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Friday, October 28, 2011

Barbara Jean Hicks Says Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli, with a GIVEAWAY!

Before we get started, make sure to enter my Spooktacular Giveaway Hop giveaway! Five prizes, open internationally, runs through 10/31!

Happy Friday everyone! I have two excellent things for you today- first, an interview with Barbara Jean Hicks, author of one of my favorite illustrated books, Monster's Don't Eat Broccoli!! At the end, I have a signed copy of the book to give away!

Let's dive in!

WBiT: Introduce yourself, Twitter style! Describe yourself or your books in 140 characters or less.

Barbara: I seek to see thru many eyes & speak with many tongues. I am a poet first & then a teller of tales. I think, I feel, I wonder…& so I write!

WBiT: Tell us a little bit about your latest release, or your upcoming projects if you'd prefer.

Barbara: Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli has an interesting and unique back story. In most cases, an author sends her manuscript off to an editor at a publishing house, and if the editor likes it, she finds an illustrator she thinks is a good match for the text. She's like a matchmaker, in a sense, looking to make a good marriage--but in this case, the two parties aren't allowed to meet until after the marriage takes place! That's right--the author doesn't choose her own illustrator and is even discouraged from making any kind of contact with the illustrator until the job is done.

Broccoli happened differently. Erin Clark, the editor at Random House/Knopf who had recently brought my picture book The Secret Life of Walter Kitty to life, happened to be at the Random House offices in London and found a book project that had been contracted and then abandoned. It was a pop-up novelty book, which Knopf doesn't publish, but Erin fell in love with the monsters that British author/illustrator Sue Hendra had come up with. Like the good editor/matchmaker she is, she immediately thought my writing style would be a good fit for Sue's illustration style. She sent me Sue's dummy (a prototype with photocopies of sketches and and a few pieces of finished artwork) and asked me if I could come up with a story for Sue's adorable monsters.

The dummy was titled Monsters Eat Skyscrapers, and there were a lot of sketches of monsters eating things like cars, boulders, buildings--and trees that vaguely resembled broccoli. I instantly thought about the way my dad got us kids to eat broccoli by pretending we were monsters eating trees. From there the words flowed--I thought about it for a couple of weeks and wrote the text in a week, with very little revision. That is VERY unusual for me--I have other picture books I've spent several years writing and revising! I feel so fortunate that Sue had no problem giving up her text for mine, and that she re-drew many of her sketches to accommodate my text.

Once again bucking tradition, I'm very excited about a new picture book project I'm working on with illustrator Siri Weber Feeney. In this case I'm playing my own matchmaker! That's only because with the publishing industry in such flux, we've decided to publish Abelard and the Bad-Weather Why-Bother Blues on our own, as an e-book. Siri has heard my text for this story from the very first draft, probably four years ago now, and has crossed her fingers and held her breath along with me as two different publishers held onto it for quite some time, expressing strong interest--but ultimately not offering a contract. The text had long inspired images in Siri's mind, and I've always loved her artistic and design sensibility, so she was the first person I thought of when I decided to go this route. I have a little experience with e-books; about a year ago I took on the task of learning how to format one of my previously published romance novellas as an e-book and have now published two, available both through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. (See http://barbarajeanhicks.com/booksforgrownups.htm for descriptions.) A picture book, of course, is entirely a different matter! I'm fortunate that in addition to being a wonderful artist and designer, Siri is also something of a tech wizard.

WBiT: What books (your own or others) do you recommend most often?

Barbara:If we're talking picture books: Sandra Boynton's Barnyard Dance and Doreen Cronin's Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. They are both wonderfully silly and so much fun to read aloud! My own Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli fits in both the silliness and fun categories, too. Read-aloud-ability is really important to me, both in books I read and books I write. For parents who love to read aloud and have a flair for the dramatic, I also recommend my picture book for older kids, Jitterbug Jam: A Monster Tale. Perfect for Halloween!

WBiT: What is your writing process like? Does it vary by book?

Barbara: The story above about the genesis and development of Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli is an anomaly. The writing process I describe on my website is more typical:

"Everything I know about writing, I learned from my cat. Look, leap and learn. If you've ever had a cat in your life, you know what I mean. My favorite cat, Miguel, was curious by nature. He had a nose for adventure, leaping into the unknown like an old-world explorer, learning along the way. And he had the scars to prove it. A writer, too, is a curious creature, always sniffing about for new ideas. Observing, reading, eavesdropping. Haunting favorite places and exploring new ones. Paying attention. For me, starting a story or poem is always an adventure, a leap into the unknown. I might start out with a curious bit of dialogue, or a vivid description, or a word or phrase that tickles my funny bone. Before I have any real idea where I'm going, I'm on my way. I let the writing take me wherever it wants to. Unlike some of my writer friends, I'm a seat-of-the-pants-er more than a planner. It's the way it works for me. A writer learns by doing. There's no substitute. It's only after I've plunged into a project that I begin to find out what it's really about. The act of writing teaches me what my poem or story is, and how it wants to be told, and why it matters. Slowly. Rewrite after rewrite. Not very efficient, I'm afraid. Messy. Unpredictable. Fun!"

For most of my writing life, from the romance novels I first published to the picture books I write now, this inefficient process has nevertheless served me well!

WBiT: Do you have a favorite story you've heard from a reader?

Barbara: My favorites are the ones from moms who tell me Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli has actually inspired their kid to eat their vegetables!

Thanks again to Barbara Jean Hicks for appearing, courtesy of Provato Marketing, for other stops on the tour please check www.provatoevents.com.

To enter to win a signed copy of Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli, leave a comment with a way to contact you if you win! I'll open this one internationally as well! Giveaway closes on Friday, November 4th at 11:59 pm EST. Good luck!
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