What a treat today to start the New Year with an interview with one of my favourite children’s poets, Zaro Weil!
Firstly, welcome to The Reading Realm! I wondered if we could start with you introducing yourself and telling us about your children’s books!
Hello everyone! My name is Zaro Weil and I am, like a lot of authors, someone who loves to play with words. Especially words that seem to go together and sound great together. PLUS, I really like making things up. I also like using words to talk about things in the world that mean something deep down to me. I think that is because, like any artist, I am always sniffing out authentic and truthful experiences. And for me, those experiences can be found in nature; in a wonderful cloud in the sky, a blossom on a cherry tree, or a shimmering star in the galaxy. So with these things in mind, I find that my words have the most fun, the most meaning and are the most truthful and authentic when they are creating poetry together. And for me, it’s poetry about nature.
Another way to look at things…is that I like to think in pictures. A lot of people think in pictures. It’s MAGIC. It’s like dreaming when you’re awake. And when you write poetry, you can figure out how all these unrelated pictures can come together and become an exciting brand new picture. A poem. A poem which you express with words; words which don’t necessarily follow a normal logical order. It’s something totally surprising and totally YOURS.
Not to mention electrifying. It’s like pulling a white rabbit out of a hat. Only the hat is your head and the white rabbit is this poem that’s been waiting inside you anxious to jump out.
Another reason I like to write poetry is because sometimes when I see something, it makes such an impression on me – a WOW moment – that I want to remember it forever.
Both of my new books are similar because they are both about nature. About those WOW moments in nature. Whether it a little thing like a tiny blade of grass or a buttercup, or a big WOW moment like a shooting star or a stormy sea.
Polka Dot Poems; 100 Weird and Wonderful Nature Haiku is for younger poetry explorers and When Poems Fall from the Sky is for older kids and both are about not only the wonderfulness of mother nature but also about taking good care of what mother nature has given us.
Now here I must add, that I am in love – HUGE LOVE- with the cover illustrations and inside illustrations of both of these books and feel incredible admiration for the two brilliant illustrators; Junli Song and Lucy Wynne.
What was your journey like to getting a publisher?
I was very fortunate meeting my publisher, Troika Books. Someone introduced us and I sent a few things to them and they liked it and I liked them and that was that. We work very happily together and I thank my lucky stars every day that I get to work with people who are so knowing and interested and passionate about publishing books. And who share the same profound respect for young audiences and young minds.
What does a day in your life look like when you are working on your children’s books?
I love to write first thing in the morning. And I usually start by editing what I had written the day before. Also, unless there is a serious deadline, I like to work in-between doing things outdoors or in the kitchen (I love to cook) or playing with my two dogs (Spot Guevara and little Haiku).
What is the editing process like for you? What does it involve? What did you have to edit out of this book to make it work?
I edit and edit and edit. And then edit some more. Sometimes my poems don’t look anything like they did in the beginning. If I had to count the average number of edits I make to any book, it would be a HUGE figure. Enormous! I read. Then re-read. Then re-read. Over and over and over until it feels absolutely that every word is where it should be on the page.
What’s the best thing about being a children’s poet?
I love meeting new young minds. Children of all ages inspire me. So I always think of those minds when I am writing and secretly put myself into my audience’s head.
Did you have a favourite story when you were younger?
I loved fairy tales. And fables. Absolutely LOVED them and read every book I could. In fact one of my next books is going to be a volume of my very own fairy tales. And one will be a little volume of my very own fables.
What advice would you give to teachers about how to develop reading for pleasure in their classrooms and schools?
I think teachers are pretty wonderful and think about these things a lot. And take the importance of reading to heart. Maybe the only thing I might add is that encouraging and instilling a love of that which is quiet, still and reflective, is one of the greatest gifts we can offer our children.
How would you envisage teachers using your books in their classrooms?
I am developing a number of teaching activities connected to both books. These can be resourced on my website zaroweil.com. For a wonderful and I mean wonderful group of activities connected with my last book, Cherry Moon, please do check out the brilliant teaching notes writing by the equally brilliant Charlotte Hacking on the CLPE site.
What one thing would you like your readers to know about your books?
To love something . . . to really love something . . .means taking care of it. In the case of my books, we are talking about the whole, wonderful, big fat earth!