Author Interview: Tracie Vaughn Zimmer on Reaching for Sun

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer on Tracie Vaughn Zimmer: “Let’s see, I’m an identical twin. I’ve got two fabulous kids. Chocolate is a major food group for me. I collect refrigerator magnets and I write books for kids–mostly poetry. Since poetry barely buys shoes, I also use my teaching credentials to write discussion guides, book-club guides, and other school-related materials for all the major publishers. It is one sweet gig to be paid to read books I would be devouring anyway. I love visiting schools and sharing my love for poetry and children’s books and writing!”

Congratulations on the publication of Reaching for Sun (Bloomsbury, 2007)! Where did you get the initial idea for this book?

Since Sketches from a Spy Tree, illustrated by Andrew Glass (Clarion, 2005) was set in a whole neighborhood, I wondered if I could write a book set in a single yard. It ended up expanding in revisions though–in every direction and season.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I revised a dozen times over four years for different editors and houses who would eventually consider it “too” quiet, poetic, “too” something for publication. It finally found Melanie Cecka who started to turned it down but then called my agent back because she couldn’t get Josie and Gran out of her head. She gently pulled the rest of the story out of me…

Are you doing anything special to promote your new release?

A blog tour! No suitcase, no airports, and I never have to put on pantyhose. Hooray!

What do you love about the writing process and why?

Trying to find that perfect word or image that will bring a character or moment to life. Plot hides from me so I rely on my writing partners (uber-talented team Julia Durango (author interview) and Jessica Swaim) to help me unearth one.

What about do you wish you could skip and why?

Nothing. I just won’t complain because it is such a dream come true to be an author. I still pinch myself sometimes.

How about publishing? What do you love about it? What do you abhor? And again, in both cases, why?

Meeting other kindred spirits in writers, librarians, teachers, publishing people and booksellers. Passionate and generous, all.

Abhor? Celebrity books. No explanation required, methinks.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Read. Everyone says it but it’s true. Reread the books that haunt you and figure out why (and keep a journal or blog about what you learned). Carve out time to write until it is a habit then you won’t be. Able. To. Stop. (like me with Hershey’s Kisses).

How about those interested in poetry in particular, both in terms of the craft and the market?

Don’t give up on poetry!!! Yes, the market is tight but I’m a slush-pile survivor so you can be, too.

I’d like to be a Poetry Preacher–I truly believe it can transform children’s reading skills (fluency, vocabulary And comprehension) but even better than all that it grabs the hand of its reader and changes the way we see the world.

In addition to your own, what books in verse do you especially recommend for young readers and why?

All of Maria Testa, Karen Hesse, Helen Frost, Jennifer Roy, Sonya Sones, etc. Etc.!

Other poets: Kris George, Walter Dean Myers, Joyce Sidman, Marilyn Singer, Nikki Grimes, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Ralph Fletcher, etc!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Yes, actually: Tantalize Rocks!!