Thursday, June 4, 2015

Spotlight on Corey Rosen Schwartz + DMC Challenge


COREY ROSEN SCHWARTZ

Have I got a treat for you

Today you're going to meet a real, live, picture book ninja!

Okay.  In actuality, Corey Rosen Schwartz has no formal ninja training. Too bad. But she sure can kick butt in the world of rhyming picture books! (And in Scrabble, too, from what I hear.) After Corey's debut title HOP! PLOP! (Walker Books, 2006) was named a Eric Carle Museum "book of distinction" and a Bank Street College "best picture book of the year," we had to wait some time till we heard from Corey again. Apparently, she was engaged in covert operations for full-scale picture book infiltration.


In 2012, Corey kiya'd her way back into the spotlight with several fun, action-packed picture books, beginning with THE THREE NINJA PIGS (Putnam, 2012) – a book that won awards, honors, and the hearts of karate kids and fractured fairy tale fans everywhere. This was followed by GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS (Putnam, 2014) and NINJA RED RIDING HOOD (Putnam, 2014).  Her latest, due out this month, is WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? (Atheneum, 2015), co-authored with Rebecca J. Gomez and illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi.

WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
IBSN: 978-1481404969
Find at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or via IndieBound.org
The story is about a group of friends who set out to build a tree house together. That is, until bossy Moose barges in with his own ideas of how the construction should be handled. Convinced that only he knows best, Moose manages to supervise himself into a real pickle. Luckily, creative thinking, cooperation, and teamwork eventually save the day.

Corey, who believes picture books are something you never outgrow, writes for her inner four year old. As a result, WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? is fun from beginning to end with its bouncy verse, hilarious antics, and playful illustrations.

Don't take my word for it, check out this delightful book trailer:



For more information about Corey and her books (plus teacher guides), visit her website: Corey Rosen Schwartz: Picture Book Ninja.

Please help me welcome Corey to Today's Little Dojo... er, Ditty!


Let's start things off with five favorites, shall we?
Favorite pastime:   Scuba diving!
Favorite vacation spot:   Turks & Caicos
Favorite food:   Sushi  (but I try not to think about that while I am diving)
Favorite language:   American Sign Language
Favorite quote:  Not sure if it’s my favorite, but the one I need to remind myself of most often is:
“Do or do not. There is no try.” –Yoda


What drives you to write for children and what do you enjoy most about being a children’s author?
I think I write for kids because I never really grew up.  I feel like a kid on the inside.  I still like building blanket forts and I call my husband in hysterics whenever anything goes terribly wrong.  Ha.


What I enjoy most is seeing the effect that my books have on kids. Whether it is spotting a photo of a kindergartener dressed as a Ninja Pig for Halloween or receiving a letter from a third grader saying that Ninja Red Riding Hood made her want to sign up for a karate class, it is such a thrill to know that my books have made an impact.

Most people think of writing as a solitary activity, yet I’ve read that you prefer to collaborate on your manuscripts. Can you describe for us what your collaborative process is like? Are there challenges to maintaining a healthy writing partnership?
Becky and I meet in a Google Doc and can brainstorm for hours (Did I say hours?  More like days/weeks) before coming up with a story line that we are both excited about.   Once we have the idea, we try to get down a rough draft as quickly as possible.  For us, the fun is in fine-tuning.  We like to go through line by line and make the language as playful and punny as possible!
In our case, the way to keep the relationship healthy is to avoid ALL mention of politics!  Ha.   Seriously though, we do butt heads a lot.  Sometimes we need to take a little time off, and often that changes one of our perspectives. There are definitely challenges, but the benefits far outweigh the costs for me.  Becky and I often come up with ideas together that neither of us would have thought of on our own.

Great rhyme flows naturally, yet takes an inordinate amount of time and skill to make it seem so effortless. When I meet an expert rhymer like yourself, I have to wonder if you actually think in rhyme. Do the stories flow out of you as rhyme from the very beginning or does the rhyme come only after the structure of the story is in place?
It’s probably some combination of the two.  I try to have a basic outline of the story in my head before I start writing (This is easier of course when I fracture a fairy tale because the plot is already established in the original.) But I do write the first draft in rhyme.   Sometimes a stanza just sort of comes out “right” from the get-go, and other times it has to be tweaked and tweaked and is barely recognizable by the time I am done.

What inspired WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?
When my daughter, Jordan, was little, she was always bossing around her little brother.  One day when they were around two and three, Josh was putting art supplies away in a cabinet.  Jordan looked over his shoulder and said, “Joshy, not like that!”

Josh turned to me and said sadly, “I never do anything right.”

And it just broke my heart.  I decided right then and there that I needed to write a story where a character’s bossiness comes back to bite him!

Would you share a favorite selection from WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?
In the story, a group of animals are building a treehouse.
Skunk nailed the crossbeams to make the floor strong,
But Moose said, “Not that way. You’re doing it wrong.
The floor and the door should be just a bit straighter.”
Then Porcupine mumbled, “Who made him dictator?”
From WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?, text © C. R. Schwartz/R. J. Gomez, illustration © Keika Yamaguchi  (click to enlarge)
This is a tricky stanza in terms of meter, but I love the snarky line from Porcupine and I also really like that we don’t restrict our vocabulary.   We use words that might be unfamiliar to our target audience because how else are kids going to develop great vocabularies if not from books?

There’s a lot of construction that goes into the making of a treehouse – 
Fox laid the floorboards as Toad manned the drill.
Bear did the caulking with handyman skill.
Moose clambered up as they nailed the planks tight.
"Time for the walls," he said. "Don't take all night!"
From WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?, text © C. R. Schwartz/R. J. Gomez, illustration © Keika Yamaguchi  (click to enlarge)

Measuring, tightening, hammering, sanding, sawing... what would you consider the most indispensable tool in your toolbox?
I would say www.rhymezone.com and www.thesaurus.com. These two sites are indispensable to rhymers.  I have them open at all times when I am working and refer to them constantly.

Can you give us a hint about what’s coming up next for you?
I have two more fairy tales coming out from Putnam.  The first is HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS co-authored by Becky Gomez and illustrated once again by the remarkably talented Dan Santat.  The second is TWINDERELLA: A FRACTIONED FAIRY TALE in which Cinderella and her twin sister split all their chores in half.

If you had all the world’s children in one room, what would you tell them? 
I would tell every kid in the world to read the book WONDER by R.J. Palacio and to always “Choose Kindness.”




Finally, please tell us what you have chosen as this month’s ditty challenge.

Editors are tired of seeing the same old commonplace rhymes– to/you, day/play, see/me.

They want to see rhymes that are fresh and unpredictable.  Write a stanza or two about building a treehouse and challenge yourself to come up with a rhyme word that is two or more syllables. 
In addition to the stanzas above, here is another example from WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?

The walls all went up as they hefted and pounded…
And built around Moose until he was surrounded.
From WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?, text © C. R. Schwartz/R. J. Gomez, illustration © Keika Yamaguchi  (click to enlarge)

Choose one of the words from the list below, or select one of your own. 
Concern                 Complete                  
Megaphone           Drilling                   
Precise                    Inspections             
Sawing                    Sanded
Don’t forget to check rhymezone.com for ideas!  

Many thanks for the constructive interview, Corey!

It's nearly summer, my friends. The grass is green, the sun is warm, school is out (or will be soon).  What better month to be outdoors and build a treehouse? Grab your poetry toolbox, and let's go!

For extra incentive, Corey has offered a personalized copy of WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? to one lucky participant, chosen randomly at the end of the month!


HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

Throughout the month, send your multisyllabic rhyming stanzas to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. For children under 13 who would like to participate, please read my COPPA compliance statement located below the contact form.

BLOGGER FRIENDS:  Thank you for publishing your poems on your own blogs– I love that!  Please also remember to send me a copy of your poem or a direct link to your post. That way I know I have your permission to post your poem on Today's Little Ditty.

Some poems may be published on the blog as daily ditties, but all of them will appear in a wrap-up celebration on June 26th, 2015.   


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Thank you to everyone who participated in last month's free verse challenge, brought to us by Nikki Grimes. With forty participants, I couldn't be more pleased with the turnout, and, as usual, the variety and quality of submissions was incredible!

Random.org has determined that the winner of a personalized copy of POEMS IN THE ATTIC by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon is:

MICHELLE KOGAN 
Congratulations, Michelle!



Nature lover and TLD contributor, Buffy Silverman, is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup.  I bet her froggy friend can give us some tips on treehouse construction!






38 comments:

  1. Great interview, Michelle & thanks, Corey! ! I'm a huge fan of Three Niinja Pigs--so fun to read aloud, and I can't wait to read Twinderella--love that title! And Moose look so funny too!

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    1. Doesn't Twinderella sound great? That's the one my daughter latched on to as well – "Ooh! I want to read that!"

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  2. Now this was SOME FUN on a Friday morning! Thanks so much to both of you - terrific interviewing as usual, Michelle, and thanks to Corey for the inside peeks at process and great tips. [I'm thinking this new book might end up being bought for grown-ups in the midst of house renovations, too... ;0) ]

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    1. You know how we feel about fun around here, Robyn! :) Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Wonderful challenge. My granddaughter (six) loves these books, so maybe she will help with the inspiration, Michele. Thanks Corey!

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    1. I have no doubt she'll be an awesome helper, Linda! 6-year-olds are some of the best helpers around. ;)

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  4. Fantastic post and ditty challenge, Michelle and Corey! I guess I'd better get busy "constructing" my poem...

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    1. Seems like a bit of a daunting task, doesn't it? I recommend research– lots of hands on research. :)

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  5. Fun interview -- loved those excerpts from the new book. Thanks, Michelle and Corey :)!

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    1. Fun is right. And such a fabulous feast of color too!

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  6. I always enjoys finding out what inspired a picture book so thanks to you both for this interview! Corey is so much fun!

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    1. Me too, Teresa! Another cute story is how Corey's son inspired Three Ninja Kids.

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  7. Wonderful interview and book excerpts. I loved learning about Corey's writing process. And an interesting challenge--thanks Michelle and Corey!

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    1. Hope you can partake this month, Buffy. It's fine with me if you want to write it from a frog, bird, or other critter's perspective!

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  8. I was on a walk in my neighborhood and saw a great treehouse and thought it needs to be in a picture book. I never would have thought to make the characters clever and cute animals, though. Now I have my chance with this ditty challenge. Rhyme is my nemesis, so you may or may not hear from me this month.

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    1. I know you have it in you, Margaret. It only needs to be one stanza, not a complete poem. And how fortunate to have a neighborhood treehouse for inspiration!

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  9. Wonderful interview, Corey and Michelle! I loved seeing spreads and text from the book! I'm a huge Corey fan! Her books bring a smile to my face every time! I can't wait to read What About Moose and all future books!

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    1. I agree, Penny! It's impossible to read her Corey's books without smiling.

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  10. Fab interview, Michelle and Corey. I can't wait to read the Moose book. I used to love rhymezone.com but Rdnee said it was unreliable so I got Mirriam Webster's rhyming dictionary instead. I love it! Except now I don't write much rhyme lol

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    1. Renée's right– rhymezone.com is not always right, but you can't beat it for convenience. I use both rhymezone and Mirriam Webster, but I think with enough practice, it becomes easier to identify when rhymezone.com is off target.

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    2. It can be unreliable sometimes, Catherine, but I still do recommend it highly. Like Corey, I always have it open in my browser when working on a rhyming poem. :)

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  11. My students and I absolutely love Corey's fractured fairy tales!

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    1. Corey fractures those fairy tales with the best of them, that's for sure! Thanks for stopping by, Mary Lee.

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  12. Great interview! Thanks Corey and Michelle...loved the insight into how you work Corey, and that you have fun doing it.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by, Damon. I hope we get to see a contribution from you this month!

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  13. I love Corey Rosen Schwartz's books - so, so fun! And a rhyming challenge, Michelle? You inspire us! =)

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  14. This is such a fun post! I love the ditty challenge Corey came up with. (See, Corey? I knew you would come up with something great!)

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    1. Hi Rebecca! I'm so glad you dropped by so that I can thank you directly for your part in writing this adorable book. You and Corey make a fabulous team! Looking forward to HENSEL AND GRETEL and any other delights you two have coming our way.

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  15. Thanks everybody! One thing i didn't get a chance to mention is that Becky and i are from different geographic regions, so sometimes she'll come up with a rhyme (i.e. dawn/gone) and I'll have to say, "Sorry, that doesn't rhyme in NY! Ha!)

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    1. Forget politics, that's enough to drive anyone crazy! ;) Thanks again for the great interview, Corey. It'll be fun having you hangin' around this month!

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  16. Great post as always, Michelle! Corey is a true inspiration!

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    1. Thanks so much, Randi! Hope you'll give us a taste of your own rhyming expertise this month. :)

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  17. Corey, you are a true talent and inspiration! I am glad to have been able to break bread with you at the NJ conference many years ago, and have enjoyed following your successes! Wishing you all the best in the future! Thanks for this post, Michelle!

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    1. My pleasure, Lynne. Welcome to Today's Little Ditty!

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  18. Great interview, Corey and Michelle! We are loving What About Moose at our house!

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  19. Such a great interview by one of my most favorite people! Corey really knows her stuff! Thanks so much!

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  20. Ever since Rocky and Bullwinkle I've loved fractured fairytales! Thanks for sharing this interview! Fun! I'm emailing you my treehouse concoction.

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