Monday, 28 March 2011

Interview with a Debut Picture Book Author: LEE CARR

* Hi Lee and welcome to tall tales & short stories. Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello and thank you for inviting me to your blog.
I was born and raised in America but have lived in Europe for over a decade. I studied Creative Writing at Vanderbilt University before acquiring a variety of professional experiences including creating marketing campaigns (web, print and radio), web design work, working in bookshops and a lot of editorial freelance work. My freelance work included proofreading, sub-editing, copywriting, acting as production editor, acting as commissioning editor, and writing articles and book reviews for various online and print publications.
I really enjoy writing and Monster Baby is my first picture book.

Jake wants to play with Mum but first Meg, his baby sister, needs a nap. But Meg doesn't want to sleep. She grabs at Jake's hair, throws her toys and soon she's sprouting fur! 
Can Jake help a real Monster Baby fall asleep? 
And will things get back to normal before Mum notices? 
It's the perfect book for big brothers and sisters everywhere.


* What inspired you to write Monster Baby?

My two-month old son had been ill and he and I had recently come home from a week in the hospital. I was exhausted and excessively worried so I kept checking on him while he slept. At one point I thought, “Lee! You have to stop worrying! Did you think he had turned into a little Monster Baby?” And I laughed at myself but then I thought what if he had? And that was the beginning.

* How long did it take you from initial inspiration to finally achieving the publication deal?

It took me 20 minutes to write the original version in 2005 and the publication deal was made in 2009.

* Rewrites and Revisions: How much did you have to do throughout the writing of Monster Baby?

I re-wrote and revised this story many times – over 60 according to my digital files. Maybe the original version should be a little more carefully crafted next time . . .

* Do you plan your stories in advance, or do they happen on the page?

Picture books happen on the page but anything longer requires some planning.

* What was one thing you learned from the editing of Monster Baby?

I discovered that some of the changes I made to the story – like losing a character – made little difference although I thought it would have a major impact. Other times, I would change one word or some punctuation and the story would improve markedly. I learned a lot about experimenting with the text.

* What advice would you give writers trying to write picture books?

It’s like anything else – you have to work at it. You have to improve your writing and understand the business. And it helps to have great friends and listen and be grateful and patient.

* Was Monster Baby your first attempt at writing a book or did you have other manuscripts hiding away?

I have lots of manuscripts – all of varying quality.

* Before achieving publication, did you approach many agents and publishers? Have you had to deal with rejection along the way?

I was lucky to connect with an agent early on but there has been plenty of rejection from editors. Plenty. More than enough. Did I mention there was plenty of rejection?

* What made you think ‘I want to write for children’? Is it a genre you enjoy reading?

I love reading just about anything but I have always wanted to write for kids. When I was a kid myself it was because I wanted to make my friends laugh and now it’s because I want children to enjoy – and giggle – about what they’re imagining, hearing and seeing.

* Which authors/stories did you enjoy reading as a child/teenager? 

I enjoyed reading the poetry and stories of Shel Silverstein because they always seemed a little bit different. I distinctly remember finding and hugging my mother at the end of Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls because I could not stop crying. When I finally did, I went back to the first page and started the book again -- I just had too. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and The Cay by Theodore Taylor are books that I remember, again, because of the emotion that I felt with them. I always liked Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bear books, and the Little Critter stories by Mercer Mayer too. I could go on and on.

* You have a BA in Creative Writing and have acquired a variety of skills including editorial freelance work; proofreading, sub-editing, copywriting, acting as a commissioning editor. Do you think these roles have helped improve your own writing and given a better understanding of the writing process? 

The editorial freelance work I did was very measured and purposeful – each piece was designed to accomplish a specific objective. This was a great way to practice writing with a focus, which sometimes is useful and sometimes confining, but it was nice to recognize the distinction.

* You’re an active member of the SCBWI. Has this helped you?

The SCBWI has been such a blessing and through it I have learned so much. Not only does the SCBWI provide excellent professional development opportunities, but it’s a very encouraging group of people. Everyone is so supportive of one another and for me, it has been important to belong to a group like that.

* What’s next for Lee Carr?

The launch date for Monster Baby is April 7th and I’ll be doing an event at Just Imagine Story Centre in Chelmsford on April 9th.
I’ll be speaking with various classes during the next few weeks and celebrating Monster Baby with a launch party at Bocketts Farm on Saturday, May 7th. Everyone’s invited so if you’re at the farm that day, please drop by the party room between 3-4pm and say hi.
And of course there is always writing, reading and more writing.

* Words of wisdom and advice to any aspiring writer?

Give 100%.

* Any other comments/observations/general mind-blowing information you‘d like to add?

Not right now, but thanks again, Tracy!


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