Interview with author Lucinda Miller

Today I’m interviewing Lucinda J. Miller, author of the beautiful children’s picture book The Arrowhead, illustrated by Alex Brover, published by CLP.

 

1.    Describe your book The Arrowhead.

The Arrowhead is based on a true story my dad told me of when he was a little boy and prayed to find an arrowhead. One day he was running out to get his dad on the tractor, and looking down, he saw an arrowhead lying in the freshly plowed dirt. I imagined all the years that arrowhead had lain there and all the different people who had used that land before the plow turned it up at just the right moment to answer a little boy’s prayer. I built that history into The Arrowhead and told it through the perspective of a grandpa (my dad) telling the story to his granddaughter.

2. I’ve heard that writing a children’s picture book is harder than writing for adults. Do you agree? Why or why not?

I don’t agree. I think that writing for young children in comparison to writing for adults could be compared to writing a poem rather than a novel, but not that it is necessarily more difficult. A children’s book requires extreme attention to each word, an ear for rhythm, a lively imagination, and the ability to think and write in concrete images—very much the requirements of writing poetry.

3. Picture Books look deceivingly simple, but in reality are complex. What would you say was the most challenging part of writing a picture book?

I would say the most difficult part of writing a picture book was condensing my thoughts into the simplest, most concrete words possible.

4. Picture books contain conceptual layers and conceptual depth. How did you achieve this in The Arrowhead

To be honest, I didn’t think deeply about the layers of thought I wanted to add. I just told a story that resonated in my heart, and told it in a way that children could understand and relate to. Because I wrote the story as though it were being told by a grandpa to his granddaughter, putting it into story language came naturally.

5. What would you say is the most important element in a children’s picture book?

This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many different children’s books that are each deeply beautiful, funny, or resonant in their own way. I do not think one element of writing is more important than another, but rather, that each writer brings a unique set of gifts to the table which she must hone to a sharp edge in order to produce a great children’s book. She has to rely on her native sense of sound, word, and story; and the uniqueness of that is what makes her book special.

6. I would love to write a children’s picture book someday. What advice would you give to someone wanting to write a children’s book?

Just have fun with it. Children’s books are all about fun and imagination. Some of the best advice I have heard as a writer is to PLAY more. Try new things. Put words in upside down orders. Ask questions. Let your imagination expand. Enjoy the process.

7. What was your inspiration for this book?

I wrote this book during a creative writing class, just to see if I could. When I started writing it, I thought of a children’s book I love that has a repeating line in it: “No bears, no bears, no bears at all, no bears on Hemlock Mountain,” and tried to incorporate the same sort of repeating rhythm into my story. Although my finished book is very different, having that story in my mind when I started gave me a sense of direction, a launch pad for my imagination.

8. What made you decide to write the story from your father’s viewpoint?

I wanted to write the story in a way that sounded as though it were being told. My Dad told me many stories when I was a little girl, and I love the rhythm of oral story telling. My goal was to preserve that flavor.

9. How does the reader connect and identify with the central character?

I give more space to describing the central character, Ted, than I do to the other characters, and I give him a desire, something he wants and can’t get. These are classical methods in any form of storytelling to cause readers to connect with the main character.

10. You said you wrote this story in a creative writing class. What is the most relevant thing you learned in that class?

The most relevant thing I learned in that class, not only for this book, but for all my writing, is to embrace my own individuality. I had an excellent writing professor who somehow made it click with me that I don’t need to imitate others’ stories; I can write my own. Sometimes it is useful to imitate style, as I did when I tried to pattern the rhythm of the The Arrowhead after the rhythm in No Bears on Hemlock Mountain, but I never again thought the content of my work needed to fit a certain mold of what had been written before.

Thank you so much, Lucinda, for joining us today. May God bless you in your future writing endeavours!


To learn more about Lucinda and The Arrowhead visit her blog, Properties of Light.

Cooking with my Children

Over the years my children and I have cooked many meals together. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

Good helpers: Getting three meals on the table each day is time consuming and a lot of work. Children helping divides both the time and the work. Not only are they learning to be good helpers in the kitchen, they’re learning the important life skill of cooking.

Let them do fun stuff. A child’s interest wanes quickly if the only thing he gets to do is peel vegetables and set the table, so let them knead the dough and stir the soup and fill the pastries.  They’ll enjoy cooking.

The mess is worth it. Especially when they were all younger, it was mandatory that we cooked supper altogether on most school days. This prevented squabbling or making messes in the other room. Most times the help outweighed the cooking messes.

The mess is NOT worth it. Sometimes the stress and mess of little cooks just isn’t what Mom can handle right then. If we are getting dinner company or the day has already felt like 3 days, it’s just easier to not have little cooks in the kitchen. And that’s okay! Quiet toys and books or playing outdoors is a good alternative.

Cooking good relationships. There’s good food being cooked and relationships are being built. Working in the kitchen together provides comradeship, opportunity for good conversations and much happy memory making.

Have fun cooking together!