Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Leslie Muir, the Little Bitty Bakery, and a Rhyming Interview (Yes. Really!)

I’m really thrilled that I can say that Leslie Muir is here today. We’re friends, you see, from long ago (as you will read way down below).

Her newest book is out right now, with art by Betsy Lewin (wow!). So when she said “I’m on a tour. Can I stop by?” I said “Well, sure! There’s only one small hitch for you – I want a rhyming interview.”

Leslie didn’t blink. Now I’m hoping you’ll enjoy our rhyme.

As authors we don’t get to choose
Our artists, so we wait for news.

Can you recall what you were doin'
When you heard "It's Betsy Lewin"?

The phone had rung, the light was blinkin’,
Can’t recall what I was thinkin’.

The ID name sure caught my eye,
said: D-I-S-N-E and Y!

But why would Walt give me a call?
Especially since he’s dead and all?

I held the phone up to my ear,
a distant voice said loud and clear:

“I love your tale, it’s right on track,
I’ve got great news, so please call back.”

I fainted—SLAM!—and cracked a bone,
then rang my agent on the phone!

She said: “Hold on. I’ll get the scoop!”
I dared let go a tiny “Whoop!”

She called right back: “We’ve got a deal!”
My tiny whoop became a SQUEEEEAL!!!

“And guess who’s going to illustrate?”
my agent screamed, “She’s really great!”

I must admit I was boo-hooin’,
When I heard: “It’s Betsy Lewin!”

Did your title ever change?
Did you ever re-arrange
Your plot? Your words? The cast? The tone?
Or did you shout "Leave this alone!"?

I’ve rearranged, I will confide,
so many times my brains are fried.
I must admit this story’s been
around the bend and back again.

The title changed. Oh yes, and how!*
I very nearly had a cow
and held my breath till I turned blue—
I loved my title, it was true.

But sales and others made their case,
so grudgingly I did erase,
and in the end I don’t feel glum—
behold the power of Valium!**

*Explanation: My original title for the story was The Wee Patisserie. The sales and marketing team at my publishing house felt that my Frenchy title might not jump out to buyers, especially those unfamiliar with the word patisserie. In the end, I deferred to their expertise. I’m usually open to changes during the revision process, but I was very attached to the original title and hated to lose it. It’s all good though.

**And for the record: I took poetic license with the Valium line!

I wonder if you could take time
To talk about meter and rhyme
Since I know that it
can be so hard to fit
Any story into picture book form at all as you need to keep the story front and center without letting people even think about the writing, and you do it so effectively without forcing word choice or story points or... uh... uh... using slime.

Yes, a moment I can spare,
hear my creed if you so dare:
First the story, then the rhyme,
or you’ll waste a ton of time.
Keep your meter smooth as cream,
a bump in rhythm is like a blood curdling, really distracting SCREAM. See? I told you.
Dang, I’m tired, exhausted, yuck,
rhyming interviews really…
well, actually, it might be the pound of Halloween candy I just ate…put me in a mammoth sugar coma…yeah, that’s it…it wasn’t this interview at all…really!*,**

*Explanation to above terrible poem: Before you jump into a rhyming tale, have the story figured out from beginning to end so you’re not developing the rhyme with no real direction. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to delete a batch of hard-earned stanzas because the story wasn’t well thought out from the get-go. And watch your meter! Keep it consistent and smooth. And by all means, let others read your work aloud. It’s a sure-fire method for weeding out tiny glitches in rhythm that you: a.) completely missed b.) ignored on purpose or c.) are in denial about. (Greg nods his head in vigorous agreement.)

**I really did eat a pound of Halloween candy.

Now, sadly we must say adieu...
So quickly, please... what's next for you?

C. R. MUDGEON is out real soon!
In 2012, but not in June,
actually it’s March....

Thanks for having me, Mr. Pincus,
You smell nice, you seldom... stinkus.

Leslie Muir's newest book, The Little Bitty Bakery (Disney/Hyperion), is a sweet, sweet story with fabulous illustrations by Betsy Lewin. It's a treat to read aloud, and it's a filling confection any time of day. But my excitement with having her here goes deeper than that. You see, Leslie and I were in the same online, rhyme only critique group (an exceedingly talented bunch, I must add) back before either of us had sold anything at all. 

Leslie always blew me away with her poems, picture book manuscripts, and her notes on others' work, too. Our critique group broke up years ago, but flash forward to 2011 and Leslie has THREE picture books out (Barry B. Wary and Gibbus Moony Wants to Bite You being the others) with C.R. Mudgeon coming next year. The success is no surprise to me, and if you'd seen her work back when I first saw it, it'd be no surprise to you, either.

I'm only stop two on Leslie Muir and Betsy Lewin's blog tour, so there's more good reading out there. In fact, yesterday, Jules had a fabulous post (full o' art and more) over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Tomorrow, the tour moves to Jama Kim Rattigan's always appetizing Jama's Alphabet Soup. And Friday, the crew stops over at the ever-entertaining Elizabeth Dulemba's blog. I hope you'll check 'em all out.

And my thanks again to Leslie for being here and not even blinking when I said "wacky idea - let's do a Q&A in rhyme." That's friendship (and bravery!).

(THE LITTLE BITTY BAKERY. Copyright © 2011 by Leslie Muir. Illustrations © 2011 by Betsy Lewin. Published by Hyperion Books, New York. Images used with permission of the publisher. Photo of Leslie Muir and Betsy Lewin used with permission of Leslie Muir.)


Leslie Muir said...

Thanks for hosting me on your kick-arse blog, Greg. You rock.

tanita✿davis said...

Only you, Greg, could actually get across CONTENT in a rhyme scheme. Leslie pretty much rocked the house, too.

I'm not going to try and do a Winter Blog Blast interview like this, though.

Greg Pincus said...

Tanita, I think you should absolutely do all future interviews this way. So should CNN, for that matter.

And Leslie - it was my pleasure. I selfishly like how you make my blog look good: I lob questions, you have to be clever. I could get used to that. Plus, ya know, I love your books!

jama said...

Brilliant! Mr. Pincus doesn't stinkus :D.

*bows to Leslie*

Oh, I am not worthy . . .

Jules at 7-Imp said...

Brilliant. You guys are brave.

That was full of snort-laugh-worthy moments. I shouldn't have been drinking coffee while reading.

Thanks to you both!

Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

OMG - that is the best interview EVAH!!!! I am so impressed by you guys! :) e

Leslie Muir said...

Aw shucks, thanks guys. Greg is the seldom stinky mastermind.

Laurie L Young said...

Best interview I've ever read,
Can't get this book out of my head!

Unknown said...

Absolutely amazing!

Rita said...

This was freakin' aMAzing!! You guys rock!! I second what Tanita said (and what Leslie said, too, actually): you put the content in first, and then the rhyme! Brilliant!

Poets should be made to do tricks more often. You guys are party pleasers. said...

Awesome! I'm feeling all Zorgamazoo just reading that. Look forward to checking out your books, Leslie.

Kerry Aradhya said...

Wow. I agree with the others who said best interview ever!! Great idea, Greg! And Leslie, I love love love this book! Saw it in the book store and couldn't stop thinking about it until I finally bought it. Now my two girls and I get to enjoy it whenever we want! I do like the current title a lot, but I have a soft spot for Paris so like your original, too :)

Leslie Muir said...

Thanks again, ONE AND ALL. I appreciate all the kind words.

Kerry--So glad to hear you and your girls like the book!

And Catherine--I feel Zorgamazoo too after reading your comment!

Maria Cisneros Toth Blog said...

A super fun interview! Thanks for the chuckles and CONGRATS on the book!!! :-)

Barbara Jean Hicks said...

This interview was really fun!
I hope it's not the only one
we ever see that's all in rhyme.
Leslie, have an awesome time
with Little Bitty Bakery.
And thanks for introducing me
to Leslie, Mr. Gottabook--
I'm absolutely going to look
for this and more from Mrs. Muir--
her clever rhyming has allure!

Emma Price said...

Great job! Creative. Love it.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

This was BEYOND awesome! Love it.

April Halprin Wayland said...

I can only imagine how long it took
to write these fab rhymes for GottaBook.

{That's FAB, not FIB}

And Cathrine...Zorgamazoo? Great word! Who came up with it--you?

Leslie Muir said...

Gosh, thanks again, everyone.

And Barbara Jean! What a great poem! (By the way, my son and I are both longtime fans of Jitterbug Jam.)

Greg Pincus said...

I second Leslie's thanks to all (and poetic thanks to Barbara Jean and Laurie for verse responses!).

And April, Zorgamazoo is a novel by Robert Paul Weston (from 2008) written completely in rhymed couplets. It's well worth a read not only because it's tremendous, Seussian fun, but also to celebrate the fact that it exists.

Brenda Sturgis said...

This blog was fabulous! And oh, how it made me miss you both, and our group. I got that tingy, up-the-spine-feeling while reading,just like when I read Leslie's work back in the day!