Our guest: Susan Verde is an East Hampton, NY-based author and yoga instructor and mother of three. She has so far released three picture books, each illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds and published by Abrams: 2013’s The Museum, and two in 2015, You and Me and I Am Yoga.
The Proust-Esque Questionnaire is based on a set of 36 standardized questions designed by Marcel Proust in the 1890’s to give an overview of the respondent’s personality. Our goals are less lofty, but hopefully will provide some insight into how your favorite authors and illustrators work and what they love.
My earliest memory of children’s literature is snuggling next to my mother in what seemed at the time like her GIANT bed as she read to me, I particularly remember when she read Snowy Day and Blueberries for Sal. I loved when she made the sounds of Peter crunching in the snow and the plunk of blueberries in Sal’s bucket.
At this moment in my life I relate to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle as I always have a house full of children (3 of my own and their friends) digging in the yard and dressing up and of course I am constantly coming up with “cures” for various ailments and situations. My favorite is “monster spray” I used to make to stave off monsters under beds and bad dreams at bedtime.
3. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR? ILLUSTRATOR?
That is a hard question to answer as there are so many brilliant authors and illustrators past, present, and up and coming but I could read anything written or illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats (right), or William Steig or Leo Lionni, or Jane Yolen, or Oliver Jeffers, or Peter H Reynolds, or Andrea Beaty, or Maurice Sendak or, Chris Raschka or Eric Carle or Oh Gosh! …Did I say this was a hard one to answer?
4. IF YOU WERE THROWING A KINDERLIT PARTY FOR FIVE GUESTS, WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?
I think my dinner party of 5 would include Winnie the Pooh in the hopes he would share some “Pooh-isms” Elephant and Piggy (they count as 1) in case we had any issues to solve diplomatically, Harry Potter for some wizardry, Amos (left) from William Steig’s Amos and Boris so he could share what it’s like to be friends with a whale and Eloise for a little mayhem and mischief and gossip from the Plaza.
5. WHICH QUALITY DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT IN GOOD CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
What I’ve noticed over the years as both a listener and a reader and now writer of children’s literature is that the best stories capture the way children see themselves in the world and make them feel acknowledged and understood without lecture or direct instruction. It seems a tall order but the best books achieve it.
6. IF YOUR OWN WORK HAS A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, WHAT WHAT IS IT?
Currently my work has a lyrical/poetic feel but as I continue to grow as a writer that may fluctuate. What I’d like to think is consistent and a “defining characteristic” is really my message to children (and adults) who read my books “Be and embrace the most authentic YOU through your creativity and self-expression!”
I think I would like to come back as Max from Where the Wild Things Are. He’s got a bit of mischief in him and a grand imagination and what fun to be a part of a WILD RUMPUS!! Also because he is loved so much that in spite of his “bad” behavior his dinner was waiting for him… And it was still hot.”
8. IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND REDO ONE THING IN YOUR WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I think I might drive myself crazy if I were to focus on changing something in my published work. My works in progress still need editing and changing and careful scrutiny. But once they are out in the world it’s kind of like one’s own children… all I can do is love them for what they are knowing that I’ve done my very best.
9. WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
10. DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS.
Writing is an interesting process because although I put aside hours of writing time every day ideas appear in the most random of places. Often I find myself pulling over on the side of the road and writing things on my phone or in a restaurant on a napkin to transcribe later. (This irritates my children a great deal). My process is to write down every idea whether it’s a line, a character or a full story and then go back and refine, delete, alter, expound. I do have an office in my home but the “office” in which I get my best work done is the corner table at my local Starbucks. When I published The Museum I gave the manager and employees a copy because they made me my “usual” (venti decaf skim latte) every day while I worked. Here’s a picture: