Thursday, October 5, 2017
PENNY KLOSTERMANN'S 'A GREAT NEPHEW AND A GREAT AUNT'--GREAT IDEA! By Sherri Jones Rivers
I kind of "met" Penny a year or so ago when
she joined another poet during a webinar at the end of an online class. They were commenting on some first pages the class sent in, and Penny had some good things to say about a manuscript I submitted. Hmmm, I thought. I'd like to get to know her better. Later, I submitted a manuscript to her in a mentor contest. Although I wasn't chosen, she did ask to see more of my work. After a paid critique, it was obvious she knew her stuff. Then, when she asked me to be a part of her blog, A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt, I knew I wanted to know more about this great idea of matching art with poetry. So, here goes:
How did you get started?
When I decided to start blogging, I knew there were a large number of blogs about writing, books, and publishing. I wanted to find my own little corner that was unique and came up with the idea of writing a poem and having an illustration to go along with it. I'm not an artist but I have a very artistically talented great nephew. I spoke with his parents and then with him and we decided to give it a go. I named the series A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt because I thought it was fun to have the double meaning of "great." I have to admit that I didn't have Twitter's character limit in mind when I chose the name.
Here is our very first collaboration:
At first, Landon and I did a post every other Friday. After doing this for a year I worried about burnout...especially as Landon got older and had more homework and school activities. At that point I decided we would continue our collaborations one Friday a month and I would see if other poets/artists were interested in being guests for the other Fridays. I haven't had any trouble finding people who'd like to be guests! And along the way, some of my other great nephews and nieces have collaborated with me and have been on the series.
Most of your posts feature young children. How did you decide to go that route?
I taught school for twenty-six years and the art displayed in the halls of the elementary schools where I taught never failed to take me to a happy place. I LOVE children's artwork and I figure other people do, too. So why not feature child artists and/or poets and take my blog readers to that same happy place.
Not all of the episodes in the series feature a young child. But there's always the collaboration aspect. I like the idea of two people working together creatively whether they're adults or an adult and a young child.
Lori Degman collaborated with her adult son and it is a super creative collaboration Here is the link to have a look:
How does the collaboration with your great nephew work?
I write a poem and he illustrates it. I let him do his own thing and I'm always delighted with his drawings. We live three hours apart so I email the poem and his mom sends back a picture of his art...well now that Landon is older, he takes a picture and sends it to me. There was one time when we reversed our collaboration. The drawing came first, then the poem. This came about when Landon showed me a drawing he'd done of his family (he even included his dog, Aunie) and I loved it so much that I wrote a poem about his drawing.
Here is that collaboration:
What kind of reactions have you gotten to your series?
The reactions have been so positive. I believe my readers look forward to the posts. My guests tell me that they've enjoyed collaborating and some of them plan to collaborate more with their kids in the future due to this experience. Some people have reached out asking to be guests, and if they meet the criteria (collaboration with a poem and art) then I'm happy to try to fit them on my calendar. I've been very pleased with the reactions.
What's the most unusual post in the series?
Goodness! That's hard because all the posts are unique and special. I've collected links to every episode on a page on my website so that people can enjoy them. You can find that page here:
There are two guest posts that hold a special place in my heart due to my twenty-six year career as a teacher. These posts feature teachers and students collaborating for a project. Ken Slesarik guided his first graders in his after-school poetry club in a project. Here is an artwork grouping and you can view the finished product at this link:
Have you gotten some surprises along the way?
Yes! Every time I open emails that contain the materials for the guest collaborators I get a surprise! It's like Christmas over and over again. I have to say one of my biggest surprises was when my friend Elaine Kiely Kearns of KidLit411 fame said yes to being a guest and told me she'd be working with Tommie de Paola. I almost dropped my laptop! Here is their collaboration:
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about the series?
There is an unexpected element that Landon added early on. He did this on his own. He started adding a hidden object to his drawings.
It's always the same object. Every now and then he's forgotten to add it but it's in most of his artwork. I had some readers that could never find the hidden object so I wrote a riddle that gives very obvious hints. You can find it 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.