A big hit with children, Penny Parker Klostermann was a teacher before she became an author. How does she come up with her funny book ideas? It’s apparently in the clouds…
Booking Biz: What does your average day look like?
Penny: I love to start off with exercise so I’m up at 4:30 and off to the gym. I’m home by 6:00 and having coffee as I check email to see if anything needs immediate attention. Then I write. Writing can include a new project, revision, or research. Even though I write fiction, I like to research my setting, main character, and other aspects of my story to help with choices for fun language that will help to set a mood for my story.
Most days I read a few picture books. Reading picture books always feeds my creativity.
Along with working on my own writing, I’m in a critique group with five other authors. Each week one of us submits a story for critique. So during my week I need to find time to look at the story and share comments that will let the writer know what I love about their story and what needs strengthening.
I have errands to do too. I try to mix them in throughout the day so that I can have time up and away from my computer. I can truthfully say that I never get as much done in a day as I think I will.
Booking Biz: When you’re not writing, what do you like to do best?
Penny: I enjoy getting outdoors. I like to find time to walk around my neighborhood and enjoy nature. I also love to travel. I’m happy traveling a few hours to another part of Texas or venturing farther to experience new areas of the United States or the world. My family is spread out so visiting them is special to me, too. I enjoy television, movies, and books. I feel like I’ll never get to watch as much TV or read as many books all I would like. There’s just not enough time. And food! I love to eat. Now that it’s just my husband and I, I don’t cook much. We enjoy planning our weekends around eating out.
Booking Biz: Where do you get the inspiration for your books?
Penny: My inspiration comes from opening my imagination to characters, situations, or settings. This often happens when I’m reading blog posts about writing or when reading picture books. In fact, the idea for THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT came from my desire to write a retelling of THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY. I have always loved that book and hoped I could come up with a character who would be as much fun as the old lady. One day this was on my brain and I was walking before sunset. I saw a cloud that looked just like a dragon. It was beautiful. I thought about a dragon and all the fun things he could swallow. A first draft was born.
Many ideas have been inspired by other authors’ books. When I read David Ezra Stein’s book, INTERRUPTING CHICKEN, I thought it was so clever how he included several fairy tales in his story. This inspired me to attempt a story with fairy tale elements from more than one fairy tale. I thought of it more of a fairy tale mash-up rather than a fractured fairy tale. Eventually this came together for my second book, A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE.
Pinterest is another source of inspiration for me. It’s so visual and there are countless boards that inspire characters, situations, and settings.
Booking Biz: Did you always want to write books for children, or was there another career you wished for as a child?
Penny: I always loved writing but never considered it as a career until much later in life. As an eighth grader, I proclaimed that I would be a physical education teacher and I never waivered. I had a successful twenty-six-year teaching career and most of it was spent teaching elementary physical education. I also taught English and technology along the way. As a teacher I grew to love picture books that classroom teachers shared with their students.The teachers knew I loved humorous books and started sharing their favorite titles with me. Reading these picture books lead me to dream of writing stories of my own so that my books could be shared with kids.
Booking Biz: If you ruled the world, what would it look like?
Penny: Oh goodness! Ruling the world would be a huge responsibility and I wouldn’t want to do it, so I’m going to go at this as kid-Penny. The most important subject in school would be recess because from play, creativity is born. We would share the playground with lots of cute, hoppity, green frogs who would be in charge of the Suggestion Box. Kisses for the frogs would give weight to suggestions. While giving kisses to frogs we would be reminded that everyone has warts along with beauty inside. Hopefully this would lead to an environment of creativity and kindness that would continue into adulthood.