Just in time for Halloween, I’m delighted to interview Laura Wynkoop and Jennifer Cole Judd, co-editors of the funny and spooky poetry anthology, An Eyeball in My Garden And Other Spine-Tingling Poems, (Marshall Cavendish Books, 2010).
Laura Wynkoop writes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, puzzles, and crafts for children’s magazines including include Boys’ Quest, Children’s Playmate, Fun For Kidz, Highlights for Children, Hopscotch for Girls, Jack and Jill, Turtle, and Wee Ones. With a background in education, she has also published more than 50 lessons and activities with Gryphon House, Inc.
Jennifer Cole Judd writes poetry and fiction for children. Her magazine credits include Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, Fun for Kidz, and Hopscotch for Girls. Eyeball in My Garden features six of her poems. Her first picture book, Circus Train, will be published by Amazon Publishing.
Laura S.: Welcome, ladies. To get us started, can you tell us a little bit about An Eyeball in My Garden And Other Spine Tingling Poems?
Jennifer: Eyeball is middle-grade anthology of spooky poetry featuring 44 spooky poems written by 14 spooky poets from around the country. There are poems about haunted trains, funny zombies, ghost fish, and more. The book is geared to ages 8-12, but really, at any age, if you love spooky and funny, you will enjoy the book! Laura and I served as editors on the project. All of the poets featured in the book are either past or present members of the Poets’ Garage (an online critique group).
Laura S.: This project is the baby of the Poet’s Garage. How did you get the idea for the project?
Laura W.: It’s hard to believe, but this baby was born exactly six years ago this month. In October 2006, Bill Peery (the founder of the Poets’ Garage) came to me with an idea to create a Poets’ Garage anthology on bugs. We talked about it for a bit, but weren’t sure we’d be able to pull it off successfully. In a strange twist of fate, our critique forums happened to be filled with Halloween poems, and Jen jokingly suggested in one of her critiques that we all band together and write an anthology of spooky poems. Since Bill and I had just been discussing the possibility of collaborating on an anthology, we decided that it might be fun to come up with a collection of spooky poems. I asked Jen if she’d be interested in helping to manage the project, and happily, she said yes. Within a week, we’d created a set of guidelines for our members, and within nine months, we had a collection of 48 poems!
Laura S.: What was the editing and compilation process like?
Jennifer: Editing was a lot of fun and a great learning experience for us. Laura and I work well together and we developed a great friendship in the process of compiling Eyeball. She’s awesome! Gathering poems for submission was unique in the “anthology world,” as all writers were in the Garage and we were already all familiar with each other and comfortable critiquing each others’ work. The process was very involved, but positive! All poets who wanted to contribute sent us up to 6 of their best poems. We worked with each contributor to help polish each poem for submission (including our own poems). Garage members all voted on the “sample batch” to be submitted to publishers, and voted on the working title of the submission. It was very much a collaborative effort!
Laura S.:Poetry books for kids are a hard sell in this market, yet you managed to get Eyeball published by a well-respected national children’s publishing house – without an agent! What was that like? What role did you play in getting it ready for final publication?
Laura W.: Jen and I spent several months carefully conducting our market research, and in October 2007, we submitted our queries and manuscripts to 17 publishing houses. We got a few form rejections, as well as a few personal rejections. Then, in August 2008, we received an interest letter from Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books. They said they really liked our sample poems and would like to see the entire manuscript. We immediately mailed it off, and three months later, we had an offer!
Once the contracts were signed, we discovered that the work was just beginning. There was the matter of the editorial letter, revisions to be made, poems that didn’t make the cut, and new poems that had to be written. Our final collection of poems had to be edited and re-edited (and edited again) throughout the following year. It was so exciting (and such a relief!) when the process was finished, and our Advance Reader Copies arrived in the mail.
Laura S.: The feedback you’ve received from Eyeball has been overwhelmingly positive. What do you think is the secret to it’s success?
Jennifer: Eyeball has appealed to a wide audience. When it was first published, many of our contributors held fun Halloween events and readings across the country to introduce the book to kids and schools. It’s a nice way for teachers introduce poetry to children in elementary school. And sales have confirmed what we already guessed—young readers love spooky stuff! Eyeball really has something for every lover of spooky—slightly more sinister delicacies like “Haunted” and “Where Nightmares Dwell” to really comical pieces, like “Zombie Kid Blues” and “Dracula Goes Coffin Shopping.” There are loads of original creepy characters, too, like “Spooky Jack” and “Swamp Witch” and “Spooky” (who, incidentally, runs a regular column on our blog…for the brave and curious, you might wander over there to learn more about him!).
Laura S.: Last, but not least, where can interested readers pick up a copy of the book?
Laura W.: An Eyeball in My Garden And Other Spine Tingling Poems is available from Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Target.com, and many independent retailers. Please check IndieBound.org to find a bookstore near you.
Laura S.: Thanks so much ladies, for sharing with us a little of the back story behind this great collection of spooky poems. To learn more about Laura and Jennifer and Eyeball check out these great links: