I'm delighted to feature my #SeenIn19 friend, author Eileen Meyer, on the blog today! I loved learning about her process for writing poems, how she envisions her book as a conversation starter, and her work with #KidsNeedMentors. Congratulations to Eileen - The Superlative A. Lincoln releases on November 5th! Read on for Eileen's thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connections.
Stories – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
Thanks, Melissa, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. I’m so excited to share news of my picture book, The Superlative A. Lincoln (Charlesbridge) with your readers. The book releases tomorrow!
Born and raised in the state of Illinois, I’ve always been a huge fan of Abraham Lincoln. A number of years ago I was reading a biography about Lincoln and I realized that there were so many interesting stories about our sixteenth president that young readers might not be aware of. I also thought Lincoln’s actions and great wisdom were still relevant today.
I wrote this picture book as a collection of poems. Why? Poetry provides the reader with an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect. A poet uses lyrical language, sound, rhythm and form to engage the reader in a very special way. From the reader’s perspective, I like the fact that poems are bite-sized morsels and usually include plenty of white space on the page. That extra space encourages readers at all levels to take a look at the poem, and also allows room for young people to think about the topic and form their own connections.
Consider my poem, “Best Yarn-Spinner: The President Tells a Story.” Our sixteenth president was a legendary story-teller and he used that gift to his advantage. He told stories to connect with others, help folks consider a different point of view, deflect from giving a straight answer, and more. Lincoln was a master at interpersonal communication and relationship building. What would Lincoln think about texting someone about a key matter instead of talking face-to-face? I believe there is much that we can learn from how our sixteenth president handled situations. Sharing these stories with young readers is an opportunity to start a conversation. Many of these poems provide great topics for discussion. Abraham Lincoln’s actions and life inspire me, and I hope that is the case for others, too.
As for my process, it is pretty simple: I read a lot of history about my topic; I do a lot of thinking about what I might want to share in a particular poem; then I write a really awful first draft of a poem and constantly revise until it sparkles. That’s it. I take my time and work slowly when I am researching and writing.
Creativity – How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
I love the creativity that is inherent in being a children’s book author. I select the topics that I want to write about, I choose how to engage the reader (through poems or narrative text), and I also carefully consider which information to include in the book. What is important and essential to that piece of work?
I pick topics that interest and intrigue me. I know that I’m going to spend a lot of time researching, writing, revising and later on, telling potential readers about the book, so working on a subject that I’m passionate about is a huge win. I’m excited to get up and begin my work each day! I find new topics through reading, exploring historical sites and museums, chatting with others, and more. It’s fun to let the wheels spin within my mind and consider, “What is important about this subject? Would a young reader want to learn more about this?”
Connection – How do you stay connected to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
I hope the books I write connect with readers of all ages. I like to say that The Superlative A. Lincoln is written for readers aged 0–99! The poems in this book present interesting topics and are a way for folks of all ages to discuss their own experiences and how they see the world. One of my poems, “Biggest Dreamer,” is about Lincoln’s longing to leave the family farm and go out and explore the world. This poem is a great opener for any young reader - ask an elderly aunt about her dreams when she was young; talk to a grandparent about what they thought about the future; or even chat with a friend about his or her dreams. Books can prompt great discussions and help us better understand each other.
I like to stay connected with readers by visiting schools, exhibiting at book festivals, presenting bookstore programs, and more. Here’s a link to the school visits page from my website: https://www.eileenmeyerbooks.com/author-visits/.
Last year, I also had the opportunity to be involved with a wonderful program, #KidsNeedMentors, where I was matched with a first grade teacher and students. We had a great time corresponding all year long. The students learned more about how an author works on a book project and I was delighted to learn more about them. Near the end of the school year, I drove across the state to visit them and present a school program. We had a fabulous time. Here are a few pictures from that special day. (School photo permissions given.)
As for staying connected with the KidLit Community - that is a huge benefit to working in this industry. KidLit people are kind and generous. I love meeting new friends through SCBWI local meetings, volunteer projects, and book projects. Dave Szalay, the illustrator for The Superlative A. Lincoln, has become a good friend as we’ve journeyed down the book production path together.
Conferences are also a great way to hear from industry leaders and meet new folks. Online forums (FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others) allow us to keep up with important conversations, celebrate colleagues’ book news, and make new connections. I write for a children’s book blog with a group of children’s
writers, https://groggorg.blogspot.com, and I enjoy hearing from blog readers about what they have to say. All in all, I feel fortunate to have met and worked with so many generous people in my writing career.
CONNECT WITH EILEEN:
Readers can find out more about me here: www.EileenMeyerBooks.com
The Superlative A. Lincoln, published by Charlesbridge, releases tomorrow – Tuesday, November 5th!