I’ve been waiting for this day to arrive – so we could celebrate the release of my friend Laura Purdie Salas’ new book, In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House (Wordsong, 2019)! It’s a book that has taken her several years to finally realize, so I’m very happy for her.
This collection of 26 poems imagines what the inanimate objects inside a home are doing after the lights go out…and Laura’s imagination went wild, with stuffed animals putting on a talent show, pencils racing down the stairs, and even a leftover bowl of spaghetti lacing itself into someone’s sneakers! And when you combine these crazy scenarios with illustrator Angela Matteson’s playful visuals, you get a book of poetry that even kids who don’t think they like poetry will enjoy!
Alas, I wish I could have had Laura join me for an interview to chat about the book and her process, but unfortunately she’s been so busy this spring (she has THREE books coming out!), she simply didn’t have the time. It’s ok, I understand – we’re all busy. Fortunately, the inanimate objects in her own home came to the rescue and were willing to fill in for her!
So first of all, I’d like to thank all of Laura’s inanimate objects for joining me. Since she’s been out straight doing the blog tour, promoting her books, and trying to squeeze in more writing, I’m grateful that they all stepped up to volunteer to answer my questions.
1) Let me start with you, PEN…how did Laura come up with this idea, and what was your first reaction?
I’m pretty sure the overall idea for the book was a mash-up between a poem she wrote for Bookspeak (Clarion, 2011), “Lights Out at the Bookstore,” plus a poem someone wrote on her blog about chalk and what it did at night. Those made her think about all the objects in our homes and what they do at night.
But, I was definitely instrumental (hehe) in brainstorming for specific poems. I’d be hanging out in her purse while we were out in the world somewhere, and I’d hear a gasp. Then she’d grab me, open up a tiny notebook, and I’d spill her purple guts on the page. She always scribbled quickly, trying to catch the ideas before they disappeared, I guess. I was exhausted! What happened to the ideas after that was between her and her laptop. But that initial rush of imagination and possibility for each poem? I was proud to be part of that.
2) So DESK, you must have played an important role in all this. How long did it take her to complete the book, and was there anything surprising or unusual in the way she put this collection together?
Sniffle, sniffle. I don’t want to say anything bad about Laura, because I love her…I really do. But basically, I’m just for show. She has a whole life separate for me, and I rarely get to see her work. Sure, she might leave a folder, closed of course, on me, but she doesn’t really share her writing life with me.
Kitchen Stool told me she spends most of her time in the kitchen, looking out the window and then at the keyboard! And all the while I was waiting for her. But what can I do? As Bonnie Raitt sings, “I can’t make you love me if you don’t.” I just…I just wish the best for Laura and her book, In the Middle of the Night.
I want her to be happy…Sniffle.
3) There, there, DESK. Have a tissue. Ok, now blow…good.
Now then, KITCHEN STOOL, it sounds like you played a pretty important role in all of this. How often was Laura using you to actually write the book, and how much time did she spend napping? You can be honest…
I was, of course, the foundation for this book. It wouldn’t exist without me. For months, Laura planted herself on me and stared out the windows into the backyard. I wouldn’t say napping, exactly, but perhaps a little daydreaming occurred. Then I would hear the gentle patter of her fingers on the keyboard.
We spent so many hours and months together as she wrote the draft that Wordsong eventually acquired. (Not to mention the two intense revisions that followed!) Frankly, I should probably be listed as the co-author.
4) My next question is for SLIPPERS. Where did you take Laura, as she contemplated subjects for her poems? From your vantage point, did she forget to include any objects – or were there any items she wished she should include in the book, but didn’t?
I was Laura’s constant companion since we lived in a house with tile floors. Bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, family room, basement—you name it, we traveled there for research! Despite all that, when it came time to write about shoes, who did she feature? Dirty sneakers! And when that poem wasn’t strong enough to keep, she wrote a duet for Flip Flops and Snow Boots instead—she hardly ever wears either one of those! How’s that for a thank you very much?!
Clearly, she should have included me, Slippers. I was also outraged when my best friend, Missing Sock, got cut from the collection. Frankly, Laura didn’t give enough thought to clothing. I mean, Empty Pocket got its own poem, and that ridiculous Baseball Cap. And Necktie! Who cares about neckties? Oh, man. I can’t even think about this anymore. My blood pressure’s going up, up, UP, and slippers are supposed to be cozy and calm, ya know?
5) Hmmm…indeed. Well, here, enjoy a little warm chamomile. WRISTWATCH, did she pay much attention to you, or did she pretty much work at her own pace?
Wow. Calm down, Slippers. What’s your problem? Laura gave me plenty of attention. She writes for 25 minutes, then takes a 5 minute break, so she’s always got her eye on me. She also writes fast, so a lot of times, we would have a race. Laura would say, “I bet I can get a rough draft of this poem done before your little hand reaches the 5.” I’d answer, “You’re on!” Boom! She’d start clacking away. We had a blast!
6) That does sound like fun! And how much use did Laura get out of you, CARPET? A lot of pacing, perhaps?
No pacing, but I did help with research. While she was looking for topics and thinking about what they’d do at night, Laura actually did some crawling around on me. She’d peer under the bed and peek behind the dresser, all from down low. She said she wanted to see the rooms like a kid would see them. I thought it was a little unusual, but it was delightful to have some company! I’m hoping she comes back to visit soon.
7) My final question is for you, EYEGLASSES. What did you experience during this project, and what do you see for new projects in Laura’s future?
Let me tell you, sonny, I have never pointed in so many directions. Every nook and cranny in the house…Laura poked me that direction. Some things I will never unsee, like the enormous dust bunnies under the dresser. Enough to give an old man nightmares! Other times, Laura and I just gazed out to the backyard. And then eons were spent staring at her screen.
When Laura got the news that Rebecca Davis at Wordsong was acquiring the manuscript, I remember she jumped up and down and practically bounced me right off her face. And when she saw Angela Matteson’s final art…well, let’s just say I’m glad I’m waterproof.
Right now, Laura and I are seeing lots of young whippersnappers as we visit bookstores and schools and share her three new books: In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House; Snowman-Cold=Puddle: Spring Equations (Charlesbridge, 2019); and Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons (Millbrooks Press, 2019). It’s a truly heartwarming sight.
WHOA, it looks like Laura just got here – thanks for making it to the ol’ Triple-R, my friend!
Thanks, Matt, for sharing my book on your blog! I’m honored. And thank you for understanding that I don’t have much time. I’m so glad some of my writing friends were able to answer your questions!
Congratulations again to Laura, and best wishes with all the new books!
If you’d like to win a copy of In the Middle of the Night, just leave a comment below to enter the drawing! One winner will be chosen at random Thurs. night, March 28 and announced the following day, on Poetry Friday. (And if you’d like to read a poem that DIDN’T make it into the book, check out Laura’s blog HERE)
ONE MORE THING: Madness! Poetry continues even though I can’t…yes, I got knocked out of the second round with a nail-biter of a competition between author Lori Grusman. It was so tight, that at one point I was leading 50.1% to 49.9%. That’s right, one-tenth of a percent! And then she’d take the lead, then I’d take the lead, then she’d…well, it was like that the entire round. So congratulations to my formidable opponent!
For the third round, Lori has been given the word “automaton.” (And personally, I’m kind of glad I DIDN’T make it to the third round, because I was planning on continuing my sledding story – and I’m not sure how I would have ever fit “automaton” into it!) So log on and check out all the match-ups, then vote for your favorite!
Speaking of Poetry Friday, Heidi Mordhorst is hosting today’s festivities at My Juicy Little Universe with a spotlight on climate change and the Youth Climate Strike, so head on over for the complete roundup!
Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!
Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)
- NY Public Library’s “100 Best Book for Kids 2017” AND “Staff Pick!”
- KIRKUS Starred review!
- Kansas NEA Reading Circle Recommended Books!
- “Best Reads of 2017,” Unleashing Readers
- Amazon “Best Books of the Month,” Sept. 2017
- Positive reviews from Horn Book, School Library Connection, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and Shelf-Awareness