Interview with Author Karma Wilson!

Karma Wilson is the highly successful author of the Bear and Friends Book Collection, of which Bear Snores On was her first published book (released in 2002). Since then Karma has had more than 30 books accepted for publication. Many of those are on the shelves of libraries and bookstores around the world.

Her book Moose Tracks! was featured in my Challenging Assumptions post a few weeks ago—you should definitely read this book if you haven’t yet!

Many of her books have received numerous state and national awards, been translated into dozens of languages, and a few have made an appearance on the New York Times bestseller list. Karma sincerely hopes that her books bring joy to children and families everywhere. (extracted and adapted from author website)

karma wilson bannerYou can connect with Karma on her website, Instagram, and Twitter.

Thanks so much for joining me, Karma!

Your books are a staple of our story times, especially at bedtime. In part, this is due to the lovely rhythm of your writing. I’ve read that picture book writers are told NOT to write in rhyme, yet your rhyming has been a key to your success. Do you prefer to write in rhyme? Do you have any advice for authors looking to develop or polish their rhyming skills?

When I first started writing for children I avoided writing in rhyme, though I was personally quite drawn to it. But “the rules” said NO RHYME, NO TALKING ANIMALS! So for three years I followed those rules. I piled up a lot of rejections. I was actually on the verge of giving up writing picture books and decided my last ditch effort would be a rhyming picture book with a talking animal (GASP!). And thus Bear Snores On was born. It felt SO GOOD to write what came naturally to me. I am a rare breed that has a hard time writing straight prose. Rhyme pares my word choices down, and provides me with structure that helps me move my story along. Maybe due to a musical background (hobbyist vocalist), rhythm and rhyme come more naturally to me than many writers. My tips for authors wanting to write rhyme is first to ask yourself, do you read a  lot of rhyming books? Do you find yourself making up rhymes for your animals, your children, your day to day activities? If rhyme is a struggle, it might not be the best choice. If rhyme feels like comfy slippers, you should pursue it. But you still need to hone the craft. Read rhyme. Listen to rhyme. Join a critique group with established rhymers. Rhyme is not a crime (groan) but it’s also not the best fit for every author.

You mention on your website that you didn’t consider writing as a career because it was your mother’s career and, therefore, seemed dull. Did you try your hand at writing as a child? Was there an advantage to having an author as a mother when you started writing picture books?
My mother and I were actually estranged when I sold my first book. We hadn’t spoken in years. We’re now best friends, so that’s a change! I wrote cathartically as a  child/teen but not in any serious way. I wrote sullen poems and ridiculous heavy metal songs. The advantage of having an author as a mother was a very big advantage: I had an unlimited access to books and a mother who modeled reading and writing. I actually had some dysfunction growing up and ended up dropping out of high school and having problems with substance abuse, but my literacy helped me overcome these challenges and go on to get my GED, take some college and TA DA, become the author I am today. My mother’s greatest gift to me was a love of words and reading.
As a child, you were a prolific reader, and I assume this has influenced your career as a writer. What was your favorite book as a child? What was your favorite picture book to read with your children?

Too many favorites to list, but some I remember the most are: 

With my children I read a lot of Kevin Henkes, Helen Lester, Margaret Wise Brown, and Shel Silverstien. One of our very favorites was Goodnight Moon.
Everyone I know loves Bear​ from the Bear Snores On series and will be excited to learn that there’s a new Bear book coming this fall—Bear Can’t Sleep. Did you envision such an extensive series when you initially wrote Bear Snores On? Can you say a little about how you developed the characters of Bear and his friends?

I absolutely didn’t think it would be a series. It became a viable series in my mind when I saw the classic appeal of Jane Chapman’s art. Seeing the characters gave me the motivation I needed to continue creating stories for them. The characters in Bear are rather a collective “family character” and, as I wrote them, I realized my primary goal was to offer children a safe haven where love and friendship was the norm, where kindness and gentleness were modeled, and where problems were solved with cooperation and caring. I think children need that more than ever right now.

Moose Tracks! is one of our favorite books—it’s so funny! And of course, I love how it opens the door to discussing the protagonist’s assumption that he could not be the source of the mess. How did the concept for this book develop? 

I actually was eating Moose Tracks ice cream (have you had it? THE BEST!) and I thought that there needed to be a funny book with that title. Funny thing, I had no idea the moose was the narrator until I was halfway done with the story!  

You’ve written two books of poetry: What’s the Weather Inside? and Outside the Box: A Book of Poems. How does the experience of writing poetry differ from writing picture books?

The process is very much the same except you have to come up with 100 mini stories instead of one. It took me two years to complete each of my poetry volumes. But I very much enjoyed the process!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
YES! I’m very excited about my next book coming out in June. It’s a picture book titled A Dog Named Doug, illustrated by Matt Myers, published by Margaret K McElderry imprint of Simon & Schuster. It’s about a dog who loves to dig so much he digs his way all over the world and back home. I think kids will DIG IT! It’s a book chock-full of teaching opportunities including alliteration, homonyms, synonyms, geography, and more! It’s available for preorder from online retailers or your local indie book stores now.

Thanks so much for the interview!