i. I work as a children’s author. I think of myself primarily as a poet, one who writes in rhyme, but recently I’ve begun to branch out into writing picture book texts in prose. However, these stories contain plenty of word play, which I consider a close cousin to poetry.
ii. I do this creative work because:
I can’t imagine doing anything else. Except for a brief time in grade two when I thought I might want to be a veterinarian when I grew up (until I found about putting animals ‘to sleep’), I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Words make me happy!
iii. Personal qualities that help me in my work:
I’m super picky—and persistent. Although my standards are high, I stick with a project until I’ve gotten as close to achieving my goal as possible. I doubt I will ever be entirely satisfied with anything I write but this keeps me searching for new, more creative ways to express myself. It also helps that I’ve never completely grown up and still enjoy spending hours in imaginary places with imaginary friends.
iv. The greatest challenges around doing this work are:
First of all, putting pen to paper. (I’m old- school and still write early drafts longhand in a notebook.) An idea in my head seems limitless while, as soon as I start writing, that idea becomes limited by the words I put down. Which brings me to the second challenge: finding the ‘right’ words. When I write in rhyme, I want my rhymes to contribute to the poem, not be there merely for convenience. Both my poems and my picture book texts rarely have more than 500 words—in fact, most are half that length—so every single word matters.
Finally, there’s the challenge of locating a publisher who wants to publish what I’ve written. I was extremely fortunate to work with Tradewind Books in Vancouver on my three collections of rhymed verse: Floyd the Flamingo and his flock of friends, Baad Animals and Rainbow Shoes. Few publishers will risk publishing collections by an unknown poet. Now I have an agent—Hilary McMahon at Westwood Creative Artists—who gets to look after the stressful part of trying to sell what I’ve written. She’s my hero!
v. Creative childhood hobbies:
Singing, acting, playing the tuba (which I would love to get back into doing), spending hours in imaginary places with real friends, reading (especially the classics and of those, especially Charles Dickens) and, of course, writing—mainly poetry but I also got a kick out of rewriting novels we read in school from a different point of view. Yep, I was a nerd and proud of it!
vi. Other creators who inspire you:
There are too many to count. But top of the list is my 15-year-old daughter, Jewell. She is an artist and maker and such a confident, curious, talented young woman. I often tell her that I want to be like her when I grow up!
vii. Training that has helped me succeed in this career:
Working as a picture book editor. Providing feedback on other authors’ manuscripts helps me be more objective when revising my own. Plus I now see my own editor’s comments as helpful suggestions rather than an indication that my work isn’t good enough—at least most of time! Being mom to three kids keeps me hopeful in times that aren’t.
viii. The biggest myth about this type of work is:
That books are made by one person or, in the case of picture books, sometimes two. I’ve found it to be a very collaborative process, with many creators involved—an illustrator, editor, copy-editor, designer, art director, marketing team, etc. The more open I am to others’ input, the more possibilities there are to make the book the best it can be.
ix. Some proud career moments:
The publication of my first collection of children’s poems, Floyd the Flamingo and his flock of friends, back in 2004. The publication of every single book after that. But most of all, during a school or library visit, seeing a kid really connect with my work. That’s truly the best.
x. If you want to work in my field, I suggest that you:
Learn all you can about the business side of children’s books so you know what’s what, familiarize yourself with the work that’s out there and then don’t give up. I’m a big believer in making what you want to happen actually happen.
xi. A professional goal I have for the future:
I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’d like to write a chapter book. I swore I wouldn’t, couldn’t, that I was ‘only’ a poet. But I’m writing picture books now and I didn’t think I could do that. So maybe a chapter book, especially one in free verse, isn’t an impossibility…
xii. If you want to see my work:
Go to your favourite bookstore (bricks and mortal or online) or your local public library. I have a brand-new picture book called Tree Song out from Annick Press. The book tells the life story of a tree in rhyme and is beautifully illustrated by Holly Hatam. I also occasionally have a poem in Chirp magazine. Look for one in the September 2018 issue.
A snippet from my book Teatime, along with a gorgeous illustration by Jori van der Linde, is on a plaque on a lamppost at Kits Beach Park as part of the Vancouver Public Library’s Reading Lights initiative. You’ll find my poem about probability, “Dragon Surprise,” on the Math Storytime app. Check out mathstorytime for more information. And you can visit me online at tiffanystone.