2017 TOP 10 List
Written by Diana Murray
Illustrated by Heather Ross
I’m rolling out the Best of Rhyme carpet for Diana Murray and her picture book, Grimelda and the Spooktacular Pet Show. In Diana’s entertaining sequel, Grimelda’s spell book goes missing in her still very messy room. The young witch wants to find a spell to turn her typical cat named Wizzlewarts into a spooktacular pet, so she can win first prize in the pet show.
After Grimelda the Very Messy Witch was published, you shared in an interview that you lose things like your young witch. Did you have any “spooktacular” pets to draw upon to create Grimelda and the Spooktacular Pet Show?
Well, we’ve had snails and newts for pets, so there’s that. Am I the only one who thinks snails are super cute? They’re fun to watch, too. As for the newts, one of them escaped from its tank and I ended up finding it in a kitchen drawer. That was quite a Grimelda-like surprise!
Once you brainstormed the concept for this sequel, did you go through a similar writing process as your first Grimelda book? What aspect of writing rhyming picture books do you find most challenging?
Since it was a sequel, the process was pretty different (more collaboration with the publisher, etc.). As far as technical details, I kept the meter and rhyme scheme the same in the sequel and tried to mimic the original refrain. In the first one, there was a repetition of “Where’d I put that pickle root?” and in the second there is a repetition of “Not spooktacular enough!” So in terms of rhyming difficulties, it was a challenge to keep coming up with words that rhyme with “root” and “enough”, yet blend seemlessly into the story.
In general, I think there are two main difficulties when it comes to writing any story in rhyme:
Making the language sound natural rather than forced.
Taking control of the story and not letting the rhymes make you meander or take too long to get to the point.
Did you include art notes in your Grimelda manuscripts? Did any of Heather Ross’s illustrations surprise you? What ended up being your favorite spread in the book?
I made a few illustrator notes just for clarification. But yes, the final art was full of surprises for me! For example, the creatures at the pet show were unlike anything I had imagined. I think the pet show spread is probably my favorite. There are so many wonderful details to pore over. I wondered how Heather would illustrate the “haunted snail”. She made it float! And the frog who turns into a prince always gets a laugh when I read the book to kids.
How are the Grimelda books marketed? Does having a series based on a witch give both books a longer shelf life than the Halloween season?
Neither of the books explicitly mentions Halloween so they are technically suitable for any time of year (like the classic, “Room on the Broom”). But I still find they are mostly promoted at Halloween. They were in some Halloween bookstore displays, for example. But the marketing is not something I have much control over.
How many polished manuscripts did you have when querying your agent? Did you have a website prior to publication? Do you use social media to promote your work?
I queried my agent with GRIMELDA: THE VERY MESSY WITCH. When she expressed interest and asked what else I had, I sent her NED THE KNITTING PIRATE and one other manuscript (can’t remember which one). She was particularly interested in Grimelda and Ned and signed me up on the basis of those. They both sold fairly quickly. I had many, many other picture book manuscripts (maybe 25?) that I didn’t send to her originally. For example, I had already written CITY SHAPES, but I didn’t send her that till a year or two later.
I did have a website, but it was not as polished as the one I have now. It had a little background information and listed some of my poetry sales and awards. It was very simple.
I do use social media–mostly Twitter and Facebook. I mainly use them to stay in touch with others in the business, but I also post information about new book sales, releases, and contests and such.
Diana, Thank you for taking the time to share your writing world with us.
Thank you for the opportunity!
Buy It HERE
Diana Murray grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two daughters, and a spiky bearded dragon who loves listening to stories—especially about dinosaurs. Diana’s many picture books have been mentioned earlier, and her poems have appeared in magazines including Highlights, High Five, Hello, Spider, and Lady Bug. http://www.dianamurray.com.
GRIMELDA AND THE SPOOKTACULAR PET SHOW
on the 2017 Top 10 List
Watch for the live, streaming
2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement
on February 4th at 6:00 pm ET
from the KidLitTV Studio in New York City.