My fourth graders were super excited when I informed them that they would have the opportunity to participate in the A Day At The Lake blog tour by interviewing authors Stephanie Wallingford & Dawn Rynders.
Earlier this week we read and discussed A Day at the Lake and then the kids generated about 20 questions for the authors. We narrowed it down and this is what we ended up with.
What were the benefits/difficulties of co-authoring A Day At The Lake?
One of the benefits of co-authoring A Day At The Lake was getting to work on a creative and fun project with a really good friend. We do quite a bit of laughing when we are working on a project and we also spend lots of time finding the right word to express each of our senses. We ask questions like: What does it sound like when you run down a dock or row a boat? How do you explain a loon’s call on the lake or what does an eagle sees as he flies overhead? How many times does a stone skip when it’s thrown by a really good rock skipper? Those are just a handful of things that we talked and scribbled notes down about and eventually put into our book.
Also, you probably do something called peer editing with your writing projects at school. Writing with a co-author is like having a peer editor with you all the time. You get to ask if they can think of a better word for something or if what you wrote draws a good picture for them. They can also tell you when something needs to be more descriptive, more interesting, or more exciting. We like the same kinds of books so we have similar tastes in how we like things to sound.
One of the hard things is that we each have three kids so we’re pretty busy working and being moms so it’s hard to find lots of time to work on projects. We some times send our work back and forth by email, but we always get more done when we’re in the same place and by place I mean coffee shop!
How did you come up with the topic?
In Minnesota we have lakes all around us and there’s actually not very many picture books about kids going to lakes. When you want to get a book published you want to have a subject matter that doesn’t already have lots and lots of books about that topic. Also, we wanted a book that used real animals, birds and bugs that you would see at a lake. As you can see in the book, the pictures are all really playful, but the animals all look quite realistic. That was done on purpose so that young readers could learn about animals they might not know and then be able to recognize them when they see them in other pictures or books.
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
We first pick a general topic and then we talk a little about the setting, the age of the kids, what will they be doing, and where we want the story to go. A Day at the Lake was fairly easy because we didn’t worry about a plot line or character development.
From there we made a list of things that you do at the lake and decided which ones would be the most interesting to our audience, which in this case is young children.
Then we talk through all those options and write down adjectives and sounds that describe each activity. We close our eyes and just explain to one another what it feels like row a boat, jump in a cool lake or discover an interesting bug. We go back and forth writing down phrases and words that we like. It’s a little like fixing a puzzle made up of words and ideas.
After taking lots of notes, words turn into phrases and phrases turn into complete thoughts. When we have a whole page of complete thoughts, we highlight the best ones and eliminate the ones that don’t sound as interesting or might be hard to illustrate. We put things in an order that makes sense and slowly it all weaves itself together to become a story.
What makes A Day At The Lake special to you?
It’s our first book! Having a book published has been a long time goal for each of us, so it’s great to have gotten the opportunity to accomplish that. We both also have great memories of going to the lake when we were kids and still love to take advantage of the beautiful lakes that are all around us here is Minnesota.
Do you have any recommendations of great books that you think we should read?
Dawn: My family has loved reading the Guardian of Ga’hoole series by Kathryn Lasky. We loved owls before and now we’re a little obsessed with them. Also, I’m a fan of nearly anything written by Richard Peck. We love to listen to them on long road trips, and his humor is good for both children and adults. Last but not least, Sharon Creech writes some wonderful books: Walk Two Moons, Ruby Holler, Chasing Redbird, and The Wanderer.