It seems fitting that today, Father’s Day, is when I am hosting a delightful author-illustrator team who created the oh so charming One Day I Went Rambling. My father was a great rambler, in every sense of the word. He wandered and discovered and delighted in finding unexpected treasures. Just like Zane, the main character of this picture book written by Kelly Bennett and illustrated by Terri Murphy. This rhythmic rhyming story celebrates imaginative play – I think teachers from preschool through elementary could use this book as a jumping off place for lots of fun lessons and inspiration.
I’d love to read this with a group of kids, then take them exploring. We’d write about our finds — we could write fiction and/or non-fiction, and then we’d have an art lesson using the “treasures,” we’d chart and graph to organize our finds, and we’d make a treasure map… the ideas go on and on!
This busy duo took the time to answer some questions for us here at Writing on the Sidewalk. (WOTS)
WOTS: Please tell us about your writing/illustrating journey.
KELLY: No big surprise that I’d write a book about Rambling. I’ve gone down many different paths, from writing confession stories with titles like “He Was King of the Rodeo While I Was Stuck Back on the Ranch” and “Trapped in an Elevator With a Naked Man,” to Harlequin-style romance and non-fiction for Kindergarners about Labor Day and Chesapeke Bay. Rambling is never the most direct route: More than six years was spent traveling throughout North America meeting storytellers and tribal elders while collecting Native American legends about Spider and Tricksters; 4 years focused on Cambodia in order to research a memoir about a boy’s struggle to survive the Khmer Rouge; umpteen and counting years collecting doggy puns for a beginning reader mystery series that remains to be sold (and about which I remain hopeful), countless dollars and hours creating fishponds after becoming obsessed with goldfish while dreaming up Not Norman: A Goldfish Story, and who knows how many megabytes of memory writing magazine articles. Rambling as I do means I’m never first and I miss some opportunities. But boy am I seeing and learning a lot along the way – from parenting to traveling, otters to orangutans, craters, dead bodies and leaches. Every bend, twist, upset, experience is writing fodder.
Terri: As a kid who loved to draw, I vividly remember that thunderstorms inspired me. I’d smell rain coming and lay out art supplies on the kitchen table as the sky darkened and the thunder cracked. Later I painted for fun, but I never thought of it as a way to earn a living until I was in my early-twenties. I went to art school and freelanced before my two sons were born. Then the world of children’s books opened up to me and I didn’t know who was having more fun with bedtime stories, them or me. Soon I had a revelation…I could do this! A lot of years of learning the art of picture books and rejection and waiting and small victories were part of that terrain.
WOTS: Did you know each other prior to working on this book?
Kelly: Terri and I met the summer after our first book together, Dance, Y’all, Dance, was published (Bright Sky Press, fall 2009); prior to that we had never met, spoken, texted, or tweeted. I happened to be in Chicago for an IRA Conference and Terri and I met to begin planning a picture book workshop for SCBWI-Brazos Valley. That first meeting was a little awkward at first, sort of like a blind date. But soon after exchanging howdys, we were chattering away, and the workshop was a blast! So I was delighted to have another opportunity to work with Terri on One Day I Went Rambling. But even then, although we knew and liked each other, and exchanged emails occasionally, we didn’t discuss Rambling until the art was almost complete.
Terri: Kelly and I published a previous book together called Dance, Y’all, Dance with the same publisher, Bright Sky Press. We met once in Chicago, and in Texas we facilitated a conference together on picture book writing and illustrating. I enjoy Kelly’s humor and easy going style, in both her stories and in life.
WOTS: Have you discovered any treasures in the rough as you ramble along?
Terri: The word “yes” is a pretty good treasure. The slow stories of old men, diamonds dancing on waves, rekindling sparks with long lost friends, the odd look of recognition in a stranger’s eye, a hug that lasts one moment too long, dandelion bouquets, the smell of newborns. I have a theory that we can choose the moments we wish to replay before our eyes when we leave this earth, so as they happen I make a silent wish to “remember this one.”
Kelly:I am always on the lookout for treasure. I have a carved wooden pyramid-shaped cupboard from Indonesia in which I keep my finds. The cupboard has 4 levels of drawers, and each drawer is divided into tiny cubes. I tag each treasure with the date and place I found it and put it into the cupboard for safekeeping. Every so often, I open a drawer and peek inside.
But I’d be remiss, and untrue to my calling, if I didn’t note the best treasure of all that comes from rambling, and that is stories, the stories we only learn when we slow down enough to watch and listen.
WOTS: What tempts you toward procrastination?
Kelly: Every-single-thing, except television (and probably only because I don’t know how to turn our set on.)
I’m like a cat. I circle, circle, circle, clean, prune, purr, grumble, circle more, before I can settle down to work. It’s as though I have to be on a deadline, and if I’m not on one, I’ll impose one on myself as a way of putting on the needed pressure. I actually have to set a timer to make myself sit down. It works!
Terri: I’m a true believer in procrastination as long as it’s mixed in with a healthy dose of work. It’s a time to regenerate, think differently, play attention (I misspelled that but I think I’ll leave it!) and see the possibilities. It’s Rambling Time! I’m still a kid at heart so my sons’ humorous banter and roughhousing will draw me in every time, even though they are now taller than me. I also like to eavesdrop on conversations, follow dragonflies, photograph nature, write in funky cafes and sometimes just drive down the road and see where that takes me.
WOTS: What’s next on your journey?
Kelly: Ah, the road ahead leads down a dark, twisted path toward… Vampire Baby, my next picture book. It’s being published 2013 by Candlewick Press.
Terri: More rambling! Although I’m known for my style of children’s illustration, an artist becomes stagnant and bored if they keep doing the same thing. This summer I will discover new and inventive ways to digitally incorporate my macro nature photography as patterns in illustration. Here is one that has a graphic novel feel to it. Time to ramble, to play attention!
Here are the bios for this incredible and creative team!
Kelly Bennett is the author of many books for children – mostly picture books. Her stories, such as Not Norman: A Goldfish Story, Dad and Pop, Your Daddy Was Just Like You, and Your Mommy Was Just Like You, Dance, Y’all, Dance, and her newest release, One Day I Went Rambling, celebrate imagination, families, friends, pets… all that goes into being a kid!
A native of California, Kelly has rambled through all 50 states, 3 continents and 19 countries on all kinds of transportation from tuk-tuks to tricycles, bajai to bicycles, ojeks, rickshaw and rafts, trains and planes, helicopters and horses, dogs, elephants, camels – oh yeah, cars and feet, too! She holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College. Visit her at www.kellybennett.com.
Terri Murphy is in her second childhood, and there she plans to stay. Born to immigrant parents, she spent a lot of her time as a child observing people, their expressions, and the natural world as she learned the language. Her favorite toy was a pair of binoculars. Now she surrounds herself with with sketches and paint and is once again, immersed in another language.
Terri is an illustrator for children’s books and magazines, educational materials, music cds, and outdoor murals. She is also the representative in Illinois for the Illustrators Network of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). In 2013 she will be the premier illustrator for Illinois’ summer iREAD program, creating posters and illustrations that will be shown in all Illinois libraries and 24 countries.
When not illustrating for children, Terri hosts traveling art workshops, is a nature photographer and enjoys rambling/ finding treasure in the ordinary. See Terri’s illustrations at www.terrimurphyart.com
Thanks for rambling on by today, Kelly and Terri!
Sarah Wones Tomp
WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK