Thursday, July 17, 2008

MARILEE CROW: FROM PE TEACHER TO CHILDREN'S WRITER



Shari: Marilee, tell us a little about yourself.


Marilee: I am an assistant PE teacher in a special education school. I have been married to my best friend for 32 years. We have one daughter. I have been writing off and on since I was twelve years old. I have been published in magazines and in an anthology called, Reading For Little People. Before my first children’s picture book came out, I had a romantic suspense novel published. In my earlier days, I was a competitive gymnast and went on to run a gymnastic center with my husband for eighteen years. After leaving gymnastics I went into the school district as an assistant teacher in special education and have been in that field ever since.

My books released this year are, Montana Madness, a romantic suspense and Down By The Shore, a children’s picture book.

Shari: Have you always wanted to be a writer?


Marilee: Yes. When I was eleven, I was into the Nancy Drew Mystery series and the Hardy Boys. I tried to write my own mystery novel at the age of twelve. When I was really serious about writing novels, and children’s books, I started taking classes and in one of the classes I found out that Carolyn Keene was a made-up name, a fictitious name and many people wrote the Nancy Drew Mysteries under that name. I was shocked at first, then I thought, “hey, I should have turned in that story I wrote when I was twelve years old.”

Shari: What was the inspiration for your recent release?


Marilee: Down By The Shore, is a book that shows life down by the shore through poetic prose and enchanting photos. Originally, I had written the book in rhyme, but it had a lot of problems with meter, beats, etc. I decided I needed to take a poetry class and learn the correct techniques. I’d never heard of blank verse before, but I took my ‘shore’ piece and put it in blank verse. It got such a great response from the class that I decided against putting in back in rhyme.
I did some more tweaking and luckily, Lynda liked it enough to publish it.

Shari: What can you tell us about your children’s books?

Marilee: The books that will be coming out soon are: Cartwheel Annie, Alley Cat, & Does Heaven Get Mail?
Cartwheel Annie is about a young girl trying to be accepted in her own family for being a little different. She likes being upside down more than she likes being right side up. When other children start chanting, Cartwheel Annie, Cartwheel Annie, gonna get dizzy and fall on your fanny, her siblings are embarrassed by her.
Alley Cat is about a cat who has grown up in an alley, but hears stories from one of the other cats about houses with fireplaces, warm milk, and people who cuddle with you and love you. One day, Alley Cat ventures out of the alley to find himself one of those houses.
Does Heaven Get Mail? is about Tina, who wants to send her grandmother a letter, but she can’t because everyone keeps telling her Heaven doesn’t get mail. Tina finds a unique way of getting her letter to Heaven.

Shari: They sound very creative. What do you do for inspiration?


Marilee: I love to go through magazines and pick out interesting pictures. I keep a notebook with all the pictures. For instance, I have a picture of a postcard that has a dog that looks like Dirty Harry, with a frog sitting on his back. I don’t have a dog of my own, but I must like them, because I have several pictures with dogs. One is a white pug, nose to nose with a snow dog. I also have a file with all the funny things my daughter did while growing up. A couple of things have been published in magazines: like the time she thought a waffle was a pancake that got run over by a car.

Shari: Those are wonderful ideas. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have the imagination of a child? What are you working on now?

Marilee: I am working on a story of a squirrel with an extra long tail, hence the title: A Short Tale About a Long Tail. Although the young squirrels adore him because they are able to use his tail as a jump rope and a swing, the older squirrels laugh at his unusually long tail. Of course, the squirrel will save the day and be admired by all. I haven’t thought of a name for him yet, but that’s because it’s still a work in progress.

Shari: What is your favorite children’s book from childhood?

Marilee: Unfortunately, I don’t remember my mother or father reading to my as a child. I do remember having the flashlight under the blanket reading the Nancy Drew books. I do have a favorite book that I read to my own daughter. It is Where The Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. That is definitely my favorite. I remember reading that book for the first time and just staring at the art work trying to take in every detail until my daughter would say, “Mom, turn the page.” To me it was the most carefully laid out story ever.

Shari: Where do you like to write?


Marilee: I have a writing room with bookcases and a computer. On my breaks at school, I may layout a story in pen or pencil, but I do the actual writing on the computer. I try to put in two days a week for the children’s books and two days a week for the romance novels. It doesn’t always work out that way if I’m on a roll with one or the other. Two days a week, I belong to a critique group for picture books. We help each other out a lot. That leaves one day to keep my house in order.

Shari: Picture books seem so simple, yet we are told that picture books are incredibly difficult to write. Why is that?

Marilee: I think it’s because the text has to stand alone. Our critique group has taken books and typed out the text and read the book without the pictures. In most cases, the text was so strong that you could visualize the pictures as you were reading. There were a few, however, that had us scratching our heads and wondering how in the world did that one make it. But not many.

Shari: Do you have a website where we can learn more:


DOWN BY THE SHORE is published by Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., Author Marilee Crow and Photo art by Mary Sue Roberts

3 comments:

Jennifer Gladen said...

Great interview Shari and Marilee. I know the Nancy Drew books all too well also. My best friend in childhood and I used to read and swap them all the time.

Jesica Kennedy said...

Great interview. I have a confession. I just read my first Nancy Drew book. I read everything I could get my hands on by Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. I graduated to Stephen King and Dean Koontz by junior high.
I do realize after that single book,I need to read them all.
Sorry for rambling. Thanks again for this great interview.
Blessings,
Jessica Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer
www.jessicakennedy71.blogspot.com

Jennifer Gladen said...

Shari,
I just wanted to let you know the Brilliante Weblog Premerio 2008 Award is going around and I nominated your blog. I love the interviews - they're so informative.

The full explanation of the award is on my blog:

www.jgladen.blogspot.com