Margaret at Reflections on the Teche is hosting us today. She has added a beautiful and poignant line to the 2022 Progressive Poem today.
Today I am thrilled to have an interview with Helen Frost on her new book, Wait-And See with the phenomenal photographer Rick Lieder.
I was fortunate to work with Helen at a Highlights Foundation "Novel in Verse" retreat in 2013. She's a most excellent teacher and mentor.
JRM: This is the sixth book in which you have collaborated with Rick Lieder. Could you tell my blog readers a bit about the process: How did this collaboration begin? Do you work together from the start? Which comes first, the photos or the poetry?
HF: It began in 2006, when Rick Lieder’s wife, Kathe Koja, and I were doing a book event together, and Kathe said she thought I’d love her husband’s insect photography. She was right—the beautiful photographs made me look more closely at the world right outside my back door, and I started seeing more insects, and paying more attention to them. I wrote a poem about seeing and caring for the insect world, and Rick and I put the poem and images together in a book we started sending around to editors. It was a few years before Sarah Ketchersid, at Candlewick, loved the book as much as we did, and, in 2012, it was published to great reviews and soon found many enthusiastic readers. In the ten years since then, we have collaborated, together with Sarah and others at Candlewick, to produce five more books, with another under contract for 2024.
Neither poetry or photos comes first—we usually start talking about a new book when one of us has an idea, and then there is about a year of back-and-forth as we refine the idea until it is ready to send as a proposal to Sarah. The proposal is usually a poem and accompanied by about 50 possible images. After it is accepted, lots more work goes into creating the finished book. I keep working on the text, and Rick continues to take and select more images as the book comes into being.
JRM: How many drafts were there for Wait and See? What type of research did you do for the book? And did you write the back-matter as well?
HF: It’s impossible to say how many drafts there are, because I save my work hour by hour as I go. But I think I could estimate that there are between 20 and 50 versions. I sometimes change a line in the poem to “match” an image I love, and Rick sometimes finds a better image for a line we don’t want to let go.
Yes, I do a lot of research as I write the poems, and continue to learn more as I write the backmatter. I begin with books and online research, and correspond with experts as needed.
JRM: What was the most surprising thing you learned about the praying mantis?
HF: I was surprised to learn how many nymphs emerge from one ootheca (egg case). There can be as many as 400—which makes you think about all the dangers they face, and how amazing it is when one survives to adulthood, and you see it looking at you!
JRM: Not only does the book teach about praying mantis, How did you arrive at the title, Wait and See? It says so much more than the arrival of praying mantises and I can see how teachers would use this in the classroom.
HF: Yes, Wait—and See (the dash in the title suggests the waiting) does emphasize an important aspect of the book. Praying mantises are hard to find, and the book can help children learn where and how to look for them, but even more, it shows how important patience is in many ways. I’d love to think that teachers might read this book to children and then go outside and encourage the children to quietly look around and come back in to share what they’ve seen. It would be unlikely to be a praying mantis (though wouldn’t that be great?) but they’ll definitely see something. And maybe the book will help them learn the art and value of being still and attentive in many situations.
If you look at each of our books, there is a “big idea” like this behind each of them. They are often given as gifts (to children and adults) for special life events: birth of a first child or a new sibling (Hello, I’m Here! and Wake Up), engagement or marriage (Among a Thousand Fireflies), milestones such as first day of school or graduation (Step Gently Out and Sweep Up the Sun). And I know that Sweep Up the Sun has brought comfort to people grieving the loss of a loved one.
JRM: You have written several novels in verse. I noticed that you call them “novels in poems”. How did you arrive with this term (which I rather like)?
HF: I love poetry, and I love using different elements of poetry in my picture books and novels; the term “novels-in-poems” (though I’m not adamant about it) is a way of calling attention to that.
JRM: What are your current projects?
HF: Rick and I are collaborating on a new book, probably to come out in 2024, tentatively titled The Mighty Pollinators, about pollen and pollinators. The “big idea” behind this book is that small things like pollen and pollinators are essential. As we were discussing this, Rick pointed out, “Our readers are small, too, and they are important.”
JRM: Thank you, Helen, for giving me and other readers insight on this fabulous insect. I am looking forward to your next project as pollinators are one of my favorite studies.
Anne Irza-Leggat, Educational Marketing Manager at Candlewick, has generously offered a copy of last week's book, Out of This World by Sally Walker and this week's book Wait-and See by Helen Frost.
Leave a comment by April 27 on either blog post to be eligible to win. Winners will be announced next week.
Speaking of Winners...
Mary Lee Hahn, you have won the 3d drawing and optical illusions: how to draw optical illusions and 3d art step by step Guide for Kids, Teens and Students. New edition
and a set of Staedtler Mars Lumograph Art Drawing Pencils, 12 Pack Graphite Pencils in Metal Case .
Congratulations. Tabatha will be sending that out soon.
All photos and poems in these blog posts are copyrighted to Jone Rush MacCulloch 2006- Present. Please do not copy, reprint or reproduce without written permission from me.
2023 Progressive Poem
April 1 Mary Lee Hahn, Another Year of Reading
April 2 Heidi Mordhorst, My Juicy Little Universe
April 3 Tabatha, The Opposite of Indifference
April 4 Buffy Silverman
April 5 Rose Cappelli, Imagine the Possibilities
April 6 Donna Smith, Mainely Write
April 7 Margaret Simon, Reflections on the Teche
April 8 Leigh Anne, A Day in the Life
April 9 Linda Mitchell, A Word Edgewise
April 10 Denise Krebs, Dare to Care
April 11 Emma Roller, Penguins and Poems
April 12 Dave Roller, Leap Of Dave
April 13 Irene Latham Live You Poem
April 14 Janice Scully, Salt City Verse
April 15 Jone Rush MacCulloch
April 16 Linda Baie, TeacherDance
April 17 Carol Varsalona, Beyond Literacy Link
April 18 Marcie Atkins
April 19 Carol Labuzzetta at The Apples in My Orchard
April 20 Cathy Hutter, Poeturescapes
April 21 Sarah Grace Tuttle, Sarah Grace Tuttle’s Blog,
April 22 Marilyn Garcia
April 23 Catherine, Reading to the Core
April 24 Janet Fagal, hosted by Tabatha, The Opposite of Indifference
April 25 Ruth, There is no Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town
April 26 Patricia J. Franz, Reverie
April 27 Theresa Gaughan, Theresa’s Teaching Tidbits
April 28 Karin Fisher-Golton, Still in Awe Blog
April 29 Karen Eastlund, Karen’s Got a Blog
April 30 Michelle Kogan Illustration, Painting, and Writing