Author and Booksicals founder Susan Chodakiewitz believes that children learn best when you engage their imagination: “I believe you can develop a child’s love for reading by expanding the world of a book beyond its pages. Bring the characters to life and bring reading to life. ” And this is precisely what inspired her to create Booksicals. Susan Chodakiewitz is a writer, composer and producer. She lives in Los Angeles in a lively household filled with music, three sons, a husband, a Dalmatian and lots of visitors. Too Many Visitors for One Little House is her debut children’s book.
Read Susan’s blog at www.booksicals.com,. Follow her on Twitter at susanchodak,. Find her on facebook at Susan Tresser Chodakiewitz.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Susan. Can you tell us what your latest book, Too Many Visitors for One Little House is all about?
A: Too Many Visitors is a story about wanting to be included.
The crabby neighbors of El Camino Street can’t stand all the fun, music and laughter coming from the house of the new family on the block as grannies, aunts, cousins and nannies arrive for a big family reunion.
The story is based on the summer we moved into our new house and all these visitors came to stay!
Q: Is this your first picture book? If not, how has writing this book different from writing your first?
A: This is my first published picture book. Actually the second one I wrote. The first one called Mr. Blueberry and the Fish from Down the Street is a picture book in rhyme. Since I am a song writer and I write musical theater, it felt natural for me to approach picture books with rhyme. All the publishers I sent the book to advised me to keep away from rhyme. Personally I love rhymed books and love to read them to kids. Lucky for me this story did not appear in my head in rhyme—otherwise I probably would have written it that way as well. However I did have a rhythm in mind while writing it. I am very aware of rhythm while writing and work hard to achieve a rhythmic flow of the words.
Q: How difficult was it writing your book? Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?
A: Writing is always hard. If it were easy, EVERYONE would do it well. I blurted out the story in one sitting. While the format for the story remained the same, the tone changed, the point of view changed and the focus of the story changed.
I get writer’s block when I know there is a problem but I don’t know exactly what the problem is. I usually get very frustrated and feel like dropping the project. I’ve learned to recognize this phase and I’ve stopped getting upset when I feel that.
Once I identify the problem in the writing the writer’s block disappears and I can usually (hopefully) find a solution. I may try various ideas but at least I have a new direction. Then the writing becomes exciting again.
Q: How have your fans embraced your picture book? Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?
A: I’ve been so pleased with the kids and parents reactions at each author reading or a musical performance of Too Many Visitors for One Little House. The kids seem to really love the family and especially the dog. I’m also surprised to see that the kids as young as 2 years old totally relate and enjoy the book. I thought it would be for an older group.
At one reading in Arizona, I brought in the actual grandparents from the story. The kids were thrilled to meet the real people behind the fictional characters and showered them with hugs and questions. (It was great for the kids and great for the grandparents)
At the Booksicals musical performance of Too Many Visitors at the Robertson Library the kids were thrilled to meet and greet the actors and were so excited to have one of the characters actually sign their book!
In fact it was the kids themselves that helped me decide to write a sequel to Too Many Visitors and feature the dog as the main character. It took me by surprise when they kids asked me if I would write another book about the family. I asked them to tell me which character they would want me to write the next book about. Unanimously they all shouted – the dog! That’s how the Dog Naming Contest was born and how I decided to write a sequel.
Q: What is your daily writing routine?
A: If I am in the middle of a story I try to write early in the morning unless life gets in the way and I’m forced to sneak to the computer at night (during family time).
I write everyday, whether it’s working on a story, writing a blog, or writing marketing materials. If I don’t get to any of this I am not so nice to be around. Everyone in the family usually knows if I’ve accomplished what I needed to write that day.
Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?
A: Love having big family dinners. My kids and husband are all musical so we like to sit and jam at the piano, have drum circles, sing. I really enjoy going to the beach with hubby or the kids and riding a bike.
Q: What book changed your life?
A: Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Night by Elie Wiesel, The Chosen by Chaim Potok. To name a few.
Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?
A: The title would be: The world is for those who dare. That’s always been my motto and it drives me to follow my dreams.
Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”
A: that I never give up and don’t take no for an answer.
Thank you for this interview Susan. I wish you much success on your latest release, Too Many Visitors for One Little House!