I’m taking a break from the Fierce Reads Tour today to jump to the other end of children’s literature—picture books! Today I get to help celebrate the launch of Kelly Bennett’s newest picture book, ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING. Kelly has joined us for a little Q &A about the book.
I’m glad to have you here today, Kelly! I loved your concept of rambling: a long, lazy, keep-an-eye-out-for-interesting-thing-a-ma-jigs-treasures-what’s its-whose its sort of walk. It’s great for kids to do on their own or with friends, but also a fun way for parents and grandparents to play with their children. Did you like to ramble as a kid? Is this something you’ve done with the children in your life?
Kelly: Oh yes I’m a rambler—in thought and deed—always have been. Back in the day, they called it “daydreaming” and said, “She’s off in her own little world again.” “Where’d you disappear to this time?” and “What took you so long?”
When my kids, Max, Alexis and my heart daughter/friend, Chelsie, were younger we’d stroll around the neighborhood, along the beach, into the woods—often with a few of their friends in tow. Too, at least once a month, we’d pack our old VW Bus with whatever food we had in the house and set out on an adventure. A favorite spot was Robber’s Cave State Park in Southeastern Oklahoma. Belle Starr and her gang are said to have hid out there. Pert near impossible not to be on the watch for treasure in a place like that!
But you don’t have to go anywhere to ramble. A favorite car ramble is a riff on the “I Spy With My Little Eye” game where one person points out an interesting building, sign, tree, thing-a-ma-gig on the side of the road and everyone takes turns imagining what else it might be. Or what about playing the “Cloud Game,” where you find animals, faces and mystical creatures hidden in the clouds?
The illustrations are exuberant. You and the illustrator, Terri Murphy, also teamed up on the delightful Dance, Y’all, Dance. Your work goes so well together, it feels like you are good friends. Do know each other personally?
Kelly: Like her art, Terri Murphy is smart, creative, funny and most importantly, about 8 years old inside—and she gets it. Gets the “it” I’m trying to convey through words. Which is amazing when you consider that I never met Terri, never even spoke with her until after Dance, Y’all, Dance had been published and Liz Mertz, my sis-in-law/friend and Regional Advisor for SCBWI-Brazos Valley brought us together to facilitate a Picture Book Workshop. Terri and I got to know each other while preparing for that and became friends. So, when Bright Sky Press asked if I had ideas for illustrators, I immediately said, Terri!
The chameleon is a subtle, yet very fun part of this story, and an excellent example of how the text and illustrations work together in a picture book to tell the whole story. How did the two of you come up with this idea?
Kelly: That color-changing chameleon is all Terri! (I only wish I could take credit for it.) She sneaked that little reptile into the early sketches as a metaphor for Zane’s rambles. I laughed when I noticed it and said “more”! He’s got to be in every scene—and he is.
Your dedication mentioned a nod to Valine Hobbs, and on your website, you quote the poem One Day When We Went Walking. You say you were only five or six when you first found this poem, yet it has stayed with you all your life. Do you still read poetry? Does it still inspire your work?
Kelly: The temptation to lie so I will sound brilliant and “writerly” is so strong, but… The truth is, I love to listen to poetry, but I am not good at reading it to myself—unless it rhymes. That’s why I love Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac.” I try to read a poem a day. In the same way I keep celery sticks, carrots and cherry tomatoes in the fridge, I strategically keep all sorts of poetry books around the house so they’re easily accessible. I love to read about poetry; a favorite book of poets’ poetry is First Loves, a collection of essays by poets discussing the poem that “captivated and inspired them.” You can see First Loves on Goodreads.
You have been a world traveler for many years. As a writer, is there a place that is especially inspiring to you?
Kelly: Brilliant question! And it did set my mind rambling. In thinking back on where I am when inspiration strikes, I discovered that it is while traveling, but perhaps not in the way you’d expect. My best ideas, and solutions to story problems, come when I’m in cars, buses, trains, planes, in the gym, and in bed (in the wee hours of the morning)—places where I’m physically constrained my mind flies.
The first time I met you was in 2009 at a book signing in Houston while you were touring for DANCE, Y’ALL, DANCE. Since then, you launched two books in 2010, DAD AND POP and YOUR DADDY WAS JUST LIKE YOU and another book, YOUR MOMMY WAS JUST LIKE YOU came out in March 2011. That’s a breathless schedule! Are you taking a break or do you have something new in the works?
Kelly: Add to that, ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING this year! I’m thrilled with this recent flurry of books. If I were in charge of the publishing world, I’d launch one new picture book each year. I do have a new picture book scheduled for release in 2013, VAMPIRE BABY (published by Candlewick Press, illustrated by Paul Meisel). But that’s all that’s in the works, and you can bet that worries me. However, as Sinclair Lewis said, “It is impossible to discourage the real writers—they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.” I am a writer, and whether my stories are published or not, I’ll never stop.
Will you be in the Houston area for a book signing any time soon?
Kelly: I don’t have any events scheduled yet, but some are in the works. You can be sure, Vonna, I’ll let you know as soon as plans are set.
And thank you for this interview. I appreciate you taking this time and helping Terri and I celebrate RAMBLING!
Thanks for joining us Kelly, and congratulations to you and Terri on your newest baby, ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING!
June 8: Author School Visits by State …interview with illustrator
June 8: Kim Norman’s School Visit and Author Blog …book review
June 8: Andi Butler Studio and Workshop Chicago …book review
June 8: Picture Book Depot …book review
June 9: Debbie Gonzalez Simple Saturday …book review
June 10: Vonna Carter …interview with the author
June 12: Little Deb’s Doodlings …book review
June 13: Cindy Faughnan …book review/author interview
June 14: The Writer’s Plot …book review
June 14: Kissing the Earth …interview w/author & illustrator
June 14: ReaderKidz …book review/teacher’s guide
June 14: Simple Saturday Debbie Gonzales …book review/teacher’s guide
June15: Hurt the Bunnies …interview with author
June 16: On My Mind …interview with illustrator
June 17: Writing on the Sidewalk …interview with author/illustrator
June 19: Cherie Colyer …interview with illustrator
June 22: Michelle Kogan, Illustration, Painting & Writing …interview with illustrator