Welcome to #SeasonsOfKidLit, monsters, witches...and humans, too! Today, the master of rhyme, and spooktacular storyteller, Diana Murray is joining us. She has three slightly spooky, but totally fun, seasonal stories to share with us, including her newest release, Groggle's Monster Halloween. Want to know more about her, all her adorable characters, and the wickedly cool rhyming skills she possesses? Read on...
Q: Hi, Diana. Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit! I'm excited to have you and talk about your frightfully fabulous books. You are what I, and anyone who’s read your books, would consider a master of rhyme. Can you tell us a little about how you got your start in writing rhyming books?
A: I wrote some poetry when I was young, but it was always free verse. I didn't really discover rhyming verse until I started reading books with my first daughter. I noticed that when I read rhyming books with her, it seemed to heighten her focus and make it easier for her to join in by completing sentences. And I also personally loved the musical rhythm and the puzzle-like cleverness of the meter and rhyme scheme. It took me a long time to build my skills. I read books and articles about it, practiced, and shared my work with other writers. I was also lucky enough to have a great mentor by the name of Bob Schecter. He's extremely knowledgeable about poetry and helped open my eyes to everything that was possible. I met Bob and lots of other writers on the SCBWI discussion board. That was back around 2007 and I'm still friends and critique partners with many of them today.
Q: Grimelda the Very Messy Witch is a wonderfully rhymed and slightly spooky read for the season! Can you share more about the book, and how you came up with the idea for Grimelda?
A: I came up with the idea while participating in the first ever PiBoIdMo (which is now called "Storystorm") on Tara Lazar's blog. It was an online challenge to create one picture book idea every day for a whole month. I found that event very useful. It forced me to slow down at the idea stage rather than rushing into writing something immediately. Anyway, that was one of the ideas I wrote down. It started with the character. The character of Grimelda is basically based on me! I am constantly losing things and I struggle with being neat and orderly.
Grimelda is an extreme exaggeration of that. She is a witch who revels in being messy and is reluctant to admit it causes any problems, even though she constantly loses things. When she can't find an ingredient to make the pickle pie she is craving, and she can't even find her spell book, she is forced to go on a cleaning spree. During the cleaning spree she finds all kinds of surprises! Grimelda does not learn her lesson in the end, but readers will figure that out for themselves.
Q: Grimelda appears again for another messy (but fun) adventure in Grimelda and the Spooktacular Pet Show! What can readers expect to see in this story?
A: In the sequel, readers will see more of Grimelda's world and the creatures who inhabit it. She wants to enter her cat in a pet contest, but after seeing another witch's cool dragon, she doesn't think her little fuzzball is "spooktacular" enough. So she tries to search for a new pet. Her messiness causes some problems on stage, and there is a harrowing encounter with a bog beast, but her cat Wizzlewarts comes through and proves just how spooktacular he really is.
Q: Your newest rhymed release in 2022, Groggle's Monster Halloween, follows Groggle and Snarlina as they head out to trick or treat. Can you tell us about these furry monsters' fun adventure, and how you lightly mix in rhyming elements?
A: The first story (Groggle's Monster Valentine) was written in prose with rhyming elements in the form of cards written by Groggle. But the second one is actually fully written in rhyming metrical verse. In the sequel, Groggle joins his "beast friend" Snarlina to go trick-or-treating through the neighborhood. That gave the illustrator, Bats, an opportunity to create all sorts of new characters, such as a werewolf with tattoos and a mummy having a spa day.
Q: Groggle and Snarlina previously had a sweet Valentine's Day adventure where Groggle struggled with his immense appetite. What new appetite-related obstacles will Groggle face in Groggle's Monster Halloween?
A: At the start of the evening, Snarlina breaks her mermaid crown. Groggle cheers her up and helps fix it because "that's just what good friends do." But as they begin trick-or-treating, Groggle's monster appetite kicks in. He tries his best but can't control it. He ends up eating every treat before it even lands in his pumpkin pail, and eventually even eats the pail itself! So he is left with no loot at the end of the night. And if you have kids, you know that sorting through the loot at the end of the night is perhaps the best part of trick-or-treating! According to School Library Journal, the book is "[A] colorful, eye-popping ode to Halloween [with] sweet messages about friendship"
Just check out this wonderful artwork by Bats, everyone! Groggle surely seems like a BUNCH of FUN!
Thanks for a peek into your spooky books, Diana. It was truly de-frightful!
Q: Would you like to leave a Trick or a Treat for the readers?
A: I think I will leave a trick. The trick has two layers.
Firstly, don't give up. Everything in this business is slow. Sometimes excruciatingly slow. But it's a marathon, not a sprint. So you have to keep moving forward if you want to get to the end. Rejections are just pebbles on the road. Keep up a slow, steady pace. Cups of water on the way can be poems or short stories you sell to magazines. They'll keep you energized. And don't forget to celebrate each mile marker!
But the other layer of that is...don't get stuck on one manuscript. If a tree falls on the path and blocks you, you can try to get over it or around it, but you might eventually need to take a different path entirely. And that's OK! Give yourself lots of options. The important thing is to keep going.
Thanks for sharing such AMAZING tricks, Diana!! Readers, please leave a comment thanking Diana for stopping by.
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About Diana Murray:
Diana Murray is the author of over twenty children's books, including Jr. Library Guild selections like CITY SHAPES (Little, Brown 2016) and GOODNIGHT, VEGGIES (HMH/Clarion, 2020), as well as the bestselling UNICORN DAY series (Sourcebooks), and award-winning early readers like PIZZA PIG (Step-into-Reading/Random House, 2018). Diana grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two children, and a dancing dog. http://www.dianamurray.com
For more about Diana, check out the below links:
To purchase Diana's books on Amazon, or to leave a review, click here.