Welcome HOPE VESTERGAARD, our guest author for 2011 NaPiBoWriWee Day Five!
Hope Vestergaard is an early childhood consultant and children’s author with seventeen years’ experience working with children, teachers, and families. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Smith College and is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the International Reading Association. Hope currently trains teachers, conducts parent workshops, (works with classrooms in transition,) and develops curricular materials for parents and teachers. Her particular areas of interest include literacy, developmentally appropriate practice, and dynamic classroom environments. Publications: Potty Animals (Sterling), Nothing Rhymes with Orange: Perfect Words for Poets, Songwriters and Rhymers (with Bessie G. Redfield, Perigee), I Don’t Want to Clean My Room: Poems About Chores (Dutton),Weaving the Literacy Web: Creating Curriculum Based on Books Children Love (Redleaf Press), What Do You Do When A Monster Says Boo? (Dutton), Hillside Lullaby (Dutton, 2006) Hello, Snow (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004) Driving Daddy (Dutton, 2003) Wake Up, Mama (Dutton, 2003) Baby Love (Dutton, 2002), as well as numerous feature articles for The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market guides (Writer’s Digest Books). Hope frequently presents at state and national conferences as well as visiting elementary schools and libraries to discuss the writing life and to lead young writers workshops. Hope’s Web site, www.hopevestergaard.com, features articles, links, and activity guides for teachers and parents.
Hope graciously agreed to autograph a copy of Potty Animals for this year’s prize giveaway. Thank you, Hope!
(Keep reading for the rest of our Q&A with Hope Vestergaard after the jump…)
Q&A WITH HOPE VESTERGAARD
– Where is the best place for you to write your books?
The best place depends on which stage of the process I’m in. When I am brainstorming picture books or poetry, doing something manual outdoors such as mowing the lawn, gardening, or walking helps me sort things out and focus my thoughts. When I’m ready to put words on paper, my home office (where I can look out at the gardens and animals and see the birds) is an ideal place to compose. When I am polishing, I need to move to a different place in my house — upstairs window seat, dining room in the morning light, back porch or patio when weather allows. When I am writring a draft of a novel, I am most efficient at the library, preferably with a friend sitting across the table and keeping me accountable! When I am revising longer writing, a safe haven at home is good. I think the change in settings either removes distractions or opens my mind to new sensory details and perspectives.
– I like your nomadic writing ways! So… if you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Alternate reality jobs: I am really good at helping people dress themselves and their living spaces! I love to thrift shop and treasure hunt, so either a resale shop owner or an archaeologist would also work. I used to be a teacher and would do it again! I love to cook and often daydream about opening a bookstore/bakery. Last but certainly not least — I love to sew and make things. I sometimes wonder if this would still be as much fun if I were paid to do so…may have to do an etsy shop experiment to test this!
– Your alternate reality jobs all have one thing in common – creativity. How cool! Can you tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know?
I’m an open book with a poker face. Ask me anything and I’ll tell you — but you have to ask.
– LOL! Okay, next time I see you in person, I’ll ask you EVERYTHING. How about this… What was the most unusual job you ever had?
It was also one of the funnest jobs I’ve had — I was on the Price Change Team at Target! It was like being a detective! We went to work at 5 a.m. and got a printout of items the computers said weren’t selling well and needed to be marked down. Sometimes they weren’t selling because they weren’t stocked in the right place. Finding things was a real challenge. When the store did a big post-holiday clearance, we were locked into the store all night and it was kind of like a John Hughes movie!
– That is so funny! Hmmm… a John Hughes movie or future picture book? So… Tell us about your most recent book, POTTY ANIMALS. What inspired the idea? How long did it take to write? Any fun details about the road to your latest book’s publication?
I heard someone with a Boston accent say “party animal” and it sounded like “potty animal.” This struck me as a perfect title for a book but I didn’t know what the story would be, especially since there are so many potty training books on the market. I filed it away in my underbrain. When my kids were much younger I was commiserating about laundry with some other moms at a soccer game and somebody said, “My life got a lot easier when I started buying the kids dark underwear,” and I was relieved to hear that my kids weren’t the only ones who could use help with basic hygiene. I realized that while there is a lot of available info about getting kids to use the toilet, there’s very little about what happens after that. All kids need help with washing their hands, cleaning up after themselves, etc. Because I was a preschool teacher, I knew that humor and pragmatism are the best tools for teaching “touchy” subjects so a book called Potty Animals — which would depersonalize the embarrassing bathroom behavior a bit — was the perfect venue to tackle post-potty training dilemmas. I describe it as a book for kids who are potty trained but not yet civilized. The writing went quickly because I waited until the idea came into clear focus and had all that experience with the subject matter.
– Wow! I love the behind-the-scenes scoop on POTTY ANIMALS. Given your writing experience, if you could give one piece of writing advice for our NaPiBoWriWee participants, what would it be?
Don’t expect to sit down at the computer or writing desk and burp something brilliant out. Speed the process by giving your underbrain an assignment — think about what you’ll be writing later, then go for a walk. Your underbrain will start working on it. And when you get stuck, repetitive, rhythmic muscle work is a great cure for writer’s block. I call it my Cinderella routine — when I’m out of sorts, I tackle a bathroom or closet and by the time it’s spotless, I’ve usually untangled some knots. (Unfortunately, I haven’t yet trained the local mice and birds to make me a ballgown.)
– Excellent advice! And what inspired you to write picture books in the first place?
When I was a teacher, I read hundreds of books to small children.There were books that I loved but the children didn’t care about, and some the children loved but I really didn’t think were great. I knew that kids are really smart, so I tried to process books like they do, to see what made them work. It made me want to try to tickle their fancies, too.
– Do you have a favorite picture book or a picture book that most inspires you? If so, which one is it and why?
John Burningham is my gold standard for picture books. He’s got a wonderful sense of pace and his finger’s on the pulse of kids’ emotional lives without being preachy or heavy-handed. All his books have a quiet humor and appreciation for beauty. Mary Ann Hoberman is a master of rhyming books where the rhyme serves the story rather than directing it — see Seven SIlly Eaters. My favorite overlooked picture book is Grump by Janet Wong. The poetry is lovely and flawless, both surprising and inevitable. The plot appeals to children and adults for different reasons — a tired child won’t take a nap and does all kinds of things to avoid it. Kids identify with the baby who doesn’t want to miss anything and parents relate to the poor beleaguered mom who can’t catch a break. I really think this book is a peach!
– Wonderful suggestions! Thank you! Now, here’s a question I’ve been asking all our Guest Author/Artists… Given the changing book industry with the advent of e-books and the rollercoaster economy, do you still think picture books have a place for tomorrow’s children? Will people still be reading traditional picture books in the future?
Nothing beats the full sensory experience of sharing a book with a loved one — cozy lap, warm voice, silky pages, book smell…but there are times when a merely visual book experience is convenient and better than no book at all — travelling, waiting times, etc. I hope there is room for both formats. I also see more publishers experimenting with lower price point picture book formats, which I think is a fantastic idea.
Thank you so much Hope for your generosity in answering our questions. For NaPiBoWriWee participants, you might win an autographed copy of Hope’s Potty Animals at this year’s drawing, too! We look forward to your comments on Hope. Until then… Happy Writing! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT!