Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
I am beyond excited for this timely interview because we have the pleasure of chatting with the wonderful, the famous, the genius, the ever-encouraging TARA LAZAR to chat about her next book in the Private I series: Time Flies, Down to the Last Minute, illustrated by Ross MacDonald.
Description from the publisher, Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers:
The team behind 7 Ate 9 and The Upper Case: Trouble in Capital City is back with another installment of their pun-filled detective noir Private I series. This time, Private I is in a race to find all the missing clocks in town!
In the colorful and letter-filled Capital City, there’s never a moment’s rest for Private I, the city’s best investigator. Trouble seems to always have a way of finding him—trouble with a capital T. On this particular day, T tells Private I that his watch is missing. And T isn’t alone—the citizens of Capital City have lost track of timepieces all over town! Can Private I catch the perp and make up for lost time before it’s too late?
Kaitlyn: Hi, Tara, thank you so much for joining us today. I can’t tell you how excited I am to chat with you about your new book, Time Flies, that comes out April 26th!
Tara: I can’t wait!
Kaitlyn: I bet! Especially with a book featuring time, it must be extra difficult to wait. Can you start off by sharing how this book came to be and a bit about how this series has come together?
Tara: After the success of 7 ATE 9, Disney signed me on for two more books in the series. Since the first book featured mostly numbers, it was an easy decision to write THE UPPER CASE about letters. But I had trouble coming up with a story for the letters–until I added punctuation! Then I was out of ideas…until I thought of the old joke “How do you make time fly? Toss a clock out the window!” And while no clocks were harmed in the making of this book, I had a lot of fun throwing time puns around.
Kaitlyn: Ha! I bet you did have fun throwing those puns around, and I can’t wait for kids and adults to catch them all (ba-dum-ch!) Can you share why you think stories like these are so important for our little ones?
Tara: Laughter and hilarity is a surefire way to get kids hooked on books for life.
Kaitlyn: Hear, hear! Of course, your puns are always so spot on; I have to know how you come up with them. Do you write the story and they just jump out of you? Do you make a list of all the puns and find places to fit them? Something else that comes from the word magician who is Tara Lazar?
Tara: They jump out at me. Probably because I’m so practiced in trying to be the quickest to the joke, thanks to the father who raised me and the husband I married. Both hilarious…and both made me more hilarious.
Kaitlyn: A life filled with laughter is just the best! If you had to pick, what’s your favorite spread in Time Flies, and why?
Tara: The last page. The ending to the entire series came together so perfectly!
Kaitlyn: I agree, and dear readers, I sure hope you pre-order Time Flies so you can be one of the first to see this phenomenal ending! While we’re talking about your favorite spread, can you share a bit about how you and the artist work together? Is it a traditional publishing picture book relationship or something else?
Tara: It’s a traditional relationship in that I don’t interfere with Ross’s process. He’s amazing. But I confess there were a couple things I asked him to do, like the homage to “Conjunction Junction” in THE UPPER CASE. (Haha, now you have to go looking for it.)
Kaitlyn: Haha, I bet he had fun with your requests, and readers, if you haven’t read THE UPPER CASE, you’ll have to and try to find the homage! Now Tara, my daughter is pretty picky about which picture books she likes to read and The Upper Case, Trouble in Capital City is one of her favorite go-to choices. Do you have any thoughts about why you think kids are so drawn to your books?
Tara: Because they’re funny! I hope that’s why!
Kaitlyn: I think so, too! Kids and adults alike are drawn to your comedy – can’t get much better than that in a picture book! Beyond being an amazing writer, you always have such wonderful insight and advice, like your blog posts on art notes and on picture book construction. Today, I’m curious about the latter, concerning page count. Many people hear that picture books are generally 32 pages, but that’s not always the case. Can you share how many pages are in the Private I books and what went into the decision-making process for the page count of these books?
Tara: I actually have no idea how many pages they are! (GASP!!!) In my mind, that’s the editor’s purview. I just ensure the stories don’t have too many necessary page turns (changes of scene) and let the editor and illustrator decide the rest.
Early in my career, I wrote a story which prompted an editor to tell me “your story is too long,” even though it was 500 words. She then asked me to mark where I thought the page turns happened. I marked every other line! I had 10 gazillion page breaks! Then she taught me the 32-page format. I was so grateful that I wrote that post for others like me…who were confused and clueless!
But the 32-page layout is a “serving suggestion” only. It’s important for PB writers to understand, but not something they always have to follow exactly. There’s wiggle room. I’ve written so many stories now, I’ve internalized the format. My stories usually end up fitting in 32 or 40 pages without major tweaks. Interestingly, editor Tracey Keevan had the idea in THE UPPER CASE to put all the punctuation on a single spread–so that added pages.
Kaitlyn: Such amazing advice! Thank you for sharing. Now, can you share who your editor was for this book, and what you enjoyed about working with this editor?
Tara: The original editor at Disney was Tracey Keevan. Then Disney sold the series to Little, Brown. The new editor at LB is Mary-Kate Gaudet. She loved the story from the get-go, even though she wasn’t the acquirer. So the awkward transition? There was none! Working with her has been smooth and E-Z.
Kaitlyn: Wow! That’s amazing! I’m so glad it worked out so well and you ended up having two amazing editors for this series. Can you share who your agent is and why you enjoy working with this agent so much?
Tara: My agent is Ammi-Joan Paquette from Erin Murphy Literary Agency, and she’s been my agent–my only agent–for a dozen years now. She honestly loves 99.9% of my stories and she knows how to place them. She doesn’t give up on rejected stories, even when I do!
Kaitlyn: Yes! I LOVE that. Ammi-Joan is amazing, and, readers, that’s why it’s so great when you find the right agent for you because they believe in your stories just as much (if not more) than you! Also, readers, keep your eyes peeled because Ammi-Joan will be here on the Math is Everywhere blog talking about her book soon, too! Tara, what’s some of your favorite advice you like to share with authors?
Tara: Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Make writing friends. Read and write some more.
Kaitlyn: Exactly! Best advice! What’s next for you, Tara?
Tara: More books, of course!
Kaitlyn: Haha, of course! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, mathematician, or pun-matician would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?
Tara: Fireside. With a cup of tea and a kitty cat. And a Kit Kat.
Kaitlyn: Hahahaha, love it! I’d love to join in, break me off a piece 😉 Thank you so much for sharing and for joining us today, Tara!
Tara: My pleasure, Kaitlyn. Thank you!
Kaitlyn: And readers, for all Tara does for our wonderful #kidlit community, please support Tara by buying her books, requesting your library carry them, and reviewing her books too! Check out the trailer for the book here:
Book links for Time Flies
Author Bio and links
Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been.
Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books where anything is possible.
Her picture books available now are:
- THE MONSTORE (Aladdin/S&S, 2013)
- I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK (Aladdin/S&S, 2015)
- LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (Random House Children’s, 2015)
- NORMAL NORMAN (Sterling, 2016)
- WAY PAST BEDTIME (Aladdin/S&S, 2017)
- 7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY (Disney*Hyperion, 2017)
- YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL (Tundra, June 2019)
- THE UPPER CASE: TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY (Disney*Hyperion, 2019)
- THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN (HarperCollins, 2020)
- BLOOP (HarperCollins, 2021)
Tara is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
Her last name rhymes with “bazaar”—you can listen to Tara pronounce her name on TeachingBooks.net. She’s not Tara Laser-beam (although that would be awesome).
Kaitlyn’s Review of Time Flies
Filled with phenomenal puns, Time Flies is a fantastic follow up to The Upper Case and 7 Ate 9. Tara Lazar has done it again! She has created another fun, intriguing, and comical mystery for kids ages 4-8, though any age would love this book because Time Flies will have kids asking for it to be read again and again while also leaving siblings/parents/guardians, teachers, and librarians laughing at the puns and fun, too. And even beyond all that, there’s also super sweet lessons in this story that are great conversation starters for the home, library, or the classroom, like how sometimes, when people cause trouble, it’s really because they’re hurting and just need a little support from others. And finally (yes, there’s more!) this book goes the extra mile and really encourages kids to see their own worth. If you haven’t bought this book yet, definitely do so: it’s worth it!
Giveaway- Winner’s choice a copy of Time Flies, signed copy if Time Flies, a picture book critique or Ask Me Anything session with Tara Lazar
To enter the random drawing, do any/all of the following options, then come back and write all of the things you did in ONE blog comment. (If you forget something, feel free to reply to your first comment ;))
- Share that you added Time Flies to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share that you ordered a copy of Time Flies
- Share that you did a purchase request for Time Flies at your library
- Share that you left a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble
- Share that you retweeted or quote retweeted my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tagged some friends.
Thank you all for supporting such amazing creators, and for those of you patiently awaiting the announcement of the Spring Fling Kidlit winners, I want to thank you so much for supporting each other and for being patient; we have so many wonderful entries, and my family and I are starting our vacation today, so we’re aiming to announce the winners in early May after I’m back, and we have time to dive further into our deliberations. And just remember: time flies when you’re having fun, so hopefully it won’t feel like a long wait at all.:)
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez