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Sunday, April 11, 2010
Ask a Writer! Interview: Carole Gerber
Carole Gerber wrote Little Red Bat! It is a wonderful bit of luck that she lives in Columbus, Ohio! It is the first time I live close to an author of any of the books I have illustrated so it is a treat that we will be able to do some appearances together starting with a kick off signing at Blue Marble Children's Bookstore in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky on Saturday the 17th of April from 2-4 PM.
Carole was kind enough to do an interview about Little Red Bat and writing. As an illustrator, the experience is quite different as I described on Scotti Cohn's web series several weeks ago. Carole has written many great books so check them out!
CW: Tell me a little bit about your background and how you started writing.
CG: I taught high school English for one year and then middle school English for another. Both were urban schools and I did not have the temperament to deal with all the problems. I applied to grad school at OSU early in my second year of teaching - was accepted to the School of Journalism and was selected for a fully-paid assistantship that required me to write two articles a week about OSU honor students. After earning my master's I held a variety of writing jobs - inhouse magazine editor, copywriter at an ad agency and hospital then went freelance when my daughter was born. Writing for children grew out of a couple of freelance assignments for a local publisher.
CW: How long does it take you to research and write a picture book?
CG: Depends on the book. It can take a couple of weeks to a couple of months. LITTLE RED BAT took more time because it required a lot of research - first on bats in general and then narrowing it down to red bats, which I think are so adorable and unique. I have other PBs for younger children (i.e., BLIZZARD) that required little or no research but - because they are told in verse - take more to put the words together.
CW: Are there usually a lot of changes from the original manuscript?
CG: Usually the basic story stays the same - whether in verse or prose - but the editor always wants changes and/or additions. These are easier to make with prose books - since most of mine are in verse, making changes requires a lot more thought. Also - before an editor sees it, I have revised it many, many, MANY times. Because of my background in journalism, I am quick to take valid suggestions and readily make revisions - and do both quickly. That flexibility is appreciated by editors who do NOT want to deal with people who won't take direction.
CW: With most of my books I have illustrated, I have not had contact with the author. Do you ever get any input into the art or sketches when working on a picture book?
CG: Yes - the illustrator's sketches (even yours!) were sent to me and I did have input through the editor/intermediary. Some changes are always made and others are not. One of my previous illustrators lives here in Columbus, so we were more of a team in putting the words and images together. I have been delighted with the illustrators editors have chosen to make my words come to life - a writer always hopes the illustrator's vision is similar - often it is even BETTER! That is a joy.
CW: What was your inspiration for writing about red bats?
CG: The publisher of several of my previous books put out a book about bumblebee bats a couple of years ago in a Q & A format. I thought the Q & A approach was uninspired and also thought it unlikely that children would ever actually SEE a bumblebee bat. I decided to common research bats and find a pretty one that had unique characteristics - and I also wanted to tie it to migration, hibernation and adaptation - the three way animals get through the winter. Little red bats fit my requirements AND did I mention they are adorable? Also important - because I always think about the pictures that go with my words - they are solitary. This means the illustrator could concentrate on what ONE bat looks like in the beautiful outdoors instead of trying to draw dozens of bats in a dark cave.
Naturally, I could not submit to my previous publisher since they already had a bat book. I felt the manuscript would be a good fit with Sylvan Dell and editor Donna German thought so, too.
CW: People seem to have a strong reaction to bats. What has the general reaction been when you have done visits and readings so far? Do the talks seem to change the attitude of those may fear them?
CG: I have my first school visit the first week in May, so we'll see. Bats are so incredibly important to our ecosystem. If they didn't eat all those mosquitoes, we'd all get a lot more bites each summer. :) Seriously, nature is like a complex puzzle the way all the different plants, animals, and insects fit together in a habitat, Learning about all the fascinating critters in God's creation puts my own little life in context. I, too, am just a little piece of that puzzle - and I am humbly grateful to be able to research and write about what I learn.
CW: Did writing the book change your attitude about bats?
CG: I never gave much thought to bats until I researched them. I didn't have a bad attitude - I was just ignorant. I still don't know much compared to the highly educated bat experts out there, but I know enough to be impressed with what little red bats can do. Hey, how many humans can roll up like furry pine cones?
CW: What are you working on now? What will it be out?
CG: My next book is also about nature and it will be out in 2012 from Holt. The title is SEEDS, BEES, BUTTERFLIES, AND MORE: NATURE POEMS FOR TWO VOICES. It's pretty hilarious - among the poems is one where seeds talk to one another about the ways they travel (yes! nature has a plan for even the smallest among us). The manuscript was literally "plucked from the slushpile" by the executive editor because - in her words: "It's funny, fun to read AND teaches a lot of science facts."
I am always working on new manuscripts - most of which never get "born." Sob! I won't tell you about all the ones still out there searching for a birthplace, the ones laying forgotten on an editor's desk, or all the "pre-born" ones flitting about in my strange writerly brain. Seriously, I am superstitious about talking about my writing until the deal is done and the contract is signed. It's tough to get published!
Thanks so much Carole! It is so interesting to hear from the author's point of view! I totally understand the "superstitious" feeling. Hope to see many bore books in the future!
Check out Carole's Website!
Also, the books that she has written that are available in the "books" section of her website!
Visit us at other joint appearances including Ohioana Book Festival May 8th in Columbus and Claire's Day May 15th in Toledo!