I am so excited!
Last week I started getting author copies of my 6 poetry books for Capstone Press. I’ve only gotten one of the six so far, because the others are backordered. But soon, I hope!
Please note: All blog posts prior to December 2011 were originally in LiveJournal and I imported them here. The spacing/formatting is wonky in some of them. And the links lead to old LJ posts. Your best bet for reading about this series of books is to click only on the links from this post. Thanks!
Anyway, some people have asked about what it was like to write work-for-hire poetry, and I thought I’d share my overall process. Plus, I’ll probably do one post about each book as I get my copies of it. I want to have some record of the whole experience.
A woman who used to be with Lerner (and who had assigned my Isaac Newton bio) and was now with Capstone Press (which I’ve been writing for for years) emailed me to say that she saw I had a poetry book coming out from Clarion and was writing a Write Your Own Poetry book for Compass Point. She wanted to know if I’d like to get together for lunch to talk about a possible poetry project. Of course I would!
Over lunch, she shared her vision of poetry books illustrated by striking photos for young kids. But the photos would not, for the most part, be studio shots; they would be stock images. She asked about the best way to work, and I said that I thought it would be fun to actually write the poems to the images, rather than have them try to find images that illustrated my poems.
Her idea hadn’t been approved yet. She was trying to convince whomever she had to convince that poetry was viable for them. That enough school libraries would buy it.
And within a couple of months, she had approval and the project was moving forward.
The actual hands-on editor I would be working with was Jenny Marks at Capstone Press. She was a delight to work with, and this is basically how our process went.
She would tell me when the team was meeting to discuss images for each title. I would brainstorm my own list of possible images that I thought would be inspiring for poems and fun to look at. I’d email her the list, and they’d include my ideas in the meeting.
I had 4 weeks for each of these first 6 books. So here’s how the schedule shook out.
Week One – I receive the images. The batch always includes extras, because I won’t be inspired by everything! Each collection needs 14-16 poems. I need to submit 18 or so so that they have a couple of extras to allow for variety, design decisions, etc. They send me images of 20 or so objects/scenes, and I have more than one choice for some of those. For weather, for instance, there were 2 or 3 different pictures of a kid with a kite. I could choose which one to write to.
I spend a few days sifting through photos. I jot notes on the ways certain images strike me. If an image has a capacity for opposites (like a rainbow and a cloudy sky in the same image), I might write “diamante” on the page, because it’s an image that lends itself to that form. Or I might note a silly picture that could make for a good limerick. I also jot words or phrases that occur to me, that might or might not make it into the poem, as well as angles/topics for the possible poems. (I’ll give examples of this when I talk about the individual books.)
Then I start writing. I write like mad. I do research along the way, as necessary–more for space poems than for color poems! For the 20 or so images that I choose, I write a poem rough draft for each one. Many of these are bad! I try to have the rough draft complete that first week. I often end up with closer to 25 poems.
Week Two – I go back through the poems and revise them. Sometimes I write entirely new poems at this point, but mostly I’m reworking, rewriting, reseeing these poems.
Week Three – I let the poems sit. I am sick of them now and need a break! Sometimes, my wonderful critique groups have time to do a quick read and give me feedback on which poems work, which don’t, and how I might fix them.
Week Four – I write the end matter (glossary, poetry terms, read more, etc.). I polish and tweak and make decisions about which poems to submit. At the end of the week, I submit the poems to Jenny.? Another deadline met–hurray!
After a week or so, Jenny gets back to me with comments on the poems. She has had a group of people read them. I think, but am not sure, that her group consists of teachers and librarians. She passes along their comments/feelings about various poems and her own, too. She is incredibly encouraging and complimentary, and also points out what doesn’t work about various poems.
I do revisions the following week and turn it back in.
With few exceptions, the process went really smoothly. (I’ll share stories when I do the individual books.) I wrote these books last spring, and I was so thrilled to see the galleys this past fall. The books are gorgeous! The images look spectacular, and the design work is fabulous. I have no say in any of that, of course, and I was a little nervous. But I couldn’t be happier with how they came out. I can’t wait to hold every one of them in my hot little hands, in fact.
So that’s the (too long–sorry) story of how I wrote these books. If you look at them on my site, you can read one brief excerpt from each title and see each cover. I hope you like them!
Addendum: As I receive hard copies of my books, I’ll be posting tidbits about the particular experience of writing each one. Here are my other posts:
And Then There Were Eight: Poems About Space
Tiny Dreams, Sprouting Tall: Poems About the United States
Shrinking Days, Frosty Nights: Poems About Fall??
Seed Sower, Hat Thrower: Poems About Weather
Flashy, Clashy, and Oh-So Splashy: Poems About Color
Do Buses Eat Kids: Poems About School
Addendum 2: I did a second set of four poetry books. Here are the posts about those:
A Fuzzy-Fast Blur: Poems About Pets
Chatter, Sing, Roar, Buzz: Poems About the Rain Forest
Lettuce Introduce You: Poems About Food?
Always Got My Feet: Poems About Transportation