Author Spotlight: Karen Rostoker-Gruber
November 13, 2015
Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children.
I've been writing children's books since I was eight years old. I thought I was going to be the next Pippi Longstocking sequel writer until I found out that that job was already taken. Bummer. :(
After that bubble burst, I began writing activity books for my younger sister. I loved getting my monthly Dynamite and Highlights magazines in the mail and I wanted her to get a magazine, too. I made her a mailbox and I sent her "my" magazine once a month, which I called Kidstuff. I designed word puzzles, wrote science-related stories, created a how-to-crafts section, and drew hidden object pages for her to do. She had to send it back to me in a mailbox that I made for myself, so I could correct it, of course. (I wanted to be a teacher. )
After that, I became obsessed with seeing my name in print. I used to send jokes to Readers Digest, etc, and any place that took outside jokes, artwork, or puzzles. I still have a sample of something that I did for a magazine when I was eight and also one that I inked when I was a bit older.
Tell us about your latest book, FARMER KOBI’S HANUKKAH MATCH.
FARMER KOBI'S HANUKKAH MATCH came out just in time for Hanukkah this year and it's a hoot! I filled it with tons of animal puns and sick humor, for the parents. (You have to have humor in there for the parents, or they'll get bored.)
Farmer Kobi invites a woman named Polly over for dinner to meet his family, which is made up of sheep, goats, geese, and a donkey. The animals are very nervous about meeting Polly, but Polly is anything BUT nice to them. She doesn't want to sing Hanukkah songs with geese, light the menorah with sheep, or play dreidel with goats, she wants to be alone with Farmer Kobi! Halfway through the dinner, she storms out.
"She was definitely NOT Farmer Kobi's perfect maaatch," maaaed the goats.
"Her name was Polly Ester--she was a faaake," baaed the sheep.
"She was one rotten egg," honked the geese.
I'm not going to give away the rest, but it is a story about family--any kind of family.
What projects are you working on now?
I like to work on many projects at the same time. My daughter thinks that I have ADHD or ADD. Perhaps she is right. I have about 70 manuscripts that I change and rewrite over and over again, until I feel they are ready to submit.
When is your next project due out?
My next project is due at the end of November.
What is your typical process for writing?
I go to sleep with an idea and wake up at 3 a.m. to write it down in the dark on sticky notes. It's been that way for a long time. I revise and write cover letters during the day, but the real stories happen in the wee hours of the morning for me when my mind is clear and when there is no one awake.
Sticky notes are my obsession. I have them everywhere in the house, in the car, in my purse. My house is wall-to-wall sticky notes. Looking down at a blank piece of paper is scarier than looking down at a cute, yellow sticky note. It's kinda fun collecting all of the sticky notes then putting them all together to make a book. It's like a puzzle. With sticky notes, you can easily move things around until they make the most sense. (I sound like an advertisement for sticky notes, but seriously, they are better than sliced, gluten-free bread.)
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If I were to give two bits of advice, I'd say:
- Join the SCBWI. Learn what it takes to be a successful writer and find out the steps you need to take to get there. Everyone thinks writing for children is easy, but it is actually one of the hardest jobs that I had ever had to do. Every word counts.
- Join a critique group where everyone writes what you write. If you are a picture book writer, don't join a group that writes YA. Simple.
Where can people find you on the internet?
My website is filled with Reader's Theater scripts, coloring pages, anti-bullying worksheets and more.
I used to be an adult humor writer. I was on the Ricki Lake Show (and 62 radio shows) back in 1993 for my book, REMOTE CONTROLS ARE BETTER THAN WOMEN BECAUSE . . .
What is one thing people don't know about you?
I am also a ventriloquist. My side-kick is named Maria and you can see her on my website. We perform at schools and libraries all over NJ. We talk about what it is like to be an author and we take kids from sticky notes at 3 a.m. all the way to the finished piece.
I love working with puppets and I interviewed for a position on Sesame Street. I didn't get it, but that's okay, because I got to answer the Kermit phone in the lobby--yup--coolest day of my life. :)
Karen Rostoker-Gruber is the author of many picture books: ROOSTER CAN'T COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2004); F "FOOD FRIGHT (Price Stern Sloan, 2003); BANDIT (Marshall Cavendish, 2008); BANDIT'S SURPRISE (Marshall Cavendish, 2010), TEA TIME (Marshall Cavendish, 2010); FERRET FUN (Marshall Cavendish 2011). Karen has two new books: FERRET FUN IN THE SUN and FARMER KOBI'S HANUKKAH MATCH.
Karen is also a published humorist. Her humor books include THE UNOFFICIAL COLLEGE SURVIVAL GUIDE (Great Quotations, 1992); REMOTE CONTROLS ARE BETTER THAN WOMEN BECAUSE . . . (Longstreet Press, 1993); TELEPHONES ARE BETTER THAN MEN BECAUSE . . . (Longstreet Press, 1996), and IF MEN HAD BABIES . . .(CCC Publications, LLC 2001).
Karen is a member of the SCBWI and was a co-chair for the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature’s One-on-One Conference. She was a guest on the Ricki Lake Show and has been promoting her books on over 62 radio shows around the country.
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