Thursday, May 28, 2015

Interview with children's author and poet Katie Grosser

Today's special guest is multilingual children's author and poet, Katie Grosser. Her Facebook page is here

Katie's newest children’s book is Rissa Filial und das Verm├Ąchtnis der Fabelwelt (Rissa Filial and the Legacy of the Fairy Realm). Her newest poem Waldspaziergang (Walk Through The Woods) is featured in the spring issue of the German magazine WOLL.

The focus of today's interview is Katie's newest poetry project, titled Marvelous Mary. It is a collection of poems for children about a little girl called Mary and her everyday life. Each poem features a particular dilemma Mary faces while out and about – having to eat Brussels Sprouts, waiting for her father to come home to unwrap her Christmas presents, being afraid of thunderstorms and monsters or waiting for flowers to grow, to name a few – and shows the young readers how to deal with similar dilemmas in their own lives. This project is particularly dear to me because I have younger siblings and younger cousins, for whom the poems are a great way not only to learn some important life lessons, but also to actually read more. I think it is very important to learn to love the written word at a young age and with my Marvelous Mary poems, I believe reading can not only be educational, but downright fun! The collection of poems also provides a great opportunity for parents to read to or together with their children. And it has been great to work together with my cousin Danika Mosher, who lives in the U.S., and is an artist (you can check out her website at: Danika has drawn up a few sketches for my poems that really capture Mary’s adventures (a couple drawings are included below).

Katie Grosser, born 1990, writes novels, short stories and poems. She lives in Germany, where she is working on her PhD in Communication Studies. Writing has been her passion and constant companion since kindergarten.

In 2014, she finally published her first book, a children’s novel called Rissa Filial und das Verm├Ąchtnis der Fabelwelt (Rissa Filial and the Legacy of the Fairy Realm), which is the first installment in a series of four novels. Katie’s mom is American and her dad is German, so she grew up bilingually and writes in both languages.

Currently, she is passing on her love of the written word in a monthly column in the Westfalenpost Meschede, in which she showcases literature in English worth reading for a German audience. She is also currently contributing one poem to each of the German magazine WOLL’s 2015 issues. You can check out her column and find out more about her further projects on her website.

What do you enjoy most about writing poems?
I love the process of figuring out how to make the content, rhyme and rhythm come together! Usually, I know what I want to write about and once I get started, the words mostly flow from my fingers right into the computer. Sometimes, though, it gets a bit harder and I need more time and work to make particular lines really ring true. The way form and content in poems together create a bigger picture than each alone ever could is simply beautiful. But above and beyond that, I myself really enjoy reading poems and therefore hope to give my readers pleasure when the read my poems. Especially my young readers when I write poems for kids.

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your poems – perhaps a couple of your favorites?
At the moment, my main poetic project is Marvelous Mary. I will give you the first few lines of two of the poems from this collection.

Mary and the Tulips
Mary looked at the ground, her hands on her hips
Her eyes, they were narrowed, and pursed were her lips.

Her Grammie behind her though wore a big smile
And told little Mary to wait for a while.

For now it was spring and in autumn those two
Had planted some tulip bulbs, shiny and new.

Grammie had promised that after the snow
Once it was spring, all the flowers would grow.

Mary could hardly imagine the sight
Of those bulbs blooming in colors so bright.

For now, she could only see brown, soft dirt
In the place from which the flowers would spurt.

Mary and the Monster
A Monster, knew Mary, lived under her bed
She knew it was there and not just in her head!

It slept through the day but it woke up at night
Mary couldn’t sleep – it gave her such a fright.

She sat in her bed, covers up to her chin
And pictured it sitting there, looking so grim.

The Monster was big but had small beady eyes
And teeth that were yellow and long like French Fries!

Its breath smelled so foul and its voice was all rough
Its feet were quite smelly, its manners were gruff.

The Monster itself Mary never had seen
And this was not something on which she was keen.

As you can see, in both poems, Mary is faced with dilemmas. In Mary and the Tulips, she can’t quite believe that flowers will actually grow from the small bulbs she and her Grammie planted so long ago. And in Mary and the Monster, Mary is afraid of what might be under her bed. My poems provide a fun way for young readers to confront problems and quandaries they might be facing in their own lives.

What form are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
Mostly, I write novels. The reason is that novels are ideal to tell long and complex stories featuring many characters and plot lines. Poems tend to be a bit more straightforward when it comes to telling stories, which is why my Marvelous Mary poems always feature one particular problem in each poem. But I actually really enjoy writing short stories as well!

What type of project are you working on next?
Speaking of short stories, one of the projects I am working on is a collection of short stories. I am writing them together with my younger brother. The stories revolve around a week in the lives of a group of loosely connected people in early adulthood – their fears and doubts, hopes and dreams. I am also currently revising a historical novel I wrote a few years ago before I get ready to send it to a publisher. It’s written in German, but is about two young Hessian brothers who fight in the revolutionary war. Recently, I also had an idea for a YA novel that I would like to write in English – but I still have my PhD to finish, so I have to take my projects one at a time.

When did you first consider yourself a writer / poet?
I have always considered myself a writer, ever since I started writing. Just because others might not have perceived me that way didn’t prevent me from feeling like one myself. But of course, I really started calling myself an author publicly when my first book was published in September 2014. That’s also when I set up my website and Facebook page and started publicly talking about my passion and my projects. Now others refer to me as an author or writer as well.

How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for not-yet-published poets?
When it comes to finding the right publisher, poets should buckle down for a long, bumpy ride. It really isn’t easy out there. I actually got really lucky with regards to publishing my poems in the German magazine WOLL this year. A mother of a young boy who had read my children’s novel contacted the magazine’s publisher and suggested that they write a feature on me as a young author. One thing led to another and the publisher and I got into talking and here I am, writing one poem for each issue. My advice is to put yourself out there and keep your eyes open for good opportunities. Plus, do your research. I am constantly on the lookout for literary magazines to submit my poems to or literary contests to enter. But only submit your work if you feel the magazine or contest is a good fit for you – otherwise you are just wasting your own and the publisher’s time.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I am not even sure if it’s a real quirk, but sometimes I feel like I can’t write if I don’t have a nice big cup of tea. Black tea, with lots of milk. Not Earl Grey! English Breakfast Tea is best. I love the taste, of course – otherwise I wouldn’t drink it – but it has become somewhat of a ritual in that I need tea to be able to work.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I really wanted to be a grade school teacher, which in Germany means teaching first through fourth grade. My dad is a teacher, which played into my dream. Once I was older, I became interested in journalism, which had a lot to do with my passion for writing. While I still work as a freelance journalist, my focus is now more on academia. I love working at the university and doing my research. In science, there is a lot of writing to be done, too! However, I still dream of – to paraphrase one of my favorite authors, Jane Austen – living by my pen.

Katie on a class visit

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

If you read novels or poems by young and not yet well-known authors, let them know if you enjoyed their work! Since I myself am a young and not yet well-known author, I know how great it feels to get positive feedback. I love visiting school classes or having readings and getting enthusiastic responses from the kids when I talk to them about my children’s novel. But even short comments via Facebook message, comments on my website or E-Mail can be a real boost. I write for myself, my own pleasure and my own joy, of course, but I also want to bring pleasure and joy to my readers, so it’s nice to know when I have accomplished that.

Thanks for visiting us today, Katie!

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