Poems about animals that suck. No really. The ones that sip and slurp, and otherwise suck their food or use sucking for locomotion and other things. My daughter Heidi and I did a lot of research on such animals around the world, then each chose which creatures we individually wanted to write about.
Peter and I had dated for two months in college. He was known as the Williams College Poet at that time, and I as the Smith College Poet and someone (neither of us remember who that was!) thought it was a good idea to have us meet. We spent the entire two months discussing poetry,
My first-born granddaughter Maddison and I had written a book called “When Nana Dances With Me” when she was ten and was a young ballerina in Amherst Mass. As I had been at Balanchine’s School of American ballet in NYC years and years ago. And we loved to dance together in my kitchen.
All books have a back story and this is a fun one. An editor I did not know (who has become a dear friend) asked me for her publisher (of a company I did not know then) if I could help edit/rewrite a picture book. They had gorgeous illustrations that told the story, but the illustrator’s writing skills were not up to his artwork. That sort of thing is always a stretch.And can be a spiderweb of good intentions that ends up killing everyone involved.
So, David L. Harrison was posting on his personal web page about how when his son (now in his 60s I believe) was a boy, David had always promised to write him a story about a lonely tiger, but never did. And so I wrote back (also on David’s site) the beginning of the story set in India and after we had this open to the public several pages going on, I said: “Think it’s time to take this offline and really go for it.”
Daughter Heidi Stemple and I were telephoned by the editor of a new early-reading imprint “Rises” for Penguin Random house. We knew her though had never actually done a book for her. Se told us about an idea and we ran with it, and it became this book…
MIRIAM AT THE RIVER is based on the Biblical story of Moses’ sister, a seer in her own right, who saved her baby brother by putting him in a woven basket and sending it into the Nile River, where she watches over it until it is pulled out by the pharaoh’s daughter who raises him as a prince of Egypt.
So I had a brilliant idea. Humorous poems about stinky animals. Lots of back matter. You know–skunk, stink bug, mink, ferret,. Had a moment’s doubt that there wouldn’t be enough. Google set my mind at rest. Talked to daughter Heidi about doing the book with me.
A lyrical book about a little boy, his obsession with the moon, and how he becomes an astronaut who gets to walk on the moon. And though the book is dedicated to Neil Armstrong, it’s not about him. It’s about desire, dedication, and hard work. In fact, the very things that created the book itself.
So, I got an email asking for a short story for a new dragon anthology and thought: I am SO done with dragons. But no sooner had I said that aloud, then my traitor mind responded: “The tsar’s dragons were harrowing the suburbs again.” The next three or four sentences spun out quickly.