Join me in welcoming fellow rhymer and picture book author, Rebecca J. Gomez, whose brand new picture book, HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS (Putnam May 2017), co-authored with Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat, just released! HENSEL AND GRETEL has received lovely reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews for its top-notch rhyme and expressive illustrations. To give you a sense of the book, please take a look at the delightful book trailer. Then, enjoy my chat with Becky below!
1. Thanks so much for joining us today, Becky. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become a writer?
I have been writing poetry for as long as I can remember being able to write. Every now and then the thought of “I should publish a book of poems someday” would enter my mind as a teen and young adult, but actually becoming an author wasn’t something I ever thought I would do. That changed in my mid-twenties after I started writing my own Bible study curriculum for the youth group my husband and I were leading. Writing curriculum led to writing stories for the youth group newsletter, which took me in directions I never thought my writing would go. With three young children at home at the time, I had plenty of inspiration, and there was no stopping me!
2. HENSEL and GRETEL NINJA CHICKS is a fractured fairy tale. What inspired you and Corey to create this new version? What do you hope readers will take away from it?
After the success of THE THREE NINJA PIGS and NINJA RED RIDING HOOD, Corey’s publisher asked her to write a third ninja book, but she wasn’t sure which fairy tale to ninja-fy. So, since we had been writing together for years and years, she asked me to write one with her. I had always wanted to write a new version of Hansel and Gretel, and I thought the idea of Hansel and Gretel as ninjas was ideal! I was right. And Corey was right about them being chickens.
Most of all, I want readers to enjoy HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS as a fun, kick-butt story. But there is also that element of working hard to reach your goal, and not giving up when things get hard or scary.
3. I’m intrigued that you and Corey collaborated on this story. What was it like to co-author this and your first book WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about?
Corey and I first met when she joined an online critique group I was part of back in…2005, I think. She had co-written her first book, HOP! PLOP!, and she thought that she and I would make a great team. I was hesitant to collaborate at first, but I figured it was worth a shot, especially since she already had one book deal.
Writing with Corey has been an incredible experience that has helped sharpen my skills as an author, especially as it comes to writing rhyming stories. She and I always begin a manuscript with a brainstorming session, and then we open up a document in Google drive and begin writing, usually from the beginning. I’ve heard that, with some collaborations, one author will write a draft, then the other author will revise it and send it back, and that continues until they have a finished manuscript. Not so with me and Corey. We generally collaborate on each line from beginning to end, draft to draft. Occasionally we will work separately if we get stuck, or if one of us feels particularly inspired, but in general we move through a manuscript together. And, in case you’re wondering, we do argue now and then.
4. Teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?
The publisher created a story time kit with some fun ninja-themed stuff that kids will enjoy. I’ve also created my own activity pack, including a maze, a word search, and a finger puppet craft that can be used to act out the story.
5. What’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline? Also, where can interested readers find your books?
No official news yet, but there are some things brewing, both for my collaborative work with Corey and my own work. Stay tuned!
I always like to send people to the local independent book store, but HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS is available wherever books are sold. You should also be able to find it at your local library. If they don’t have it, you can request it!
Bio: Rebecca J. Gomez is a picture book author whose only ninja training involved a few Karate lessons when she was in third grade and a few self-defense moves she learned from her son, a real live ninja. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and three kids. Connect with Becky on Twitter and Facebook. You can also visit her website.
Don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY!!!!! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS (Putnam May 2017), co-authored with Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat, simply post a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 6/2/16 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday! THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. Thank you to all who entered.