Due to an unforeseen situation, I’m posting my blog early this week.
As promised last week for Perfect Picture Book Friday, I invited the author and poet of Glimmer -Sing of Sun! and Chuckles and Smiles to visit my blog for an interview today. And… I asked her to choose two people from those who left a comment to each win one of her magical books of poetry.
Raven’s son jumped in to lend a hand and chose the winner lottery style. Drum role please. The winners are….
Ann Wendell and Linda Dryfout!
(An email will be sent out to each of you shortly.)
Without further adeau, please welcome Raven Howell.
I’m glad you could be here today. Can you take us back to the exact moment you knew you wanted to write poems for children?
If you were to ask my beloved grandmother, she would probably tell you about my being born with the poetry bug fluttering about inside of my heart. Apparently I was making up and reciting poems and rhymes aloud before I went to kindergarten and learned how to write. She would spend my pre-school days at home with me and whenever possible, jot down my poetry and stories, those rhymes and sing-songs that sprang from my imagination.
Zoning in on writing specifically for children happened almost 30 years ago when I left the music business and had success with writing verse for greeting cards.
What were the first steps you took to begin your journey toward your first publication?
As a youngster, my mother submitted my poetry for magazine publication. Later I published songs as a songwriter (my lyrics were in a poetry format) in my teens and twenties before having my poetry published for various whimsical greeting card companies. After that I focused on writing for children’s magazines. Finally, I transitioned into writing and the publishing of my books. So my first steps were less relevant on their own, and the journey was more about the evolution and progression for me.
What is the most challenging or favorite aspect of creating a collection of poems?
My favorite thing about poetry collections is that there is much more room for me to “paint outside of the lines” as opposed to when writing a fictional story or non-fiction. Poetry inherently allows more freedom. I get to play with words, delve deeper into enchanting themes if I want, express my vision/style, and have fun!
An idea for a poem pops into your head. (I love it when that happens.) Take us through the steps you take to write a poem.
MUSHROOM NAPS from Chuckles and Smiles / Morning dog walk, I spot some wonderfully fairy-like mushrooms that have sprouted in a tree stump. The air smells of earth. Morning dove sings in the brilliant sunrise. It’s me, the dog, and the mushrooms. Hmmm…who else is with us? Who else would be enjoying the mushroom life? Little bugs! And certainly they are small enough to fit under those spongy mushroom tops. Inspiration! Look – there’s a beetle! “Mushrooms wear those spongy caps for little shaded buggy naps.”
Where do you most love to write and what makes this place special to you?
For over two decades now, I’ve found my “writing nook”, my space to create and write and be inspired in a most unusual place – a solo early dawn hike that I take into the mountains just outside of the village. These years, having a cell phone (and the Notes app) with me makes the writing aspect easier! At first, I’d be trying to recall the verses and ideas dancing around in my head when I returned home, sometimes with success, sometimes without.
What could NOT be special about a dawn nature hike? Wooded paths, the fading stars, critter chirps, the gentle sunrays kissing the mountainside…
For each manuscript I’ve written, I remember the Ah-Ha moment that sent me running to my laptop to type up my ideas. Can you share the source of inspiration for one of your books?
An “Ah-ha” moment? When a couple of years after illustrator Carina Povarchik and I released our successful Glimmer, Songs of Night nighttime-themed poetry collection, I realized I had written probably about 3 dozen poems of the opposite theme: whimsical poems about subjects relating to light, the sun, and daytime wonder. It appeared we were meant to have a companion book to our Glimmer! And our editor agreed – ha! It was exciting to collect those poems for the book, and an “Ah-ha” moment for sure.
What surprised you most on your writing path from the book idea to its publication?
There’s little that I could say surprised me in general. When it comes down to it, you are in control of some aspects, and not others when you work with a team of editors, illustrators, an agent, etc. I was surprised when I found the font for the dyslexic version of my rhyming picture book, My Community was just as easy to read for someone without dyslexia. I suppose I expected the letters to be shaped differently.
I’ll add, with my new book, Chuckles and Smiles, the editors’ choice of illustrator Jordan Wray to collaborate and create the most wonderful, befitting artwork surprised me most! I had no inkling, no forethought that the artwork would visually push the poetry to life in the way it did. There was very little we asked Jordan to edit or change. He just got my ideas from the start – and jumped on board the chuckle train.
If you could go back to the first months of your writing journey, knowing what you know today, what advice would you give to yourself?
Well, first, I’m big on practicing forgiveness, and I try hard to include myself in this. So, I see it this way: it wouldn’t be fair for me to tell my 20 year old self to pay more attention to what’s going on from a 5-year old’s point of view or write from a parental advice angle. That’s just not where I was creatively situated at that point in my life. I NEEDED those years of adolescent complaint poetry, those poetry journals of my twenties that I filled with the ups and downs of love, or the bone-tired poetry from my thirty-something new mom hands learning a brand new role in life.
What advice I would give to any poet at any age in life is to write from your heart, write what you know, experiment with various formats and keep digging into and staying true to your own specific style. You may come across many who criticize your work. That’s ok. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Still, that doesn’t mean you should change your vision if the one you have feels like home to you and you’re passionate about it.
What was the best comment or reaction you received from a child about one of your books or poems?
Last year two students in different schools and locations reached out to tell me my poetry inspired them to write and publish their own poetry books!
Can you share something interesting or unexpected most people don’t know about you?
My adolescent crushes were Cider House Rules (among many other books) author John Irving (whom I’ve met!) and Elton John lyricist, Bernie Taupin. No doubt, in a subtle way, their words influenced my own writing.
In everyday moments- a baby’s laughter, a joyful tear or toddler frown, a kite stuck in a sugar maple, in the joy of eating chocolate chip cookie dough, in the creak of Grandfather’s rocking chair, in the scent of summer jasmine, the bee sting, or the heart-thudding bang of a thunder clap, there’s a poem to be uncovered and shared. To me, poetry is a creative interpretation, the echo of wonder and inspiration, the celebration of life!
Raven’s website includes great links! www.ravenhowell.com
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/raven.howell.75/
Author FB page: https://www.facebook.com/RavenHowellAuthorandPoetPage/?view_public_for=456558957829379
Many thanks for visiting here today.
Until next Friday.