It’s time to celebrate IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT with a blog tour. Kicking things off here is an interview with Laura Purdie Salas.
Hi Laura Thanks for stopping by my blog!
I’m so happy to be here! Your picture book previews are responsible for my enormous TBR shelf, and your support of children’s authors and kidlit is amazing.
Tell us a little bit about your new book, In the Middle of the Night.
These poems show the mischief your house gets up to while you’re sound asleep–from pencils hopping down the steps to a toilet feeling lonely to your stuffed animals having a talent show.
I feel a little bad revealing to kids that they are indeed missing out on a big party when they fall asleep! But I also found it comforting to write these poems. I grew up in a two-story house with a big, dark, noisy basement (unusual in Florida!). My house at night always felt menacing.
Figure 1: It was scarier when I was a kid!
Even today, it feels a little odd to think of everything at home just…freezing, totally still, all night long while I sleep. Imagining all these lovely little dramas playing out at night makes me happy. I’m glad my dental floss doesn’t spend ALL its time just waiting for me to use it, you know?
Tell us a little bit about your writing process.
On my blog (www.laurasalas.com/blog) on Thursdays, I post a photo and anyone who wants writes a very short poem first draft and puts it in the comments. In 2012, someone posted a poem about chalk coming to life at night (I think). I connected that in my mind to a poem from my book BookSpeak! Poems About Books. In “Lights Out at the Bookstore,” the books are just waiting:
During the day,
we wait in straight rows.
We’re frozen, we’re still until night…
But after closing time, look out! All the books in various sections of the bookstores are ready for fun!
So, I wrote down the idea in my Picture Book Ideas document and called it Nobody’s Looking.
I brainstormed a list of 117 household things that might have poems. I wrote dozens of poems, got wonderful feedback from my then agent, Jenn Starkman, and my critique group, the Wordsmiths.
In 2013, Rebecca Davis at Wordsong acquired the manuscript! That was such a thrill, as many of my very favorite poets have published with Wordsong. In 2016, I did a major revision with much thoughtful input from Rebecca. It’s a stronger, more cohesive collection now, though I still miss a few poems I needed to cut, like the “Dirty Laundry Do-Si-Do!” And Angela Matteson agreed to illustrate the collection. From there, it’s just been a matter of ooh-ing and aah-ing over the charming art and working out copyediting issues and such.
Have you always been into writing?
Nope! In school, I always enjoyed writing assignments and got good grades on them, but it never occurred to me to write outside of school. I read voraciously, though. I was never without a book, even if I was climbing a tree or canoeing or playing midnight ghost. But I never made that connection between reading and writing somehow.
Figure 2: Me in a tree–with a book, of course.
It wasn’t until a took a Creative Writing course in college that I realized, “Hey! I love this!” (I fell in love with both writing and my now-husband in that one course. Best college course ever.) I wrote for grown-ups for a number of years and taught 8th-grade English for two years before moving to Minnesota, having two daughters, and falling in love with children’s books.
What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Oooh, that’s tough. I think it’s the sizzle in my brain when I’m playing with an idea and working on the first draft, and the words are just flowing, and there’s still that possibility that it will come out perfectly—exactly the way I envision it. It never ever does, of course. But it still feels possible every time!
Meeting readers who love my books is the other most exciting part. Books were really my best friends as a kid, and they saved me, in many ways. So meeting actual flesh-and-blood readers who have escaped into books that I helped create—that’s an astonishing feeling.
What inspires your creativity?
My curiosity. I want to know how and why things work, and the answers are often amazing. Our world is miraculous! Many of my ideas come from some nifty fact I learn.
Also, I think we find what we look for, what we’re open to. If there’s an ugli fruit on the table, here’s how I imagine a group of different people responding.
Me: I’d like to write a picture book about a kid who has the worst name in the universe.
Artist: Look at the way the light hits that! Where are my paints?
Chef: I wonder what an ugli fruit granita would taste like.
Knitter: I’d like to knit a scarf that color.
Scientist: Genetically, how similar is an ugli fruit to a tangerine?
Educator: What’s the life cycle of an ugli fruit, and what kind of writing project might it inspire?
Entrepreneur: Could ugli fruit be the next big diet trend?
Well, you get the idea. Whatever matters to you, everything you see somehow relates to it. Books matter to me intensely, and I see most things through the lens of, “How might this work into a book?”
What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?
I have no sense of direction and can get thoroughly lost in my own neighborhood, in a school doing an author visit, or even going to my critique group meeting (we’ve met in the same place for years).
Figure 3: This is how I usually look. Add tears and steam coming out of my ears to see how I look when I’m lost.
Everybody’s good at things and bad at things. My bad things are directions and keeping plants alive!
Figure 4: There are still flowers, so it can’t be a total failure.
If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?
Field biologist (studying wildlife) or psychologist. I considered loads of possible careers, but that’s one of my very favorite things about writing. I get to explore all sorts of cool topics, and it’s all part of my job! (Except I don’t have to take the really hard chemistry classes.)
What can readers expect from you in the future?
I’m so excited to have two other poetry picture books out this spring—it’s Poetry-Palooza! Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations (Charlesbridge)
and Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons (Millbrook).
It’s been 8 years since my last poetry collection, so I am thrilled! I also have a rhyming nonfiction picture book this fall called Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle: How Animals Get Ready for Winter (Millbrook).
I have several other picture books coming out in the next few years, both fiction and nonfiction, and I’m especially thankful that Angela Matteson is illustrating IF YOU WANT TO KNIT SOME MITTENS, which is due out in fall 2021 from Boyds Mills Press. Her art just charmed the pants off me!
Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?
There’s a book trailer and a boatload of awesome downloadable activity sheets for IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT at my website: https://laurasalas.com/middle/
And I offer a free monthly e-letter for educators at https://tinyurl.com/zlxc3c9
Thanks, Dylan, for letting me share a bit more about my poetry collection. Sweet dreams, everyone!
TO WIN A COPY OF IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, comment on this post with the strangest dream you’ve ever had; or TWEET a link to THIS blog post with the hashtag #WideAwakePoems. A winner will be chosen on Sunday, 3/17 at midnight. (U.S. only).
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