Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Just in time for fall: Pick a Pumpkin--Patricia Toht, Author, interviewed by Julie Phend



Pick a Pumpkin
With autumn here and Halloween just around the corner, what could be more delightful than Patricia Toht’s invitation to Pick a Pumpkin in her latest picture book? The book, written in rhymed verse for readers aged 3-7 and charmingly illustrated by Jarvis, evokes the magic of choosing just the right pumpkin and transforming it into a jack-o-lantern for Halloween night.

I love the rich, sensory details in Toht’s text: from “vivid orange, ghostly white” and “lumpy chunks, sticky strings, clumpy seeds, guts and things” to “small slits sleeping, cross-eyed crazy” and “red-hot eyes and fiery grin.” Jarvis’s beautiful illustrations in autumn tones of orange and blues give the book an old-fashioned feel that perfectly suits this timeless tradition.

  

 

Patricia Toht Interview





GROG: Pick a Pumpkin is a companion book to Pick a Pine Tree. Whose idea was it to write a companion book? How closely did you follow the same structure? Did this make the writing easier or harder?

PATRICIA: Pick a Pumpkin started out as a poem about carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns. The poem eventually grew to book length. I thought that transforming a pine tree into a Christmas tree had promise, too, so I wrote Pick a Pine Tree. They follow the same structure, which definitely made it easier to write, since the basic arc was established. They were submitted to the publisher as companion books, with Pick a Pine Tree released first (2107), followed by Pick a Pumpkin this year.



GROG: Tell us about the illustrator, Jarvis, who illustrated both of these books.

PATRICIA: I’m so fond of Jarvis’s illustrations! For me, they evoke comfort and nostalgia. The color palette of Pick a Pumpkin is so rich – not only oranges, but purples, pinks, and blues – and conveys the feeling of autumn. Jarvis also has whimsical books that he’s both written and illustrated. My favorite is Mrs. Mole, I’m Home!, about a near-sighted mole.
Patricia's son Will picks a pumpkin of his own
 
He lives in England, so we haven’t met yet, but I’m hoping we will some day!
You can explore Jarvis's website here - http://www.byjarvis.com/work.


Daughter Ruth with Decorated Pumpkin
GROG: You’ve chosen to use rhymed verse in an era where writers are often told not to attempt it. What do you like about rhymed verse? Why did you choose it?
PATRICIA: I’m a poet at heart. I love lyrical language and how images can be conjured from few words. But I don’t always write in verse. It’s sounds odd, but I write in rhyme if a piece comes to me that way – it begins rhyming itself as I’m working on it! One danger of writing in verse is that sometimes the rhyme tries to drive the story – it’s tempting to add extra lines or to word things unnaturally, in order to make an end rhyme work. I once heard an editor say it’s not that editors don't like rhyme, they don’t like bad rhyme. If you want to be a rhymer, you have to really work at it by studying rhythm and meter, forms of poetry, poetic devices, etc.


GROG: How much do you edit and tinker with the wording and the rhyme?

PATRICIA: I obsessively edit and tinker! In poetry, every single word counts. I use a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary to help me make just the right choices. And I’m so lucky to have critique partners who are amazing poets, too, and they help me whip my manuscripts into shape.


GROG: What training do you have—as a writer and a poet?
Critique group: Eileen Meyer, Heidi Roemer, Michelle Schaub

PATRICIA: I didn’t study creative writing at school, so I’ve learned along the way. Early on, I took a writing-for-children class with Esther Hershenhorn and a poetry class with Heidi Roemer, which were both very helpful. I’ve also attended SCBWI workshops, and I have a shelf of craft books I refer to often.


GROG: You’ve written a number of holiday books for children. What do you see as the advantages/disadvantages of holiday books?

PATRICIA: A definite advantage is that holiday books have a ready market. But that also comes with a disadvantage – sales are usually limited to the holiday season. I also think it can be challenging to come up with a unique concept to compete with existing holiday books.

Glass Pumpkin Festival
GROG: Do you have marketing ideas for Pick a Pumpkin that you’re willing to share? 
PATRICIA: Last year, I worked with a classroom of second graders and I gave them an early reading of Pick a Pumpkin. Their teacher is from a farming family, and she picked tiny pumpkins for each student. I would love to do something like this at book signings and school visits! I’ve also reached out to our local arboretum, which hosts a glass pumpkin festival, hoping I can share the book at their festival.
Patricia with Second-Graders


GROG: While we’re talking about holidays, what’s your favorite holiday? Why?

PATRICIA: My favorite holiday is Christmas – I love everything about it! I start playing Christmas music and baking cookies the day after Thanksgiving. Our family has its own traditions, which include the trek for a tree, annual ornaments for the kids, and stuffed stockings that may not be opened until after Christmas dinner.


GROG: Finally, GROG readers already know a lot about Patricia Toht. Tell us something we don’t already know.

PATRICIA: Many people will find this weird, but I love graveyards! When I was a young mom, I lived across the street from one, and I often took my son for walks there. It was peaceful and filled with beautiful statuary. Reading the gravestones made me wonder about people buried there. Now, when I travel, I often find a graveyard to explore in each location.



Sounds like another Halloween book might be in your future, Patricia!

Thanks for sharing with GROG readers.
.



39 comments:

  1. Patty, I love graveyards, too. Really old ones have such interesting histories and tell stories. Congrats on another beautiful picture book. I love picking pumpkins. Good interview, Julie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kathy. I, too, love old graveyards, and picking pumpkins and everything about fall--including this beautiful book.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Kathy. The graveyard that I walked my son in is in Ohio! It's just off the campus of Miami of Ohio.

      Delete
  2. Add me to the graveyard club! New England has such old and amazing cemeteries - history at your feet!
    Just asked my library to purchase PICK A PUMPKIN. Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for asking your library to order a copy, Cathy! That's a wonderful thing to do to support authors. I've been to some great graveyards in New England - they are so historic.

      Delete
  3. Julie and Patricia, thanks for sharing Pick a Pumpkin today! Pumpkins are a pretty big thing in my town - I'll let folks know about this book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sue! Does your town have a pumpkin festival? The town I work in has a pretty terrific scarecrow festival.

      Delete
  4. Oh, I can't wait! I love fall, pumpkins, Christmas, everything about this soon-to-be-upon-us season! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And Patricia's two books to help you enjoy the season!

      Delete
    2. I'm excited for fall, too, Angie! I hope you have a terrific Halloween!

      Delete
  5. Wonderful interview questions, Julie! And Patty - this book is a BEAUTY and is sure to become a fall classic. Having seen in evolve from the very beginning, it's a thrill to see this beautiful book now available for young readers! CONGRATS!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Eileen. This is truly a beautiful book!

      Delete
    2. Thank you, Eileen! Your critique comments have helped make this book what it is. Looking forward to seeing YOUR new poetry book very soon!

      Delete
  6. So excited to see this book in the world, Patty! And I love the pictures of your kids picking pumpkins. I've got wonderful memories of my own kids in the pumpkin patch, and PICK A PUMPKIN will help a whole new generation celebrate this tradition! Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love this beautiful book and can't wait to share it with my grandkids. We go pumpkin picking together every fall!

      Delete
    2. You were also a big help in making this book, Michelle - thanks for your critiques! It is really fun to recall my own kids having fun carving pumpkins and to look forward to the next generation doing that, too!

      Delete
  7. Dear Julie & Patty - So much autumnal goodness to savor here - appreciations. I am a fan of Esther too, although I'm not in the region to take her classes. I love seeing your critique group photo & all the writerly tips. Plus the incredible unusual details:
    graveyard walking & glass-pumpkin enjoying! The classroom picture & the ones of your own family are too too precious. This is my much-needed smile on this memorial day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Jan. This is a beautiful book that reminds us of all the goodness this season has to offer.

      Delete
    2. Aw, thanks, Jan! It made me smile to see both Ruth and Will in short sleeves and shorts while picking their pumpkins - it feels just like the weather out today! I hope you had a lovely day today and that your autumn is sweet.

      Delete
  8. Great interview! I, too, love graveyards. I think it all started with an art teacher in junior high who asked us to make rubbings of gravestones and then turn the rubbings into art. Brilliant idea for using a single concept for two books. Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you, Jilanne. I did gravestone rubbings in England. Still have them.

      Delete
    2. I've never done gravestone rubbings, Jilanne - that sounds so cool. I should add that to my Halloween to-do list! Thanks for stopping by the GROG.

      Delete
  9. Thank you, Julie and Patricia,for this inspiring interview. Congrats Patricia! I'm looking forward to reading your new book :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Charlotte! Are there lots of pumpkins in your little corner of the States? I can't wait to visit our local one, and have some apple cider donuts!!!

      Delete
  10. This is a beautiful book, and Patricia was fun to interview.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for hosting this interview, Julie! Your questions were wonderful and I really enjoyed digging up the family photos - how time has flown for my kids! Happy Halloween to you!

      Delete
  11. Lovely interview. This will be a fun book for fall. Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Tina. Does your school in Korea celebrate Halloween at all?

      Delete
    2. Interesting question. This book is a fun way to introduce customs around celebrating fall and Halloween in our country.

      Delete
  12. This is the perfect book to celebrate the pumpkin season! Congrats, Patricia and thanks for an insightful interview, Julie!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Doreen. Patricia was fun to interview!

      Delete
  13. This book looks perfectly charming. Thanks for an interesting interview. I will be reading Patricia's books.

    ReplyDelete
  14. YAY! A new reader. Charming is a great word for this book.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm sure this one is a terrific as the first! Congratulations.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Many Autos is private limited company manufacturing Autos sapre parts in reading.Many Autos best spare abs sensor, abs pump,abs ring,ABS Hydraulic Units etc. Many autos also proving door to door repairing service

    ReplyDelete