If you don’t know who Tara Lazar is, well … let me introduce you. She’s inspirational, funny, and very generous with her time and support. She’s the inventor of Storystorm (formerly known as PiBoIdMo) which encourages creativity and inspiration every January: 30 ideas in 30 days. She also supports new writers in their endeavors, blogging about their achievements. AND she supports unpublished writers in bringing great advice and insight via her variety of author friends’ blogs as well. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Tara has an incredible sense of humor. It comes through in her blog, hosting Storystorm, AND in her picture books. My favorite memory of Tara is Skyping with her during World Read Aloud day two years ago with my classroom. When she answered the call, she was a giant purple gorilla. Or rather, she had her giant stuffed version of Normal Norman answer the phone and the kids were laughing their little butts off. They loved her! And I was stunned at the brilliance of such a simple moment. Not only did she advertise her new book, but she gained a ton of instant fans with laughter. And that folks, is genius! <3
If you want to learn more about Tara, you can find her at her blog: https://taralazar.com/
Just like Tara, “Way Past Bedtime” is both funny and smart. It is such a simple plot that I’m sure every writer will be wondering “why didn’t I think of that?” But the humor is what makes it something only Tara could’ve written. EVERY child wonders what fun happens when they have to go to bed. They all dread bedtime and this book capitalizes on that. I won’t say any more for fear of spoiling the plot. So let’s get to our visit with Tara.
Me: What draws you to writing picture books? Why picture books instead of any other form?
Tara: The pictures, of course, are what draws me to picture books. When I was in second grade, my teachers began pushing me away from picture books and toward novels. My first thought was NO, I MUST HAVE PICTURES! I still feel that way—I love how how the words and images play together like two besties.
Me: “Way Past Bedtime” is quite funny, but also surprisingly alliterative. Did you set out writing in alliterative phrases?
Tara: That’s my natural voice, my own quirky language-loving style. Sometimes I have to watch it—I remember ten years ago an editor cautioned me not to get too crazy with language, or it might sound like verbal vomit. (Nice, huh? I wanted to crawl under my chair that day.)
Me: Rich Wake’s illustrations are fantastic. There was one moment that made me laugh right out loud from the picture alone and another that made me wonder what really happened. Plenty of surprises just in the pictures. Did you know about any of these or include any art notes? Or were you just as surprised as readers to see the end result?
Tara: I love Joseph’s partner in the mystery, his cat. I never wrote a cat into the story, nor did I include art notes about a cat. But I believe the story would not be as rich without the cat (and not as Rich Wake, either, LOL). This week I did my first two readings of the book and asked the children to please name the cat!
Joseph and his cat (she really needs a name) were also dressed up as ninjas at one point, which totally surprised me. I love how you turn the page and see Joseph in his bedroom, in that same upside down ninja pose, just like the one in his imagination. That’s the important moment he begins to take action, and the illustrations show that brilliantly.
Me: I LOVED that cat. He added so much flair to the story. I also loved your book trailer with its Bond-esque flair. And now I can’t help but notice the illustration on the back of the book looking like a Bond bullet hole as well. Did you intend for the book to have such a secret agent flair? What gave you the idea for this story?
Tara: Ha, I didn’t notice that!
The story grew out of my own curiosity as a kid and my determination to figure out what kind of party my own parents were having every night after they tucked me in. I mean, why did I have to go to bed right after Happy Days? It would be Happy Days if I could stay up and boogie down with the party guests!
Me: LOL! Happy Days! One of my favorite shows as a kid. Love it! What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Tara: How the story came together fairly well on the initial draft. I never know when the first draft gods will smile down on me or when I will struggle with getting the idea down so I can play around with it. The story is a true reflection of my eight-year-old brain.
Me: Any advice for new picture book writers?
Tara: This is the advice I give to all PB writers, new or experienced: keep writing. This business is difficult to break into but it is just as difficult to keep selling those manuscripts. The more you write, the better your stories, the better your opportunities. I love Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s quote: “Your biggest accomplishment is right around the corner.” That’s what I like to think after every story I create.
Me: Ohhhhhh! Great quote. I have to agree and I’m going to have to remember that one! Okay, what one thing did you fear missing out on the most when you were a kid facing bedtime?
Tara: The party. The desserts. Understanding the jokes in late-night talk shows. (Johnny Carson fascinated me. I miss him.)
LOL! I still miss those late night shows. I can’t stay up late to watch them any more now as an adult either. 😉 Thank you for stopping by today to talk with us about your latest picture book Tara! If you haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, you’ve got to check it out. It’s SO worth the read!
And ladies and gentlemen, you heard it here: just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing, writing, writing. 😉