By Chana Stiefel
KidLitTakeaways welcomes author Diana Murray, who has THREE new picture books out this year! Diana is generously offering a signed copy of her book GRIMELDA THE VERY MESSY WITCH, illustrated by Heather Ross (Harper Collins, 2016) to one lucky reader. See details below!
KLT: Congrats! GRIMELDA THE VERY MESSY WITCH is out in time for Halloween! How did you conjure this “charming” book?
DM: Thank you! I got the idea during the very first PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) on Tara Lazar’s blog. It was 2009, I think. Before that event, I typically started writing as soon as an idea popped in my head. But this time, I spent more time at the idea phase. When I came up with the idea of a messy witch, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. By controlling the urge to write immediately, the inspiration actually grew more concentrated.
KLT: Rot sauce! A puff of ogre’s breath! Scream cheese (my favorite)! What was your inspiration for this hilarious witch’s brew?
DM: Well, firstly, I love puns. Perhaps to a fault. :) Also, I have an affinity for witch culture. When I first had the idea of writing a mess-related story, I wondered who the main character should be, and I thought of several directions I could go in. But the idea of a witch resonated the best with me and gave me the opportunity to write about more interesting things lost in the clutter. I felt making her a witch pushed the idea to the extreme--with all those books, and little bottles of this and that, not to mention the critters.
KLT: Are you neater, as messy, or messier than your adorable little witch, Grimelda? Have you ever lost anything in your hair?
DM: I certainly hope I’m not messier! But I’m sorry to say, I’m nearly as messy. I try not to be, but it’s difficult to clean when I’d much rather be doing something creative. I do try my best. And in the end, of course I prefer a clean, organized house. That’s what I was trying to show with the story. I think it should be clear to the reader that Grimelda would be better off with a clean home and that she’s being very silly and stubborn by resisting. And she clearly pays for it in the end, too. But you see, the witch world is kind of like opposite land. I was hoping kids would get a kick out of that.
And yes, several times, I’ve lost my glasses only to discover they were already on top of my head. What drives me the most crazy is when I can only find one shoe. Ack! And then I have to walk around the house frantically looking for the other one. That happens to my kids, too. I thought it would be funny to imagine, what if you just left the house like that and went about your business in one shoe?
KLT: Did you and your illustrator Heather Ross stir up any ideas together? Did Grimelda appear as you imagined her?
DM: No, we worked independently. Grimelda didn’t look anything like I had pictured. I had always pictured her as an adult and not nearly as adorable. I was blown away by Heather’s illustrations and thought they were absolutely perfect. Better than anything I could’ve imagined. And she added some wonderful touches. Seeing the illustrations is my favorite part of being a writer. Such a fun surprise.
KLT: GRIMELDA is one of your three new books out this year—all in verse! The others are CITY SHAPES & NED THE KNITTING PIRATE. (Who says publishers don’t buy rhyming picture books? KERFLUMP to that!) What are three takeaways for writers who want to stick to rhyme?
DM: 1. Practice, practice, practice.
2. Exchange work with other rhymers and DON’T BE SENSITIVE ABOUT CRITICSM!
3. Take the time to learn about the basics of writing in meter. Test your scanning abilities. If you read something in rhyme, you can ask yourself what the meter and rhyme scheme is. Is it anapestic or iambic? Trimeter or tetrameter? AABB or ABCB? Start noticing.
KLT: How are you managing the marketing of your books? What are your best tips for organizing author visits, signings, and other publicity?
DM: I’m afraid I’m not very good in that area. But I definitely recommend applying for book festivals. They typically get a great turnout.
KLT: Before you fly away, what’s coming next?
DM: I’m happy to say the sequel of Grimelda is going to be released next summer. It’s called GRIMELDA AND THE SPOOKTACULAR PET SHOW (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins). I’ve already seen Heather’s illustrations and they are simply awesome. And this January will be the launch of GROGGLE’S MONSTER VALENTINE, illustrated by the amazing Bats Langley (Sky Pony Press). Can’t wait for the world to see his talent. It’s his first picture book. Another title coming next summer is DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS (Imprint/Macmillan) illustrated by the wonderful Yuyi Chen. I am SO in love with the cover! There are some other things on the way, too. You can see more on my website: http://www.dianamurray.com.
So much to look forward to! Thanks so much!
Diana is offering a GIVEAWAY: One signed copy of GRIMELDA THE VERY MESSY WITCH! (U.S. residents only.) See details below!
Diana Murray writes poetry and books for children. Her award-winning poems have appeared in magazines including Spider, Ladybug, Highlights, High Five, and Hello. Diana grew up in New York City and recently moved to a nearby suburb, where she lives with her husband, two very messy children, and a goldfish named Pickle. She is represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House literary agency.
Donna Cangelosi and Chana Stiefel are picture book critique partners & friends who are passionate about kids' books & are eager to share tidbits from their writing journey with other aspiring writers.