Author Kelly Bennett joined me for some cyber coffee-klatching about her influences, writing career and our upcoming picture book, ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING...
Congratulations on having your 11th picture book published, Kelly. Did you always know you were going to be a picture book author?
I loved reading, loved writing, but never imagined I’d be a writer. As a kid, I ran through the usual list of what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow ups: doctor, stewardess, explorer, volleyball player, mom. It wasn’t until I became a mom, and began reading so many marvelous, fun picture books to my children, Max and Alexis, that I began imagining: “Maybe, just maybe I could be a writer, too!”
What book most influenced you as a child?
Hands down, The Tall Book of Make Believe compiled by Jane Werner, it’s a mix of poems and short stories. Number 2 is the Guinness Book of World Records. Truth is I didn’t own many books and my school didn’t have a library. Instead, the Book-Mobile came to the school every Wednesday.
How does your typical working day unfold?
I find I am more creative and happier, and my writing is fresher, if I vary my schedule. So my “typical working day” depends on what I’m writing and where I am in the process. If I’m revising, I sit myself down every day, no matter what, and work. But for no more than an hour at a time. (I even set a timer). At the end of an hour, I’ll get up, putter, do something else. Often I’ll return to revisions for another hour stretch and maybe another after that. I find, if I don’t get up and move around, I’ll drift into copy editing rather than revising.
If I have a new picture book idea, my writing day begins at bedtime. I pursue new ideas by spending a week of bedtimes—only 10 minutes a night--listing and free thinking about that idea. After a week, I plop myself down and write through a complete draft, no breaks, no interruptions, no expectations that what I’m writing will be good.
It was all because of that wonderful, haunting poem! A poem by Valine Hobbs called One Day When We Went Walking. I found it when I was little—maybe 5 or 7, in—surprise, surprise!-my all-time favorite book: The Tall Book of Make Believe compiled by Jane Werner.
I read and reread that poem so many times, I still have it memorized. It begins like this:
One day when we went walking,
I found a dragon's tooth,
A dreadful dragon's tooth....
"A locust thorn," said Ruth
I felt as though that poem was about me. I used to find things too, and imagine them to be magical, wonderful, exciting other things. But, but, but…the ending of the poem always bugged me. The last stanza reads:
Next time that I go walking-
Unless I meet an elf,
A funny, friendly elf-
I'm going by myself!
I loved the ending because the person in the poem doesn’t give in, but instead decides to keep walking and finding things. At the same time it bothered me because only way the main character thought she could continue to play this imaginative finding game was to go alone—or to go with an elf (although who wouldn’t love to meet an elf?)
Do you have pictures in your head when you write stories, and how different are they from the eventual book?
Scenes run through my head in Technicolor, hi-definition 3-D movies. So more than writing, I transcribe what I see. When revising picture books, after I am satisfied with the story, I create a dummy-book of the text, but folding paper into a book and cut & pasting the text in place. Flipping through the pages as though it were a book.
Which children's book authors, now or historically, would you like to have dinner with?
So many! I am fascinated by the writing process and love interacting with writers and illustrators. Here’s my short list: (And if any of you brilliant folks are reading—I’m buying!)
Margaret Wise Brown
What’s next? Any new projects we should know about?
Beware: Coming next spring from Candlewick Press is Vampire Baby!
And finally, if you were ice cream, what flavor would you be?
Rocky Road, cause I’m irresistible and chocolate a little nuts with a gooey middle and I’m better in small doses—too much too fast and I’ll give you a headache.
Perfect! Thanks for spending time with us this morning, Kelly.
Thank you for spotlighting me and my work, Terri.
“One Day I Went Rambling” will be released next month and is available for pre-order at http://www.brightskypress.com/infostore/ca.cart.asp?sAction=DisplayDetails&pid=219&id=227