures will likely show and then pare back the text to go along with the imaginary art.
Gamila: what is the most rewarding thing about being a picture book author? What is the most discouraging?
Kristyn: The most rewarding thing is seeing a child respond positively to one of my books. I do assemblies where I bring 75 instruments. Watching that many kids play along with the refrain of BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP, wiggling their hips, is pure joy.
And the most discouraging thing is the waiting. Waiting to hear back from agents and editors can take weeks, even months, even many months. That's hard.
Gamila: Your picture books often imitate and incorporate therhythm of strong music traditions like Jazz or Blues. What originally lead youto experiment with this and do you have plans to adapt more of your picturebook prose to imitate other musical genres?
Author: What's interesting is that I do write picture books that aren't in rhyme, but those haven't sold for me yet. I have a great love for music and lived in New York City for a time. I loved hearing the musicians playing on the street and wafting out of the little bars on the corner. Those beats and sounds flow out from my writing because they make me so happy.
Gamila: Before we endtell us about your most current writing project or most recent release.
Kristyn: This July, SKELETON CAT (Scholastic) will be released. I'm thrilled with this book. It's rhythmic and fun...full of bright, neon colors and the whimsical art of Dan Krall, who illustrated BEING A PIG IS NICE: A Childs-Eye View of Manners, and wrote/illustrated ABSOLUTELY BEASTLY CHILDREN, a hilarious alphabet book. Honestly, I can't wait for people to see what he's done with SKELETON CAT. It's coming out in paperback which I'm excited about because the book will be affordable for everyone. I hate seeing those kids with pouty faces at the book fairs, who can't afford to buy a book.
Gamila: Thanks for the interview! I am totally going to check out Skeleton Cat.