Picture book author and PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) creator Tara Lazar is taking the kidlitosphere by storm, with two books out and four more scheduled to be released within the next couple of years. Pretty impressive! When the opportunity arose to not only review her latest book, I Thought This Was A Bear Book, but also to toss some interview questions her way, I couldn’t pass it up. There was so much I wanted to ask her, but I managed to whittle the list down to a reasonable (much less ridiculous) number of questions. I’m sharing the interview first, because I just can’t wait. My review of I Thought This Was A Bear Book follows.
Me: What’s the one thing that motivates you the most to keep writing? And what was your motivation for writing I Thought This Was a Bear Book?
Tara: Writing, for me, is fun. That’s all the motivation you need—loving it.
BEAR BOOK came from the need to switch gears when a story I was writing wasn’t working out. I needed to start on a fresh idea instead of struggling with a stale one.
Me: You are known for writing quirky, humorous picture books, which we all love. Any plans to write something with a more serious feel?
Tara: Yes, actually, I just finished a story that is a wee bit more serious. But not much, LOL. It’s still loads of fun with a terrific secret. I love secret spaces that only kids know about. That was what childhood was about for me.
Me: How long had you been writing and submitting before you got your first contract? Or before you secured an agent? Do you recommend that all picture book authors pursue agents?
Tara: I had been writing and submitting seriously for about 2 ½ years before I landed my agent and my first contract. I knew I wanted an agent because I could not use the business side of my brain at the same time as my writing brain. When I was submitting, I wasn’t writing. When I was writing, I wasn’t submitting. Having someone to sell my work and guide my career helps me focus on creativity.
Me: You have four more books coming out within the next couple of years. To what do you attribute your success?
Tara: I don’t know if that’s “success” or just luck. Lately, a few stories of mine have been rejected because they’re too similar to something the publisher already has under contract. The timing has to be right! The editor has to be right! Having an agent navigate who likes what kind of story is a load of worry off my mind. So I owe all those contracts to dear Joan. Without my agent, I’d still be without a single book.
Me: You have been upfront with your fans and fellow writers about having MS. How has the disease affected your writing career and what advice would you give to aspiring authors who may be dealing with chronic illnesses?
Tara: MS made me into a homebody. For the first couple years with the disease, I couldn’t drive. So I stayed home most of the time. And what else am I going to do at home? Laundry? The dishes? Heck, no!!! I’m going to write.
Now I like being at home even though I have a car with hand controls. My husband works from home, my kids are home. Home, home, home. I just wish I had a butler.
My advice to others with chronic illnesses is to find your happy place. Laughter truly is the best medicine. Don’t worry about the future because it’s out of your control. You’ll just miss out on today worrying about tomorrow.
Me: What’s the best way for fans to connect with you?
Tara: Through my blog, via email, on Twitter or Facebook. Seriously, I’m everywhere online! (Remember, I’m home a lot.)
Thank you, Tara!
Tara’s books include:
- LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (Random House Children’s, Oct 2015)
- NORMAL NORMAN (Sterling, March 2016)
- WAY PAST BEDTIME (Aladdin/S&S, Fall 2016)
- 7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY (Disney*Hyperion, 2017)
For more information about Tara Lazar, visit her website Writing For Kids (While Raising Them) at http://taralazar.com.
To connect with Tara:
- Email: tarakidlit (at) gmail (dot) com
- Twitter: @taralazar
- Pinterest: pinterest.com/taralazar
- Facebook: facebook.com/authortara
My View Book Review: I Thought This Was A Bear Book by Tara Lazar, illustrated by Benji Davies (Aladdin/S&S/2015)
An alien from another book crash lands in the middle of Goldilocks & The Three Bears. The alien, whose name is Prince Zilch, must return to Planet Zero (in his book) by page 27. If he doesn’t, his planet will be destroyed by giant planet-eating numbers! Luckily, the three bears are willing to lend him a paw, and with the help of you, the reader (and absolutely no help from Goldilocks), Prince Zilch arrives back at home just in time to eradicate the nemesis numbers with a zark, zoot, and a zinder.
I Thought This Was A Bear Book is a clever fractured fairy tale story that takes place in a book within a book (perfect for people who love books!). The colorful illustrations have both a classic fairy tale feel and a freshness about them, and I like how illustrator Benji Davies gave each character a different colored speech bubble, which is super helpful to discern who’s speaking and effectively eliminates the need for dialogue tags.
Author Tara Lazar goes one step further with this fun, action-filled story by having her characters speak directly to the reader. Kids will enjoy being included in the action by shaking the book and helping the little alien get back into his book. Be prepared for repeat readings of this one!