Please describe the book.
In This Old Band, a ragtag band of cowboys and a cowgirl dance, play their instruments, and make noise out on the open range while they count down from ten to one all day and night to the tune of a familiar folk song.
As the story progressed from inception to copy-edited version, what were the major changes?
This was always a counting concept book that featured rugged westerners, but initially I envisioned a story that included a duel. After many attempts and rewrites over a number of years, it became clear to me that these characters did not want to fight; they wanted to play!
How did those changes come about?I started to think harder about concept books, what made them work, and what I had loved to sing or chant when I was young. Once I settled on the rhythm of "This Old Man," I shelved my original drafts and focus on ways for this band to perform.
When did you first begin work on it?
I began working on that initial dueling story shortly after a trip to Jackson, Wyoming in 2008, however; I think the story probably began brewing in my mind after earlier trips I had taken to New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. Having grown up in the Midwest and spending much of my time in Florida, on each of those trips west I was captivated by how the dust and light work together, the sweeping landscapes of valleys, peaks and mesas, the sometimes lush, sometimes sparse vegetation, up-close wildlife and far away ranches, national forests, the good, hearty people, the history…I need to visit again soon!
When did you finish?
The current version felt complete in 2012 and that’s when I began submitting it to editors.
What research was involved before and while writing the book?
Before writing the book, I let my imagination run with the images from my western trips. After I had written a solid draft, I had a great discussion with fellow Hamline Alum and reader extraordinaire, Jamie Swenson, where she helped me clarify my purpose and the story’s focus. From that point, as I zeroed in on the specific images featured in each spread, I verified that those images would hang together to create the setting.
Gone Fishing, your first book, was published in 2013. What have you learned about the business of writing since then?
We may write alone, but producing a book and helping it reach readers is a wonderfully collaborative business. Before release, there is a huge amount of behind-the-scenes work happening with the editor and her or his team to complete the book and prepare for release – that includes artwork coordination, layout, first and second page reviews, copy editing, internal marketing and sales, promotions, etc. Then once the book is out in the world, teachers, librarians, booksellers, fellow authors, friends, children and parents – any book lover, really – can have a huge impact on how a book is received by helping spread the word through social media, word of mouth, invitations to events, etc. I’ve always treasured places where I can find books – libraries, schools, and bookstores – after the release of Gone Fishing I have an added admiration for anyone who helps books reach places where they can nurture reader.
Where do you do most of your writing?
Lately I've been "writing in my head" while I'm physically doing something else that doesn't require all of my attention. For example, while I'm cleaning or standing in line at the store, I find myself working through a plot point, or a rhythm or rhyme structure for a poem. I'm lucky enough to have a writing space in my home with plenty of books and a door when I need it. It's where I go when I'm ready to get those thoughts down or ready to decipher a scribble on a grocery receipt.
Do you remember the first book you loved?
Yes! It’s a counting book called Over in the Meadow, based on the original version by Olive A. Wadsworth and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. It was a gift from my grandparents and uncle and it came with a record. I loved hearing that baritone voice chant, “Over in the meadow in the sand in the sun, lived an old mother turtle and her little turtle one.” I’m sure I replayed that story hundreds of times, probably driving my mother batty. That rhythm and rhyme and those images are huge parts of my fiber as a writer and poet. I still have the book, but, sadly, the record has disappeared.