The Backstory: HOUND WON'T GO
The Backstory is thrilled to welcome author and school librarian, Lisa Rogers to the blog today. Lisa is here to share all about her rhyming picture book, HOUND WON'T GO (Albert Whitman, 2020) with illustrations by Meg Ishihara and to fill us in on where she finds inspiration. Read to the end to find out how you could win a critique from Lisa.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind HOUND WON’T GO.
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
HOUND WON’T GO is a rhyming picture book about an adorable pup who causes a commotion when he takes his time crossing a street. How he becomes motivated to move on is the stuff of the story, but the love between person and pup is the heart.
Lisa, what an adorable story! Your playful rhymes will have children reading along while anyone who has ever had a stubborn pup will immediately connect with your main character. I am sure classrooms, libraries, and homes are filled with stories and connections from smiling children after reading your book.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
Tucker, my 90-pound rescue Treeing Walker Coonhound, was my inspiration. From the first, he wouldn’t go. He wouldn’t get in our car at the shelter. He wouldn’t come into the house from the driveway. He would stop, drop, and plop anywhere with a bit of shade and thick grass. His strong personality led us into some tricky situations that weren’t always funny at first!
I quickly learned to appreciate the humor—and the fact that he had his reasons for doing whatever it was that got us into trouble. I just had to give in to that, because, of course, I loved him, no matter what!
What a nice pup to provide the inspiration for your book. Your backstory is a great reminder to authors about how often inspiration may be right in front of us without our knowledge and to make sure we are being open and aware enough to recognize it. As a teacher, I will use your book along similar lines, to help young students with idea generation and as a mentor text exemplifying how to pull ideas from their lives.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now HOUND WON’T GO? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
Andrew, this is such a great question! The answer is 12 years and immediately. Tucker and I went through zillions of hilarious “not going” times over the 14 wonderful years we were together, but it wasn’t until he was about 12 that I realized I had not only the perfect dog, but the perfect book idea!
Tucker had several lengthy planned walking routes, and he’d switch them up. I never knew exactly where we were going. One day we approached a crosswalk, and I thought, Uh oh. What if I press the walk light and he decides not to cross? Then everyone’s going to be annoyed — and that’s when “Uh oh. Hound won’t go” popped into my mind. I couldn’t wait to get home to work on it, but…of course we first had to actually get home!
Once I had the idea, I wrote down all the rhymes I could think of that might work, but they seemed too pat (though I still love “hits brakes/chomps steaks,” and maybe I’ll get to use it someday!). I had developed a scenario with more mayhem, but on the advice of an editor’s critique, I distilled it to just the one problem. That gave the story more impact (and left me with ideas for follow-ups!).
I decided to use verbs for the end rhymes to avoid the obvious. I adapted the rhythm and vowel and consonant sounds to reflect the story’s action.
When I discovered the heartwarming ending—after another long walk—I knew it was just right for this story!
That moment when an idea strikes like lightning is the best! I love hearing your thought process for your rhymes as well as how you used editor feedback to narrow the focus of the story. Here's hoping we will get to see Hound in another adventure!
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
I was a daily newspaper reporter and editor for 10 years. Every day, it was my job to come up with ideas, research, and write them. I’m still an avid newspaper reader and careful observer of the natural world. I see ideas practically everywhere.
Learning a person’s creative impetus is compelling and the source of many ideas. That’s how 16 WORDS happened—I read a newspaper story about the inspiration for William Carlos William’s poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow” and had goosebumps! I had to write about it.
Your resume as a reporter and school librarian seem like the perfect training for becoming a children's author. You've got idea generation down and a wealth of knowledge and experience with what types of books are resonating with children.
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
All the books that I chose for my students and teachers during my career as an elementary school library teacher! I learned so much by constantly reading the newest books and deciding which to add to the school library. That grounded me in the literature and also in what children self-selected or chose after a lesson or a recommendation.
Picture book biographies, poetry and nonfiction are the genres that leave me wanting to know more, think more, create. I read poetry every day; it keeps my writing ear tuned.
Besides books, my students were a continuous source of inspiration and still are—not for ideas, but because I know what amazing readers they are. They have high standards for what they read and they notice everything. They want to be intrigued, challenged, and satisfied by what they read. It’s a big responsibility to write for them.
I could not have said it better. Your reasons for why students are an inspiration is moving and so true. As authors, we have an obligation to give children the books they deserve. That is hard work, but also a great motivator to continue to push ourselves.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
Musts are paper and pencil, with which I scribble all of my initial ideas, and time to let my thoughts float. I love writing by hand to feel the rhythm of my words.
For reference, I have a huge collection of nonfiction books, children’s and adult, and I’m a constant user of electronic databases for reference (thank you, public library!). Children’s books are brilliant at breaking down complicated topics.
I keep a couple of inspirational quotes where I can see them every day. This one is from Mark Twain: “the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”
Being surrounded by amazing texts is a great resource and inspiration. Also, I hadn't thought about electronic databases. Great tip!
The photo is of the bulletin board above my desk. I have a couple of finish-line photos to remind me to persist; a family tree drawn by my dad; a treasured goal from several years ago (“closer to having a published book”); origami made by my daughter, and other mementos that ground me.
What a motivational board!
Another photo is in my elementary school library, a happy place.
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
It’s essential to take a deep dive into current books—lots of them—and keep at it as your career progresses. Libraries are opening up— scour the new books section to be informed about what’s being published.
When you find books that resonate, examine them carefully to understand why. Notice beginnings, endings, page turns, word choice. Read them aloud to train your ear. It will make an enormous difference in your writing. Attend book launches to learn from and connect with other writers.
Great advice! Libraries are magnificent resources to help writers know the market. And finding those books that resonate with you deeply are the perfect ones to study as mentor texts. You mention so many great elements to investigate that an author could then apply to their own WIPS.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
HOUND WON’T GO was just named a Massachusetts Must-Read for 2021 from the Massachusetts Center for the Book, so that’s super exciting!! I’m also thrilled to have a poem in an upcoming collection from Candlewick Press, edited by the incredible team of Irene Latham and Charles Waters. DISCOVER HER ART: WOMEN ARTISTS AND THEIR MASTERPIECES, which looks at the lives and work of 24 women artists, co-authored with Jean Leibowitz, will be out in February from Chicago Review Press. I can’t wait to share it, because the paintings we chose are absolutely gorgeous!
Congrats on all of that fabulous news! I look forward to checking out your forthcoming work.
Where can people connect more with you?
I’m happy to connect with writers on Twitter at @LisaLJRogers or via my website contact form at lisarogerswrites.com.
Readers be sure to follow Lisa on Twitter to keep up with her latest writing happenings and don't forget to check out HOUND WON'T GO, (Albert Whitman, 2020) illustrated by Meg Ishihara.
Lisa thank you for joining me on the blog today and sharing the backstory behind HOUND WON'T GO and all about what inspires you as a writer.
Thanks so much for hosting me on The Backstory, Andrew!
Lisa is generously offering a picture book manuscript critique to one lucky winner. Lisa is open to critiquing any genre and willing to critique rhyming or nonrhyming manuscripts.
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Like our FB page and comment on this week's post.
4. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT LISA ROGERS
Lisa Rogers is an elementary school librarian and former newspaper reporter and editor. Her debut picture book, 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW,” illustrated by Chuck Groenink (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2019), received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, is a Bank Street Best Children’s Book, a Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice, a Junior Library Guild selection, an ALSC Notable Books shortlist book, and a winner of the Boston Authors Club Julia Ward Howe award.
HOUND WON’T GO, a rhyming picture book illustrated by Meg Ishihara (Albert Whitman, 2020), is a 2021 Massachusetts Must-Read book and was inspired by her rescue dog, Tucker. Her poems are included in FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN (Writers’ Loft Press, 2020) and one of her poems will be included in an upcoming collection edited by Irene Latham and Charles Waters. DISCOVER HER ART, coauthored with Jean Leibowitz, will be out 2/2022 from Chicago Review Press.
Lisa lives outside Boston with her family and intrepid hound and is a four-time runner of the Boston Marathon.
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew’s background of being surrounded by children, both at work and at home, has been a treasure trove of inspiration.
A nature lover, Andrew can be found exploring the woods of Massachusetts with his wife and three kids.
While often witty and imaginative, Andrew’s stories can also delve into the more serious and emotional topics that children can experience.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.