Today I celebrate the release of THE LITTLE BITTY BAKERY, by my friend Leslie Muir. After years of waiting, she has three books coming out all in the same year (!!!) including BARRY B WARY which we talked about back in May, and GIBBUS MOONY WANTS TO BITE YOU which I featured just two weeks ago. I asked her about the latest...
Q. This is such a sweet (sorry) story! How did it come to you?
A. Thanks, e! I love France, bakeries, moonlight and surprises, so I smooshed them altogether and there you have it!
Q. This adorable tale is in rhyme. Can you talk about your process as a poet?
A. I’m not organized enough to have a process, but often I try to discern whether the story in my head is better teased out in prose or rhyme. Once I’ve decided to write something in rhyme I’ll usually find a quiet place, close my eyes and mentally tap out a couple of stanzas, feeling for a rhythm. Sometimes it sticks, and other times I end up changing the meter. I also have the story planned out ahead of time so I know where I’m going as I concoct my rhymes.
When I was learning to write in rhyme I joined an online group called SHINE, a wonderful group of poets. We were all getting our noses wet, so it was a perfect group to learn the ropes with. I think an objective set of ears is always crucial, but especially so when you write poetry. A writing partner can pick out blips in rhythm that you’ve missed or are used to reading over in your own special way, a way that masks the errors.
Q. I've seen you do one presentation for THE LITTLE BITTY BAKERY and I love your pink chef's uniform. Can you share where the recipe came from and any history behind it?
A. Thank you! We just moved and my chef’s outfit is MIA, stuffed in a box somewhere. Sigh.
There’s really no history behind the recipe. When the book was in production my then editor, Tamson Weston, suggested we put a recipe for Crumble Jumble Cake in the back. Basically, I played around until I cooked up something tasty with ingredients that would be appealing to kids. The mice also suggest a “jumble of crumbles” to top the cake with, so I’m hoping culinary masterpieces are in the making.
Click the image to open the recipe in a new window to print!
Q. I think I heard your squeeee from across town when you learned THE Betsy Lewin would be the illustrator for this book. Can you tell us about that? (And didn't you actually meet her?)
A. Yes, it was The Squee Heard Round The World! I’ve always loved Betsy’s work, her loose lines and quirky characters. Though LITTLE BITTY BAKERY was the third book released, it was actually the first story of mine accepted for publication, so you can imagine my joy when I found out who was illustrating it.
My family and I drove from Atlanta to meet Betsy in person at a library gig she was doing in Alabama. She’s a lovely lady, full of energy and good humor, just as you’d expect. We took her to dinner at a Mexican cantina and it was there that she informed me that the French chef would be elephant! I was elated. Her idea was simply brilliant and a perfect example of how an illustrator can add their own twist to a story and make it even better.
Leslie (and son) with Betsy Lewin!
Q. This is now your third book - all released in 2011! But I know it was a long road. Can you share your publishing journey with my readers?
A. Well, I fell in love with picture books when I was completing a Master’s degree in a totally unrelated field of study. I had enrolled in a children’s literature course out of sheer curiosity. That was that: I knew that at some point in my life I wanted to write picture books. Fast forward many years later after career, marriage, and kids and I finally bit the bullet and went for it. After a couple of years of focused writing and gazillions of rejections, I nabbed my first contract and an agent all in one week. Things sort of took off from there. But publishing is slow as syrup, so there was a lot of waiting in the wings for the books to come out.
Q. Any advice for those hoping to follow in your shoes?
A. Write daily. Read mounds of kid’s books. Join SCBWI and head off to conferences. You’ll learn a ton about craft and have the opportunity to network with editors, agents and other writers. Participate in a critique group. As I mentioned above, objective feedback is invaluable. Embrace those rejections; they’re just part of getting there. I’m thinking of making a ten-gallon paper mâché hat out of mine. I might even make two.
Leslie is on an official Blog Book Tour for this title, so to read more interviews (one in rhyme!), visit:
Jules of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Greg Pincus of Gotta Book
Jama Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup
and me! at dulemba.com
And yes - Leslie has kindly offered to sign a free copy of THE LITTLE BITTY BAKERY to be mailed to one of my lucky readers!!! As soon as we reach 20 comments below, I'll do a random drawing. Please remember to include a contact email address - continental US only.