The above title should tell you why I rarely attempt poetry!
Camp K- 9 (Peachtree Publishers) by yours truly, with the most wonderfully funny illustrations by Nancy Hayashi. By now, you have probably figured out that this is a picture book about dogs going to camp, but more about that on Wednesday.
Believe it or not, this book took me four years to write because I was stepping outside my comfort zone.
What comfort zone? you might ask. You've written picture books before. Lots of them.
Ah, yes, but within the picture book genre, there is the book I find the most intimidating (besides anything that rhymes!)
I call them "talking critter" books, where the animals act as surrogate humans. Because some of my writing idols (Kevin Henkes, Carolyn Crimi and Lisa Wheeler) are masters of "the talking critter," I decided the field didn't need whatever measly effort I might produce.
So what changed my mind?
A dull Fourth of July neighborhood party. I was so hot and bored that I went home for the publisher's catalogs that I kept tossing on my desk to read "later."
It was later.
I was struck by how many "talking critter" books were in the picture books section, and how few involved real children (my genre). It hit me that if I was going to stay in this business, I better learn to write critter books and soon.
The trouble is my creative brain doesn't look at a cat and see a barrio feline, whipping up dinner for his new neighbors, a family of mice, as in Gary Soto's hilarious Chato's Kitchen. I see my psychotic cat, Rosie, doing cat things; sleeping, eating, chewing my face off because I am late with her grub. Not picture book material.
Then I remembered our first dog, Nilla. Now she was a character. Nilla already thought she was human, and we thought of her the same way.
When we got married, my husband wasn't at all sure I could handle motherhood, despite the fact that I had been school librarian, responsible for lots of kids every day for ten years. Our pound puppy was supposed to be my surrogate baby. Really. If puppy turned out OK, it was assumed I would do equally well with a human baby. Really.
Nilla was part cocker, part spitz, so when asked, I said she was a pure bred "spitzer" (I will resist an Elliott Spitzer joke here.) Because she was pure white, and because the rapper Vanilla Ice (remember him?) was on Saturday Night Live that weekend, I named her Vanilla Ice, which soon became Nilla.
Even as a puppy, Nilla seemed like a human teen-ager. We imagined that she hung out with Paula Abdul and the Laker Girls (we're talking early '90's here). We imagined she'd swiped our car keys to hang out at the mall with her "girls." But most of all, I remembered Nilla going to "camp."
I don't remember the actual name of the kennel, but I do remember its logo; a dog carrying a tennis racquet, golf clubs and a suitcase. "See," I told my guilty husband. "We're not deserting Nilla to go on vacation. She's going to camp."
We imagined what Nilla might do at camp. I thought she might French braid fur and give pedicures. My husband knew she was teaching the other "campers" poker, and that she probably cheated.
Yeah, I thought, as I gathered my publisher's catalogs and headed for home, I can do this. I already have a great main character and premise. I'll write a book about Nilla going to camp. I'll call it Camp K-9. I can write talking critter books, too.
That was the easy part. There is a part two. And three. Tune in Wednesday and Friday to learn about leaving your comfort zone (and freaking out), making mistakes (and fixing them!) See the instructions below to enter for your chance to win a copy of Camp K-9.
And don't Forget About Our Blogiversary Critique Giveaway
For details click this link:
To Enter Our Camp K-9 Book Giveaway:
1. You must comment to today's post, telling us why you would like to win Camp K-9. Will you be keeping it for yourself or sharing it with another young reader?
2. You must include contact information in your comment. If you are not a blogger or your email address is not accessible from your online profile, you must send us a valid email address in your comment. Entries without contact information will be disqualified. Note: The TeachingAuthors cannot prevent spammers from accessing e-mail addresses posted within the comments, so feel free to disguise your address by spelling out portions such as "dot" and "at."
3. You must send us your post by 11 pm (CST), Wednesday, May 11. Winner will be chosen at random via Random.org. and announced on Thursday, May 12. Note: Winners automatically grant us permission to post their names here on the TeachingAuthors website.
4. You must have a mailing address in the United States.
5. You must respond to the notification e-mail and provide a mailing address within 72 hours, or the prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner chose.
Those are the official rules. If you feel like sharing a camp memory, that would be great, but certainly not required.
To get the ball rolling here, I will share the only thing I remember about Girl Scout day camp.
We had to make our own meals, and every day, dessert was boxed banana pudding. Every day, I would find boulders of unstirred pudding mix in my dish. To this day I shudder at the mention of banana pudding.
How about you? It doesn't have to be sweet, embarrassing, or even super memorable (see "banana pudding.") Later on, you'll find out what camp means to Roxie, Camp K-9's main character.
I can't wait to hear from you.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman