Readers, you've got to see this darling book!!
Paula, please tell us about your writing journey.
I fell in love with books from the minute I learned to put letters and sentences and paragraphs together, and I enjoyed reading Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, and Black Stallion books. I wanted to write stories just like them. I read those books over and over until they came apart or the covers fell off. Many of my paperbacks were held together with packing tape! Whenever I ran out of something to read, I would grab my parents’ set of encyclopedias and go through them, one by one.
The first book I wrote was for an assignment in sixth grade. Our teacher asked us to put together a book about our favorite subject. At that time, my favorite subject was horses, so I wrote about several different breeds and included handmade sketches of them, stapled the pages together and added a cloth cover. I received an A, by the way!
In high school, my favorite subject was English, and my friends and I wrote poetry about boys, school, friends, our hopes and dreams for the future, and our relationship with God. One year, I typed a few of my poems onto parchment paper and assembled them into books which I gave to my parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents for Christmas.
I didn’t take my own writing seriously, though, until I was in my 20’s and joined a local writer’s group and began publishing poetry, magazine articles, and children’s puzzles for Sunday school curriculum. Since then, I’ve continued journaling, writing book reviews, articles for my church newsletter, and stories for my two boys.
What is the inspiration behind Poodles at Play?
The idea for Poodles at Play came to me one day when I was at a dog show with my husband, and we saw how many different breeds and sizes of poodles there were. I thought to myself, “There are oodles and oodles of Poodles everywhere!” and that’s when I got the idea to make up a story about them to tell my sons. I started jotting down ideas, and the rhymes simply started flowing. I read Poodles at Play for the children in my youngest son’s second grade class, and when I saw how much they enjoyed it, I decided to take the indie author route and use CreateSpace as my publisher.
Does rhyming come easy to you? Do you have any funny stories about trying to find the perfect rhyming word?
Rhyming is easy for me, and I’m thinking up silly little rhymes all the time. That’s something I do to keep myself entertained. When my boys, Graham and Soren, were young, I’d make something rhyme to encourage them to do their chores, take a bath, brush their teeth, or make their beds. I’d say things like, “It’s time to brush your teeth, Keith!” or “It’s time to make your bed, Fred!” or “It’s time to set the table, Mabel!” I found that if they giggled about something, then they were more willing to do what I asked them to do. They liked the rhymes and thought they were fun.
Krystine Kercher's poodles are absolutely darling. Which scene is your favorite?
I like two scenes, in particular. The first one is when the poodles are being shampooed and brushed and combed and fluffed. I think including the soap bubbles in the illustration was brilliant! My second favorite scene is when the poodles are playing the sandbox and there’s sand flying all over the place. Krystine did an absolutely fantastic job on the illustrations, and I’m glad I met her. This book wouldn’t be what it is without her artistic talent. She gave me quite a few suggestions to make the book better than it was originally, and I’m pleased with the end result.
Can you tell us a little bit about life on your farm? Any poodles?
We live on ten acres in the country outside of Duluth, Minnesota. We plant a vegetable garden every year and have landscaped our property with flowers, fruit trees, berry bushes and herbs. We want to live as sustainably as possible, so we raise our own laying hens and meat chickens, and my husband, Kevin, keeps one or two beehives during the summer. We have four Pygmy goats that are helping us keep the brush and weeds down, and we’ve cleared a few acres for horse pasture, but there’s more work to do before the horses arrive. Someday we’d also like to add a cow or two.
No, we don’t have any poodles, but we do have a hunting dog named Pesto, and she is a delight! She is an orange roan Italian Spinone (rhymes with spumoni - !!), and Kevin takes her to North Dakota every year to hunt pheasants.
How does releasing your first book feel?
Scary is the first word that comes to mind! Excited is a close second, though. I’m an introvert by nature and publishing my first book has taken me far outside my comfort zone into territory I hadn’t considered entering. Marketing and promoting myself and my work and creating a social media presence are new to me, and I have a lot to learn, so sometimes I also feel overwhelmed. I also spent a considerable amount of time – years, in fact – trying to find an illustrator, and holding Poodles at Play in my own hands somehow seems unbelievable as well as very rewarding. I look at the glossy, colorful front and back covers, open the pages, see the poodles and think, “I can hardly believe it. This book is really mine!” I won’t sleep with it under my pillow, but I have hugged it a few times!