Two Debut Interview – Michelle Schaub

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Julie Segal Walters discusses FRESH-PICKED POETRY: A DAY AT THE FARMERS’ MARKET with debut author Michelle Schaub.

FRESH-PICKED POETRY: A DAY AT THE FARMERS’ MARKET hit the shelves just in time to join all the spring flowers, fruits, and veggies that will soon start popping up at local farmers’ markets! Michelle’s book follows the adventures of two new friends and their canine companions as they discover how much there is to love at the market. Through eighteen lively poems in a variety of formats, and gorgeous illustrations from Amy Huntington, the farmers’ market experience comes alive! The only thing missing is the crunch of a fresh, juicy apple!

 

JSW: Hi Michelle! Since today is the first day of spring, let’s start our conversation with some ice breaker questions. (Ha! See what I did there?!) If you could choose to live in the world of any picture book, which world would it be and why?

MS: I’d definitely move into Toad’s cottage in Frog and Toad are Friends.  Arnold Lobel is my all-time favorite author-illustrator. His drawings are so cozy and nostalgic. I’d cuddle up by Toad’s fireplace with a cup of tea, a plate of cookies, and a good book.

JSW: I’d happily join you there for tea! Speaking of cuddling, in your book, there are a lot of pets. Can you tell us about any pets you had growing up.

MS: I was thrilled that Amy Huntington included dogs in her drawings because I’ve always had dogs as pets. My first dog ever was a big ol’ mutt named Sam. Sam was one bad dog. He loved jailbreaking whenever possible and helping himself to T-bone steaks defrosting on the counter.  Sam drove my mom crazy, but we loved that naughty pup.

JSW: Ah! They’re the illustrator’s creative vision! Cool! The first line of your book places us immediately in your story’s market. What’s your favorite first line of a book? (Any genre.)

MS: “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.”  Can’t you just picture poor Winnie-the-Pooh contentedly taking his licks, happy to be in the hands of his boy? The quintessential example of loyalty and love. 

JSW: Beautiful. For our last ice breaker question, if you could have written any other published picture book, which one would you choose?

MS: The Lorax.  Not just because Dr. Seuss was brilliant. The Lorax was one of the first picture books to bring eco-consciousness to children and empower them to “speak for the trees.”  It strikes the perfect balance between entertainment and environmental awareness, something I strive to do in my own books.

JSW: Thanks for letting us get to know you a little better, Michelle! Now I’d like to ask you some questions about your book. Can you tell us a bit about how you began writing poetry?

MS: Growing up, my brother and I would play for hours on the swings in our yard. As we swung back and forth, back and forth, we’d make up silly songs to the rhythm of our motion. I think this is where I developed my sense of cadence.  In high school and college, my poetry turned serious and angst-filled, as I thought “legitimate” poetry should.  When I had my own children, I returned to the world of nursery rhymes and lullabies and rediscovered the playful heart of poetry. I’ve been having fun playing ever since!

JSW: Your book reminds me a lot of one of our family’s favorites, FIRST FOOD FIGHT THIS FALL by Marilyn Singer. In both books, your poetry tells the story and includes a full story arc — both in the individual poems, as well as the compilation of poems that forms the book. That seems so hard to me! Can you talk about how you tackled that challenge?

MS: I’m beaming because you included me and Marilyn Singer in the same sentence. She is one of my poetry heroes! Her word acrobatics leave me breathless.  Let me catch my breath and try to answer your question.

I tend to approach every poem I write as a micro-story, each with its own introduction, exposition, and (hopefully) surprise twist at the end. Even something as simple as haiku naturally falls into these three beats in my mind.  So, to me, finding the arc within a poem is easy.

Finding the story arc across a poetry collection?  Now that’s more of a challenge.  When I started writing Fresh-Picked Poetry, I envisioned a collection that celebrated an entire year at a farmers’ market.  I wrote haiku about spring asparagus, list poems about early summer strawberries, free verse about colorful Autumn flowers, dialogue poems about winter squash. Besides moving through the year seasonally, the collection didn’t have much of an arc. My brilliant editor at Charlesbridge, Karen Boss, suggested I narrow the focus to one summer day at the market. She challenged me to tell the story of a child visiting a summer market and discovering its wonders.  This meant cutting almost half of the poems I’d written and coming up with new ones. I’ll admit it was hard parting with my asparagus and strawberries, but in the end, the collection tells a much better story.

JSW: Wow! That’s incredible. Now I need to catch MY breath!

For our last question, will you share what you hope kids experience, feel, or learn from reading your book?

MS: I hope Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Market envelops kids in a full sensory experience, engaging them in the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and especially tastes of a farmers’ market.  Along with a taste for fresh, local produce, I hope the collection whets readers’ appetites for poetry.  After all, words are delicious!

JSW: As you have just shown, indeed they are!

Thank you and congratulations again on your debut picture book, Michelle! It’s a delight!

Michelle Schaub is a children’s author, poet, and teacher.  Her work appears in the anthologies And The Crowd Grows Wild:  A Global Gathering of Sports Poetry and The Poetry Anthology for Celebrations.  Her first picture book, Fresh-Picked Poetry:  A Day at the Farmers’ Market (Charlesbridge) debuts in March 2017. Michelle teaches middle school language arts at The Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois, where she shares her love of poetry with her students.  When she’s not teaching and writing, Michelle loves hiking, biking, and exploring farmers’ markets. Learn more about Michelle at www.michelleschaub.com or on Facebook.

You can buy Fresh-Picked Poetry:  A Day at the Farmers’ Market on Amazon here!

Julie Segal Walters is a children’s book author who lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and pesky cat. Before writing for children, Julie was a lawyer and advocate for civil rights and civil liberties, and an international democracy and civil society development specialist. These days, Julie can be found advocating for her many favorite children’s books to anyone who will listen. Julie is fluent in Spanish, and loves to cook, but not bake. She thinks baking has too many rules. THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK is her first picture book (illustrated by Brian Biggs) (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Oct. 17, 2017). Visit Julie online at www.juliesegalwalters.com or on Facebook, Twitter @j_s_dub, or Instagram @juliesegalwalters.

You can buy signed copies of THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK here, or on Amazon here!

 

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