If you’ve followed my blog for a while now, you know that I LOVE a good fairy tale spin. Today’s book is just that.
Susan Stevens Crummel lived all over the world when she was younger because her dad was a Navy pilot. She came back home to Texas to go to college and stayed. She was a math teacher for 31 years AND she has published over 20 books! That inspires me to no end!
She and her husband (also an educator) both retired from education and now live in Fort Worth. She has three grown children and six amazing grandchildren her call her Grammy. You can learn more about her at her website.
LITTLE GOOD WOLF is a story I’m surprised I haven’t seen before (and don’t I love it when I get to read a story like that!). The big bad wolves had a son and wouldn’t you know it? He’s just too darn good! SO they send him off to school to learn how to be BAD better. The twists and turns had me giggling every step of the way and Little Good Wolf is adorable. I loved his sweet little heart so much and I was delightfully relieved by the ending of his story. This is one you will want to read for yourself.
Me: You have published over twenty different picture books. So what is it that draws you to writing them?
Susan: My sister Janet Stevens made me do it. For decades, Janet was an illustrator and I was a math teacher. We had always talked about writing together but it didn’t become a reality until an emergency situation arose in 1997. She was asked to write and illustrate a story for a Harcourt School Publication with a deadline was rapidly approaching. She knew what she wanted to draw–she just was stuck on how to word it. I became her voice, and in that week of discussing, writing, and rewriting, we discovered that the collaboration was purr-r-r-fect (a quote from our first picture book together, My Big Dog). Her illustrations and my writing are a “fit” because we share the same sense of humor!
Me: I love that! I also love a good fairy tale mashup. I don’t think I’ve seen a story with a “good” wolf, and I certainly haven’t seen one with a “bad” school. How did you come up with this idea?
Susan: Janet and I adored fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and fables. We read them over and over when we were growing up–that is why you see so many references to them in our books. Little Good Wolf was Janet’s idea. All the time, Janet says, “What if . . . ?” She’s the “Queen of What Ifs.” Like this one: “What if Mr. and Mrs. Big Bad Wolf had a son and he was good.” Bingo. Creative people, like Janet, are always pondering . . . what if? I was a teacher for 30 years, so creating a Bad School was hilarious.
Me: It really is! Many of your stories have also been illustrated by your sister, Janet Stevens. The illustrations in this story were a perfect fit! How does that work? Do you both work on projects together before approaching publishers?
Susan: The writing routine for most of our books has been pretty much the same—Janet throws out an idea and we brainstorm on a plot—sometimes on the phone, sometimes together. I record all our thoughts and ideas so that I can shape them into a story. When a preliminary draft is ready, I send it to Janet who adds her comments. Frequently she makes sketches of the characters to give them a chance to “talk.” Janet is able to visually develop the characters as we write their story. This is a luxury that most authors do not enjoy—in fact many authors never meet their illustrators! Sometimes the entire concept changes as we revise it over and over. Then the editor gets involved and the manuscript takes shape. The evolution of a manuscript is often so slow and so drastic that it is hard to remember the first ideas!
Me: Since you’re related to your illustrator, I also have to ask: were there any illustrating surprises left for you?
Susan: Janet always surprises me when she finishes a spread. The stuffed mime doll on the floor is Janet’s son Blake.
Notice the title of the books being read in Little Good Wolf (they’re other books of our’s):
On the middle shelf —Blake’s toy platypus, which was the origin of our book Plaidypus Lost.
Me: Ha! That’s awesome. I caught the books, but not the others. What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Susan: In the original text and sketches, we both wanted the last page to have a surprise ending—a kicker. The sweet forest animals eat the apple and they turn into monsters.
But we reassessed—things change—and we left it to the reader’s imagination.
Me: I thought that was hilarious and ripe for a sequel! Any advice for new picture book writers?
Susan: 1) Write everyday–use a journal or a piece of scratch paper–it doesn’t matter. You need to get used to pouring out your ideas on paper. If you see something that intrigues you, write it down. If you dream something at night–write it down. A cyclist practices everyday, or he/she can’t win that race. A writer has to do the same.
2) Read everyday. I read all the time—waiting in the dentist office, riding in a car or on a plane.
3) Read your stories to people and watch their reactions. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. You can always make it better, funnier, tighter. Less is better–and it actually takes longer to write!
4) Be FLEXIBLE. What you like may not be what your editor (or teacher) likes or what your audience likes. You can still be true to yourself and listen to the voices of others.
5) Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) to be around people who are actively pursuing writing careers and can get you connected.
6) Be patient.
Q: That is great advice. When you were a child, who was your favorite fairy tale character? Have you already written a story for them?
Susan: The Fairy Godmother from Cinderella is my favorite fairy tale character. Janet and I wrote Jackalope. Here’s Fairy Godrabbit:
She’s a little corny. Why is she my favorite character? Beets me?!
LOL! Thank you for stopping by my blog Susan.
Dear readers, this fairy tale mashup is one you have to read for yourself. It’s funny, clever, and sweet. Trust me when I say that this is one you won’t want to miss.