Daily Archives: April 16, 2008

Lessons from the Nut Tree: An Interview with Mélanie Watt

Today, I am thrilled to host Mélanie Watt for the final stop of her Blog Tour 2008! Welcome Mélanie!

First, a few general reading/writing/creativity related questions…

What inspires you (situations / works of art / places / foods / people)?
Pretty much everything inspires me. Events, people, our society, past, memories of my childhood, funny situations, interesting places, animals and more.

Name a picture book you wish you’d written and gush about it for a little while.
The latest picture book I’ve read and find absolutely clever is Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller, it’s witty and I love the illustrations and style!

How is writing a story similar to “leaving the nut tree”?
I’ve found after working on about a dozen books with different styles and content, that the ones where I was taking creative risks in terms of unconventional storytelling are the ones that get the most attention and that I am especially proud of. So, I guess it’s like taking a leap in the unknown, pushing the envelope and at the same time discovering what I’m capable of as a writer and illustrator.

And now questions about what readers can learn from Scaredy, our wacky, squirrelly mentor…

While I think that Scaredy offers kids much more than a few important lessons, it’s clear that kids can learn a thing or two from this crazy critter. What lessons do you think young readers take away from your books?
What I hope children will take away from the Scaredy Squirrel series is the capability to question Scaredys fears as well as their own. I don’t go about writing a book with a lesson in mind but more like picking a topic that I feel we should be questioning ourselves on like the topic of fear. I love it when kids write to me: Why is Scaredy afraid of Martians if Martians don’t exist. This is the kind of question that can help kids take a look into their own fears and ask themselves: Do I really need to be afraid of this and is this really something I should be worrying about?

Do you think that Scaredy teaches different lessons to adults?
Reading Scaredy’s exaggerated safety measures pokes fun at us. I’m like Scaredy in many ways, always worrying always wanting to plan and finding excuses in order not to do new things. All kinds of people of different ages are writing to me with experiences and reasons why they identify with Scaredy. Fear is universal and I think it’s one of the key things we all struggle with on a daily basis. What Scaredy brings is a sense of nuttiness and exaggeration on our quest for security.

Scaredy’s Nut Tree as metaphor for present day society. Yes, or no?
Absolutely, I was very inspired by our society and how fear seems to be posted all around us in warning signs, in the media and on toothpaste (fight plaque or else!).

Do you think Scaredy’s perspective is growing or changing?
Yes, in every book Scaredy makes some sort of progress. He’s not changing drastically, he still has a lot to work on but he takes baby squirrel steps towards dealing with his fears.

What is he learning from his near-death experiences and nutty survival strategies?
Scaredy is realizing that things are not as bad as they seem. He doesn’t know this but what he dreads most he brings upon himself in every book! What seems to be working for Scaredy time after time in his imagined near death situations is just to Play Dead. Playing Dead is his way of letting go, being in the moment, taking a break from his worries and therefore realizing that the world around him is not so bad.

Can you think of a character from another children’s book who might have something important to teach Scaredy?
It would be funny if Scaredy met Chester, they are polar opposite personalities and they could learn a lot from each other.

What could Scaredy learn from hanging out with this character?
Scaredy is kind of a loner and so is Chester. They would probably find out that even though they are very different (one is shy and afraid and the other is bold and fearless) that they are deep down also very alike. And when we are aware that we have similarities, the world just seems like a friendlier place.

What situation would Scaredy find totally terrifying, but might offer him the ultimate learning experience?
Being trapped in a school for a whole day.

What lessons about storytelling and illustrating have you learned through writing these books?
Out of taking risks you are surprised by what you can accomplish. When I sit down and write a new Scaredy story, I never know where it’s going to take me, I’m always amazed to see the book developing in directions that I hadn’t imagined and how the topic of the book takes surprising turns.

What new skill / concept / subject would you like to learn next?
I would like to play the Cello and learn about quantum physics.

What new skill / concept / subject would you like Scaredy to learn next?

Merci Mélanie! To view the rest of the interviews from the tour, head to the links provided in the sidebar.

See ya Scaredy!



I am a semi-colon (of course)

It would seem that this evening, rather than write a clever review of a lovely book I just finished called A Curse Dark As Gold, it was my destiny to discover:

You are a Semi-Colon

You are elegant, understated, and subtle in your communication.

You’re very smart (and you know it), but you don’t often showcase your brilliance.Instead, you carefully construct your arguments, ideas, and theories until they are bulletproof.

You see your words as an expression of yourself, and you are careful not to waste them.

You friends see you as enlightened, logical, and shrewd.

(But what you’re saying often goes right over their heads.)

You excel in: The Arts

You get along best with: The Colon

Elegant? Check. Understated? Not so much. Very smart? If you say so. Hmmmm… nowhere on there does it say anything like, “You are exhausted and you are now officially a sloth-paced reader and it would be nice if you wrote a review sometime soon.”
Tomorrow I promise you all Scaredy Squirrel treats with a nutty interview. Stop by.
(This quiz is floating about the kidlitosphere, but I found it over at Big A little a. Thanks Kelly!)