Rebecca J. Gomez is an author and poet who writes for children of all ages. She lives in Nebraska with her hubby, three kids, and a few pets.
For what age audience do you write?
Very soon, my second picture book, HENSEL & GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS, comes out. My first book is a picture book for kids roughly 4-8, but I truly love to write for kids of all ages. When I’m not working on a picture book, I’m usually working on a verse novel for middle graders or young adults.
Tell us about MOOSE.
WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? is a labor of love that began in 2006, when Corey Rosen Schwartz and I had recently started writing together. It’s a rhyming story about a group of friends building a treehouse together. Here is the blurb from Simon and Schuster:
It takes a team to build a tree house—but what if that team includes one very bossy moose?
When Fox, Toad, Bear, Porcupine, and Skunk set out to build a tree house, they know just what to do: they’ll follow a plan and they’ll work as a team. But when bossy Moose barges in and upends their plans with some of his own, his friends become more and more frustrated…until things go hilariously awry!
This lively rhyming picture book is pure, bouncy fun even as it imparts a subtle lesson about teamwork. Young readers will love to chant along: “But what about you, Moose!”
Henry: How cool that you got to collaborate with Corey! Moose are well-known in the animal kingdom for their poor manners. No ninja porcupines?
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
Mostly just fun! It’s great to read aloud, it’s silly, and it has great illustrations with lots of fun little details. It wouldn’t hurt if readers learned a little bit from Moose on not being bossy either.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Probably the waiting. There’s a lot of waiting in this business, but the hardest time to wait is when I’ve just finished a draft of a new manuscript and I have to ignore it for a while. It helps to have something else to work on in the mean time!
Henry: I feel the same way. We picture book writers must work on several manuscripts at once to stay sane.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
Being an author has made me really pay attention to how people respond to books. This has shown me that no matter how brilliant I may think my work is, no matter how many awards it may win or what place it reaches on the bestseller lists, there will always be someone who isn’t impressed. Readers are different. A bad review (even lots of them) doesn’t automatically negate the value of my work.
Henry: We writers are advised to never read reviews of our books. You know the saying about it being pointless to wrestle with a pig?
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Don’t get so caught up in wanting to be published that you forget to enjoy your art. Keep writing and improving your craft, and be patient. It will pay off.
Henry: It is true that beyond talent, published authors learn to be tenacious and thick-skinned. Sort of a pit bull-armadillo.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
One of my favorite writing-related quotes is from the movie Stranger Than Fiction. It is from the scene in the movie in which Karen Eiffel, an author, is telling her assistant how it is she finally figured out the ending to her book. She said, “Well, Penny, like everything worth writing, it came inexplicably and without method.”
Henry: Some other fun writing quotes include:
“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” ― Douglas Adams
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ― Ernest Hemingway
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work?
I prefer to write with a cup of tea in complete silence. Well, as silent as it can be with two poodles and a parrotlet in the same room.
Henry: So, not silent at all.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Flying, of course. I always suspect that anyone who answers differently is just trying to avoid being cliché.
Henry: While the virtues of flying are obvious, there ARE many other fun superpowers. Halting time is a popular one for authors on a deadline. Invisibility. The ability to ignore bad book reviews.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis, and Sharon Creech because their books represent, in my opinion, the best qualities in children’s literature.
Henry: C.S. Lewis is best known for his NARNIA series, but he also wrote with remarkable clarity about religion. Here’s one such passage from MERE CHRISTIANITY:
“’Temperance’ referred not specially to (alcoholic) drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further… A man may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.
There is one further point about the virtues that ought to be noticed. There is a difference between doing some particular just or temperate action and being a just or temperate man. Someone who is not a good tennis player may now and then make a good shot. What you mean by a good player is a man whose eyes and muscles and nerves have been so trained by making innumerable good shots that they can now be relied on. They have a certain tone or quality which is there even when he is not playing, just as a mathematician’s mind has a certain habit and outlook which is there even when he is not doing mathematics. In the same way, a man who perseveres in doing just actions gets in the end a certain quality of character. Now it is that quality rather than the particular actions which we mean when we talk of a ‘virtue’.”
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
Dragon, definitely. They are strong, they fly, they breathe fire!
Henry: Dragons are a solid choice. For some reason, I like minotaurs and centaurs too.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I like to read, to draw and paint, go hiking, bake, watch movies, and coercing my family into playing board games.
Henry: Nothing brings a family closer than a mandatory game of Monopoly.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
I am not sure, but I think it would be cool if it were in rhyme.
Henry: Here lies Rebecca, she had a full life. A beloved mother and smoking hot wife.
Where can readers find your work?
WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? is available in bookstores and pretty much any place that sells books. Visit Rebecca online at rebeccajgomez.com.
Henry: Thanks for visiting with us, Rebecca. This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.