Posted by: nancyisanders | July 31, 2009

Author Interview: Merrily Kutner

Meet Author Merrily Kutner!

Featured Book:
Down on the Farm
Written by Merrily Kutner
Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

Chase one very naughty goat through the sights and sounds of a busy day DOWN ON THE FARM.

Q: Please share about the exciting online writing course you’re teaching this fall for UCLA.
A: I’ll be teaching the course entitled Structuring Your Picture Books Like the Pros: A Beginning Workshop. As the title says, it’s a beginning workshop that teaches the new writer the craft of picture book writing through writing exercises and assignments. We also explore the concept of book diagramming, a technique to examine underlying story structure. In our virtual classroom students share their work and thoughts about books and writing. There are discussions about picture books from the required texts as well as past and current successful picture books from other assigned reading lists.

Q: What books do you plan to use to guide your students along the journey of learning how to write picture books, and why?
A: There are four required paperback texts: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold Underdown and Lynne Rominger and Eve Heidi Bine-stock’s How To Write a Children’s Picture Book: Volumes I, II, and III. In addition there are other assigned picture books such as: Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor, The Wolf’s Chicken Stew by Keiko Kasza, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Wellems, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin, and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka to name a few. The books chosen for the course will familiarize the students with what has come before to help them analyze what works and why.

Q: Describe a highlight for you personally while teaching this course.
Many times students experience unexpected personal issues during the course that could stand in the way of their continuing. When this happens I really try to make arrangements so that they can continue as I know they have taken the course for personal growth and fulfillment. One student told me that continuing the course sustained her and helped her get through her difficult time. That was very satisfying for me.

Q: Share one tip you’d like to offer to a student who is considering taking a writing class or who is currently enrolled in one.
I think that students should take a pass/fail so they could forget about grades and focus on learning the craft of writing. Students should focus on formulating an original concept or storyline (with the knowledge of underlying structure), concentrate on writing compactly with strong verbs and with a distinct beginning, middle and an end that makes the story satisfying to a young audience.

Thank you, Merrily, for this exciting information! For anyone interested in signing up for Merrily’s Fall online class at UCLA, here’s the title and course number:
Structuring Your Picture Books Like the Pros: A Beginning Workshop (online) Fall semester 2009 Course # V3373, begins 9/23/09 -11/25/09. Come join us.

Be sure to watch for Merrily’s upcoming new book, ALPHABET MAGIC, from Neal Porter Books in Fall 2010.

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