Saturday, January 20, 2018

Author interview with Rebecca J. Gomez

I'm thrilled to welcome children's book author Rebecca J. Gomez to my blog today.  Rebecca is the author of WHAT ABOUT MOOSE (Atheneum 2015) and HANSEL AND GRETAL: NINJA CHICKS (Putnam  2016). 

Rebecca, thank you so much for being willing to join us and answer a few questions.  I can't wait to hear the inside scoop on your writing.

Let's get to the questions! 

First, I see that you have a writing partner, Corey Rosen Schwartz.  How did you get started working together? How do you collaborate together to create a manuscript? Do you still write together?

Corey and I met in 2005 when we were members of the same online critique group. Corey liked working with a partner, and she asked me if I would consider collaborating. I said yes, and we have been writing together ever since!

We do a lot of brainstorming together. Once we hit on an idea that appeals to both of us, we open a document on Google drive and just start writing! For the most part, we write together from beginning to end, but we occasionally separate if we get stuck or if our visions aren't completely meshing. 

Technology makes that possible--so fascinating. That must involve a lot of mutual trust and respect. Your collaborations have definitely produced some wonderful books!

I wanted to ask you about rhyme and rhythm. Your book WHAT ABOUT MOOSE demonstrates that you have a wonderful flair for rhyme and rhythm.  Do you have any "tips" for authors who are trying to hone their skills at rhyming?

Thank you! I think one thing that makes my and Corey's rhyme really work is that we live in different parts of the country, so what rhymes for me doesn't always rhyme for her. We have to work extra hard to make sure the rhymes "work." This is true for the rhythm too. I think authors who write on their own can learn from that. So one piece of advice is to find a variety of readers, especially readers who talk a little differently than you, to see how well your work flows for them. 

I also suggest reading a lot of rhyming books and taking note of what works and what doesn't. Rhyming well is hard work, so don't do it if you're not willing to commit. In truth, no rhyming book will be perfect for every reader, but it's worth the effort to make it as smooth as it can be.

I never considered the different ways of pronouncing English, and I'm even a language teacher. Great advice!  

Next, I noticed that you are working on a middle grade fantasy novel.  How is the technique for picture book writing different for you than when you are writing a longer manuscript? Which you do you prefer and why?

In some ways it's very similar. When I write, whether it is a short picture book or a novel, I tend to focus on getting the story down and not worrying about good writing. Then I let the draft sit before reading through it to tackle revisions. For a picture book, I leave it for a few days or a week. For a novel, I leave it for a few weeks at least.

But writing a picture book, especially a rhyming picture book, is generally harder than writing a novel. I think that's because there is so much story to fit into so few words. When I'm writing a novel, I feel like I have so much room to work with, so much of the story and characters that I can explore. There's a sense of freedom that I don't have when writing a picture book. But I love the unique challenge that writing a picture book presents. A well-written picture book is one of life's best things.

That said, my favorite thing to write is the verse novel. It combines the conciseness of a picture book with the freedom of a novel. It's the best of both worlds!

Now I really respect you!  (I have to admit I googled verse novel) A verse novel sounds very complicated. I admire the skill it would take to do that! 

The next question comes from your social media presence. You seem to have a heart for parent-child connection through reading.  I notice you offer a free ebook, "How to SUPERCHARGE your story time," and I see that you tweet regularly highlighting activities that parents can do with their children after reading a story.  What advice do you have for parents in today's world of technology when it comes to reading with their children?  Why do you feel it is so important? 

Books and reading played a significant roll in my childhood. Though I don't have a lot of specific memories of reading with my parents, poetry, stories, and books are woven in to my childhood memories. I remember books being around, especially Dr. Seuss and Shell Silverstein, and I can still hear my mother's voice reading The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service. And I remember my mother telling me about her favorites and recommending some of them to me as I got older.

There are lots of reasons to read with your children, not the least of which is that it helps establish a foundation for learning. But to me, the best reason to read with your kids is because of the way it helps you connect with them. Sharing a story is like sharing an experience that opens doors to discussions and even more experiences! That's the thought behind my Read, Discuss, Do! social media campaign. When you read with your child, discuss the story with them, and do a fun activity together, you are creating fond memories, building a foundation for learning, and creating connections that will last a lifetime. 

My advice to parents is to read with their children every day, even before their children are born. I also think it's important to make "story time" as pleasant as possible. Some kids are always willing to curl up with their mom or dad for a story. Other kids want to go, go, go! So, work with your kid. Read to them while they're busy playing with blocks or splashing in the tub. Read to them at bed time or on the road. Don't stop just because they get old enough to read on their own. Talk about the books you read together, and the books your kids read on their own. Draw pictures, act out stories, make the recipes at the ends of books! You can check out #ReadDiscussDo on Facebook and Twitter for more simple ideas. 

I also think it's important to delay your children's access to electronic devices as long as possible in order to encourage them to seek more healthy options of entertainment. This may seem obvious, but look around at how many parents are letting their toddlers play games on a tablet or phone when they are in public. It's disheartening. Give your children books instead! (Or let them get bored. It's good for them.) 

I couldn't agree more! Keep up the great work producing resources for parents! I love the #ReadDiscussDo activities that you suggest!

Finally, I have to ask, what's next? Do you have any upcoming publications that you can share with us?

Corey and I have a picture book forthcoming with Scholastic titled TWO TOUGH TRUCKS, which will be published some time in 2019, with a sequel to follow. I also have more news that I hope to be able to announce soon. Stay tuned!

WOW! Congratulations!  Two truck books on the way AND the promise of an announcement!  We will definitely be watching for your good news and celebrate with you!

Click here for Rebecca's website

Author bio:

Rebecca J. Gomez doesn't know much about building a tree house, but she is an expert at setting up blanket forts! When she isn't building forts or writing books, she enjoys reading, making recycled art, and hanging out with her family. She lives in Nebraska with her husband, three kids, two poodles and one parrotlet. Visit her online at

Once again, Rebecca, thank you very much for taking the time to stop by and chat with me. I learned a lot from your answers and I wish you all the best!

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