I first met Miranda Paul through the 12×12 challenge. I was immediately impressed by her passion and willingness to give back to the kidlit community. She’s a fellow blogateer for Children’s Book Academy and an incredible wordsmith. Exactly 4 weeks from today her newest book, Trainbots, will be released! I’m thrilled to interview her on Writers’ Rumpus!
Kirsti Call: When did you start writing children’s books, and why?
Miranda Paul: Technically, second grade. But I’m sure that’s not what you meant. I took my first class on writing for children in 2003 with Lucille Clifton. During that class I realized how hard writing a children’s book was. It wasn’t until 2010 that I finished my first official draft of a children’s story. I think I’ve always wanted to write for children because it’s such a transformative time, and books are such an influential part of that. I also think it’s where my talents are best suited.
KC: What was your favorite picture book as a child?
MP: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
KC: I just read Whose Hands Are These? to a group of 2nd graders and they loved the guessing game. What sparked the idea for this story?
MP: I started working at a very young age, and have had many jobs throughout my lifetime so far. I’m also fascinated by what hands can do to help others, especially when my husband fixes (or builds) things around the house. Combined with my love for some other interactive “game” picture books, Whose Hands Are These? was born.
KC: Many of your books are non-fiction. What type of research is usually involved?
MP: It depends! Books like One Plastic Bag involved a lot of primary research such as videos, photos, and interviews with the women of Njau. Other books, like this one and Water is Water, involved gathering information from many sources as well as interviewing experts in the field.
KC: What is the best response you’ve gotten from a reader of your books?
MP: Hearing from kids is the best part of the job. Last month, I got a letter from a student whose school I visited. He wrote (and I’ve fixed the spelling), “When I feel like I’m not good enough or I say I can’t, I just remember the day you came to our school. Then I think I AM good enough. I CAN do it. Thank you Miranda Paul for being an inspiration.” That filled my heart so full, a little of it may have overflowed and leaked out my eyes.
KC: Your rhyme is impeccable. What helped you learn meter and rhythm?
MP: Shel Silverstein, pop music, church choir, and my piano teacher all helped, undoubtedly. I think my high school English teachers sealed the deal with abundant lessons on assonance, consonance, alliteration, and scansion.
KC: What’s your favorite book that you’ve written and why?
MP: I get this question at every single school visit I do. And I never have been able to answer it. Instead, I explain a special tidbit about every book. Like how the family in Water is Water looks like mine, or how my husband is the youngest of 10 children, which was part of the inspiration behind 10 Little Ninjas (coming in August).
KC: We love Trainbots at our house. What was the inspiration for this story?
MP: My son loved trains when he was little, and so I wrote a train story for him. My agent loved it, but we got some feedback from publishers that it needed more action. One publisher specifically wanted to look at a rewrite. I rewrote the story several times, but it wasn’t working. Then, I decided to throw in my son’s other favorite thing – robots – and Trainbots was born.
KC: Which do you prefer, trains or bots?
MP: Bots, because they can build trains.
KC: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
MP: 1) Turn off the Internet every now and then, and 2) take yourself seriously. Also, never let the desperation to be published or admired overshadow the joy of creating wonderful stories for children. Enjoy the ride as you chug along on the journey!
KC: Thank you Miranda! Here’s my review of Trainbots which is available for pre-order now.
Train bots has a great hook. What kid doesn’t love trains and robots?
The rollicking rhythm of this book mimics the beat of a train as it races down the track. Filled with perfect rhyme and emotion-filled illustrations, Trainbots engages both parent and child. After we read this together, my five year old son declared: “This is my favorite book!” There’s no better endorsement than that!
This book provokes discussion with its vocabulary and message about teamwork and problem solving. We also enjoyed finding the evil bots on earlier pages before they are introduced in the text. We’ve read this book over and over again. Thankfully, Miranda writes beautifully and Trainbots is well worth the second and third and hundredth reading!
Miranda Paul is a award-winning children’s author of One Plastic Bag and Water is Water, both named Junior Library Guild selections. Her titles have received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly in addition to being named to several recommended and “best of” reading lists. Miranda makes regular appearances at schools, libraries, and bookstores, and has been a guest presenter at the Library of Congress Young Readers Center along with environmental activist Isatou Ceesay. Miranda also serves as Executive VP of Outreach for We Need Diverse Books™ (www.diversebooks.org) and the administrator of RateYourStory.org, a site for aspiring writers. Miranda believes in working hard, having fun, and being kind. Learn more about her forthcoming 2016 titles at www.mirandapaul.com.