Happy Good News Day Tuesday! Today I am thrilled to be celebrating with debut picture book author, Tara Lazar.
Not only is Tara an incredibly gifted picture book author (with two more upcoming picture books in addition to THE MONSTORE!), she is also an incredibly giving, helpful and talented member of the kidlit community. And she is the founder of the super-awesome PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) which I'm sure I will be blogging about as November approaches!
Hope you enjoy this informative interview with Tara!:
How would you describe your debut picture book THE MONSTORE?
Crawl inside a quirky, underground emporium with Zack, looking for a monster to buy
that will scare his pesky little sister. But choose wisely! Because there’s a monster of a
return policy—that is, there is none. What you buy you must keep, even if your monster
doesn’t work to plan.
Where did you get the idea for this story? How did the idea evolve as you wrote?
The idea came from the title—that’s all I had in my head for months on end. When
I was finally forced to get my “butt in chair” and write it out, the words “no returns,
no exchanges” just spilled out and the story took off from there. Zack can’t return his
monsters, but he’s convinced to buy more and they just keep accumulating—which
brings about hilarious consequences and unexpected twists.
Speaking of ideas, how has founding and running Picture Book Idea Month impacted
you as a writer?
PiBoIdMo has kept me very busy--and inspired! I start planning in late August and
the event keeps me submersed in kidlit through January. With all the guest authors
and participators and the Facebook group full of discussions, it’s a constant source of
inspiration. I find November to be my most productive month of the year.
Can you describe your path to picture book publication?
The path began when I was about 8 years old and I realized I wanted to be an author. My
friend Francine and I created a little book full of fractured fairy tales that she illustrated.
I wish I still had that book, but it’s long gone. But my desire to become a published
author never disappeared; it just took me a while to get around to it! When I was pregnant
with my second daughter, I felt like it was finally the right time. I joined a local writing
organization called Women Who Write and participated in a children’s critique group.
Then I discovered SCBWI and began attending first page sessions, mentoring events and
conferences. I began my blog. I soaked up a lot of information about writing for children,
and after several years of writing I landed my agent and my debut deal.
What do you see as the unique challenges and benefits of writing picture books?
The benefit? Definitely the illustrations! It is a joy to see your words come to life in the
talented hands of an illustrator. When I was a kid, I never wanted to move from picture
books to reading novels because there were no illustrations. Heck, I’m still upset novels
have no pictures!
The challenges are many. You need a killer concept and you need a compelling
beginning, middle and end in 500 words, paying careful attention to page turns while also
offering fun repetition, imaginative word play, and an unexpected final twist. That’s a
lot to pack in such a small package. Most people think writing for kids is easy—“they’re
just kids!” But you can never talk down to them, never dumb it down. They’ll see right
through it. You must entertain them, and they’re a fickle audience.
What advice would you give to new and aspiring writers?
Take time to develop your craft. And I’m not talking weeks or months—I’m talking
years. I know I was in an incredible rush to get published. After delaying my dream for
so many years, once I got started, I couldn’t wait for it to happen! But like everything
else, practice makes perfect. With each new manuscript you write, you get better and
better. Cultivate your ideas. Create a compelling concept. Write and rewrite and rewrite
again. Don’t rush it. It will happen for you if you keep at it. Keep learning; keep striving.
Kids deserve your very best work.
Be sure to visit Tara on the web at: taralazar.com (which is always filled with useful information!)
Congratulations, Tara! We are loving THE MONSTORE around here and looking forward to reading your upcoming books! And thanks so much for your wonderful explanation of the challenges that go into writing a picture book!