Although I’ve never met Penny Parker Klostermann in person, I’ve known her on-line for many years. I’ve guest posted on her blog with all five of my children with my poetry and kids’ art. She’s talented, supportive and an incredibly positive kidlit author.
Kirsti Call: We love your new book, A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE at our house! What was your inspiration for the story?
Penny Parker Klostermann: I’m so glad you love my book at your house. I’ve gotten to “know” your creative family as you’ve been guests on my blog series, A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt. It makes me smile to think of my book getting Call Family Love!
Books by other authors who had taken a fairy tale and added a new twist inspired me. That went for fractured fairy tales of course, but also stories that mix several fairy tales into a story like David Ezra Stein’s book, INTERRUPTING CHICKEN. I loved how he created his own story arc but fairy tales were a part of it. The more I thought about that book, the more I wanted to create something that included several fairy tales. I knew I needed to find a thing that was common to several fairy tales. Stein chose fairy tales with scary parts that little Chicken didn’t want to hear so he interrupted and made up his own happy ending. For my research, I made a list of fairy tales and listed things they had in common and this led me to the food angle—particularly food items that were essential to the action in the fairy tale. And from there my story started to fall into place.
KC: Did you always know you wanted to write children’s books?
PPK: No. I always liked writing but didn’t think about writing books. I guess when I was a child I didn’t think much about who created the books I was reading. I did know early on that I wanted to be a teacher. Of course I was surrounded by books as an educator but didn’t think about writing my own until well into my teaching career. And even then, I just dabbled. I only got serious after I retired. The tug of the dream was stronger and I felt I had to give it a go even though I’d read enough to know it’s very competitive. I’d read about perseverance, too, and so I kept that in mind when I got frustrated. I kept reading picture books because that gave me hope. Someone had a dream like mine and I was holding a book they’d written! That kept me writing.
KC: What is your favorite story that you’ve written?
PPK: Oh my! That’s a question I get at school visits when the students hear I have written many, many stories. It’s so hard to pick because I love each story for different reasons…even the ones that will probably never be submitted. I love those because they helped me learn and because there was a seed of an idea that was important to me at the time. I love THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT because I really wanted to write a retelling of the original and find a unique twist and I believe I accomplished that. Plus it was my debut. And Plus-Ben Mantle’s illustrations far exceeded my dreams! I love A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE because it helped me learn so much about story arc and because I got to include so many of my favorite fairy tales and because I got to use so many poetic techniques in the story. And again … Ben Mantle’s illustrations—Wow! I have several stories that I have out on submission and several works-in-progress and I love each of them for different reasons. So I can’t pick a favorite!
KC: What other projects are you working on?
PPK: I’m working on a couple more retellings and several original stories. About forty percent are in rhyme and the rest are in prose. Most of these are silly, humorous stories like my first two books but I do have a couple of projects that are “quieter.” I haven’t sold a manuscript since A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE and the rejections can weigh on my mood. But it helps to be a part of the Kidlit community and know that others are going through the same thing. That keeps me writing and moving forward.
KC: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
PPK: I feel like I touched on advice in my answers above because I spoke a little of my journey and I was an aspiring author at the beginning of that journey. Even with two books published I’m still on the publication journey because I have more stories to tell. So I must keep heeding the advice I’m going to share. Here are things that helped (and help) me as a writer.
- Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). It will lead you to more resources than you think possible. It will connect you with others who write for children. You’ll become aware of conferences where you can learn more about writing and where you can connect with agents, editors, and other writers.
- Read. Read. Reading books on the craft of writing will strengthen your skills. Reading books with a writer’s eye will help you take note of what makes a book work and apply the things you noted to your own writing. Reading books in all genres will inspire you, give you new ideas, and immerse you in language.
- If you really want to write for publication, then know that it’s competitive and that perseverance is essential. Keep writing and improving. Know that all your stories may not reach publication but it’s important to write them because you’re learning every time you write.
- Have your stories critiqued by other serious writers who write in your genre. Develop a tough skin and don’t be defensive as you read their comments. By the time you’re ready to have your story critiqued, you should “know” your story well enough to apply their comments to fit your vision. If your vision for your story isn’t clear then work on more drafts before sharing it with others. This will help you revise with purpose.
- Write! Write! Write! Etcetera!
KC: Thank you Penny! To read my review of A Cooked Up Fairy Tale, go here.
Penny Parker Klostermann is the author of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale and There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight, both from Random House Children’s Books. She loves all kinds of books, but especially loves very silly picture books that make her laugh. Penny has been known to hug her favorite picture books and seriously hopes that someday her books will gain huggable status too. You can learn more about Penny on her website at https://pennyklostermann.com/.
Thanks for another great interview. More fantastic advise.
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Thanks, David! I read similar advice all the time as I was starting on this journey. It was tempting to ignore it and rush along but I soon found out that wasn’t going to get me anywhere but frustrated.