Friday, January 25, 2013

Author Kate Coombs

Kate Coombs is a children's book writer, an editor, a teacher, a poet, a collector of shells, a blogger, and an extremely kind person. I invited her on Watch. Connect. Read. to discuss her books, writing, and reading. 

I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Kate! 



  The Runaway Princess and The Runaway Dragon are my way of having fun with fairy tales. Madcap fun, even. They’re also a good example of “What if” writing: What if a king announced he was giving away half his kingdom and his daughter’s hand in marriage, and the princess wasn’t up for it? What if a sorceress was one of those teen mean girls? What if fairy tales refused to follow the script?


Photo credit: Kate Coombs
Seashells are nature’s way of showing off her artistry on a small scale. Each one is a visual poem. (I’m looking at the shells on my desk as I write this! And—wow. Endlessly wow.)
I always encourage young writers to revise from the typical summary level to a richer level of detail. Yep, “show don’t tell,” or at least “show a lot more than you tell.” I give them models because most of them don’t seem to know what a teacher means when he or she says, “Be specific.” I also encourage young writers to think of outlines as loose and flexible frameworks if they use them at all—most often for nonfiction work. When it comes to creative writing, I point out that writing a story is not as easy as teachers make it sound and suggest that kids use “What if” questions for brainstorming.



Poetry is a way of creating a world that is as compact, beautiful, and surprising as a seashell. Poems are usually adorned with or constructed of metaphors and include a twist in the last line. They are also a way of putting language through its paces. Can the poet create images and ideas that feel so real they reach off the page to grab readers by the heart? Reading a good poem can be more intense than reading just about anything else.
Picture books are like poems, too. Well, I’m thinking of the spare books written for younger readers. Mine are more like old-fashioned sit-around-the-fire-in-winter storytelling. “Listen. Come closer. I’ll tell you a story. Once upon a time, in a land very far away….” There’s a reason the original Star Wars movie starts off the way it does!

Book Aunt is a place where I can share my love of children’s books and hang out with other people who love those books, especially people who want to get them into the hands of children. Which books are being overlooked, but could thoroughly hook a particular child? It’s almost always about finding the right fit. For example, maybe a boy is being pushed to read J.K. Rowling but would much prefer Watt Key. Only he doesn’t know that, so he says, “I don’t like reading.” Or we get a girl who hasn’t discovered the classic Ballet Shoes or Sachar’s Holes or—for a teen—something like Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina or Sarah Dessen’s books. I know I’ve turned some reluctant reader boys in second grade into readers by giving them the Lunch Lady books (followed by Captain Underpants!) and reluctant reader girls in third or fourth grade into readers with the Babymouse series.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why I have become disillusioned with jellyfish. Because they are hauntingly strange and lovely, they have been one of my favorite sea creatures for many years. I wrote three poems about them for Water Sings Blue. Later I discovered Mark Kurlansky’s stunning book World without Fish (ages 10 and up). He explains that if the world’s oceans become fished out—which is happening rapidly—the sea creature that will survive and thrive is the jellyfish. Now I can’t help thinking of jellyfish as dastardly opportunists, or at least as being comparable to cockroaches in their apocalyptic indestructibility!

I am giving away one copy of Water Sings Blue

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 1/25 to 11:59 p.m. on 1/28. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 


Please borrow Kate's books from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops

1 comment:

  1. Kate's voice as a writer is no uniquely her own--yet so diverse as well. Love that she writes novels, picture books and poetry.

    Book Aunt is one of my favorite book rec sites, too!

    Kate rocks!

    ReplyDelete