2018 Top 10 Best in Rhyme
Q I have to ask. Do you have cats? Did they find you or did you find them?
KB I don’t have cats now, but I’ve had many cats through my life. I like to think we found each other!
Q Pretty Kitty reminds me of an updated and urban version of Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. Was that book an inspiration for yours or did something else spark this story?
KB No, her book did not inspire this story. I wrote PRETTY KITTY to inspire pet adoption, and as a tribute to my beloved cat, Jake. Jake was the embodiment of pure love, wrapped in thick, soft, fluffy, creamy white fur, with a stubby little pom-pom tail. The excuses given by the protagonist to resist adopting the kitties were the same ones I pondered when my then seven year old daughter held up this tiny ball of fur she’d found in the big, red barn and asked, “Mommy, can I keep him?” I was a recently divorced mother of two young girls, renting a small old farmhouse in the country. I was juggling numerous part-time teaching jobs as I struggled to develop my writing career and provide a stable home life for my kids. I was stretched to the max, emotionally and financially. I didn’t need another mouth to feed! But as I looked into my daughter’s sweet, pleading eyes, my heart melted, and I heard my mouth say, “Okay.” I have never regretted that decision. Jake was a cherished member of our family for 18 1/2 years.
Q Why did you choose rhyming verse to tell your story?
KB All of my published books (17 to date) are written in rhyme. It’s my passion! I feel that very young children respond well to rhyme, if it is done right.
Q Rhyme Revolution members also submitted questions for you. Joy Moore asks: How do you choose the stanza length? and How do you know when the story is ready to submit?
KB I don’t choose the stanza length. It just happens, intuitively. My writing process is very right brain, so I never really know where a story will go until it’s gone there. I feel my way, rather blindly, without a map, if that makes sense. I don’t use “formulas” or magic spells or rule books! I just dive into word play and stir up whatever is floating around in the elusive, intangible, mystical realm of the Muse!
There is a great quote that says “A good story is not written. It is re-written.” I guess, for me, a story is ready when I know in my heart that I’ve re-written it enough for it to sparkle, and it gives me a sense of joyful enthusiasm. I trust my gut!
Q Following up on that question. What is the story of Pretty Kitty’s path to publication? Was it an easy one?
KB I don’t remember how many times it was rejected, but it was. I intended for it to be a companion book to DOGGONE DOGS!, also a counting book, which was published by Dial. But they rejected it, as did others. Luckily, Laura Godwin at Holt, with whom I’ve worked before, is an animal rescue/rights advocate and she loved it because of PRETTY KITTY’s pet adoption theme.
Q As a final question, do you have any words of wisdom for other picture book writers, especially those that write in rhyme?
KB Yes! NEVER GIVE UP! Trust that if you’re willing to devote the necessary time and effort to develop your craft, study the market, and keep submitting, you will find your niche. I was told in the beginning not to write in rhyme – that editors HATE getting manuscripts in rhyme! Thankfully, I didn’t listen! I’ve learned that what they hate is getting manuscripts in BAD rhyme! Many people underestimate the demands of this art form and submit amateur material. My formula for success is: PASSION + PERSEVERANCE + PATIENCE = PUBLICATION! Follow your passion, not the market. Develop your own unique voice. And make those manuscripts sparkle! You will find your place on the literary playground! It’s a demanding, exhilarating, rewarding ride! I wish you all great joy and success on your journey.
Check out Karen’s website HERE: