Barry B. Wary, by Leslie Muir – A Picture Book for Bug Lovers

Barry B. Wary, by Leslie Muir (Hyperion Books)

My son is grown up now, but sometimes I still wish I had a little one around the house, so I’d have an excuse to buy more picture books. I love the stories and amazing artwork.

Today I’ve got a treat for those of you who also love picture books–and it’s an even bigger treat, if you’re an aspiring children’s writer (like me!).  Leslie Muir, author of BARRY B. WARY, recently spent a little time answering my questions about her brand-new book and about the writing process.

Leslie, who is also a poet, sold the manuscript for BARRY, along with two other manuscripts, about three years ago–and yes, it took that long for the first one to be published. The good news is that Leslie’s other books are coming out soon, and in the meantime, she’s sold a fourth. (Big congrats, Leslie.)

And just who is BARRY B. WARY? He’s a hungry little spider who dines on click beetles and fireflies, as spiders do, but his dining habits leave him a little short on friends. Then he spots a passing butterfly, and….well, you’ll just have to read the story. Until you do, enjoy this visit with Leslie!

1. Leslie, how did you get into writing about bugs? Does this have anything to do with Bailey, your German shepherd, who enjoys munching on flies?

Well, my dog is a highly skilled fly catcher, but he was not the inspiration for this particular story. (German Shepherds are very sensitive, so please don’t tell him). I do find bugs and spiders endlessly fascinating. And their funny little features and quirky personalities make great fodder for picture book tales.

This is Bailey, Leslie's dog. Handsome, isn't he? Leslie says he's a good fly-catcher.

2.  Are your sons into bugs? What kind of stories do they like to read (or hear read aloud, if they’re very young)?

My nine and ten-year-old sons are into anything that flies kamikaze-like or thrives in dirt.

Much to my chagrin, my boys have moved away from picture books—though they still secretly enjoy them. I refuse to believe otherwise! They are both into middle grade fantasy (Tolkien is big with my youngest right now) and they adore graphic novels.

3. What made you decide to write BARRY B. WARY in rhyme? We know you’re a poet, but don’t publishers say they don’t buy many rhyming picture books anymore?

When I started this story, I was a member of an online poetry group, so most everything I wrote during that period was in rhyme. Because it’s difficult to do well, rhyme is always a harder sell. But fear not! Publishers are still buying rhyming stories. They just have to be exceptional.

4. Was this book hard to write? How many revisions did you go through?

BARRY B. WARY was originally a short poem and eventually evolved into a picture book. There were many revisions along the way. And in order to sell the story, I was asked to totally revamp the ending. My original ending was predictably sweet and romantic, but my editor thought it would be more interesting if Barry remained true to his darker, carnivorous nature. She was right. Last week, I read it to over 1.000 elementary school students and their reactions were comical.

5. How hard do you think it is for aspiring picture book writers to be published? Picture books almost seem like the hardest kinds of books to sell nowadays.

The picture book market is tough right now and publishers are responding by being very selective. Even proven authors are finding the waters difficult to tread. However, I remain a staunch believer that a worthy story will eventually find a home. These days, it might just take a little longer.

Leslie Muir, author of BARRY B. WARY

6. Any advice for wanna-be writers of children’s books?

Read widely. You never know where those precious jewels of inspiration will come from. Learn the craft and connect with fellow writers, editors and agents by joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and attending conferences. Join a critique group and let your stories be heard by objective ears. And finally, listen. Use constructive criticism as a tool to fine-tune your work.

7. What are you working on next?

Right now I’m in the middle of a picture book story about a mischievous (and highly annoying) fairy who decides to go to school. I’m having a lot of fun with this one—probably because it’s not in rhyme. : )

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for having me, Lynn! And Bailey sends virtual cookies to Miss Paws!

  2. Leslie, my pleasure. Thanks for sharing your new book and your insights with us! Miss Paws wags her thanks to Bailey ;-)