Haiku Author Interview: Betsy Snyder

Posted: under Reviews.
Tags: , June 18th, 2009

Being that my daughter Penny and I are both so smitten with the fabulous picture book Haiku Baby, I decided after reviewing the book I had to contact author and illustrator, Betsy Snyder to find out more. Here’s what she had to say:
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When did you first become interested in haiku?
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As a child, I always liked creative writing and poetry projects in general. And I’m a nature-lover, so haiku is a good fit for me. Also, I studied printmaking in college, and have since developed a strong appreciation for Japanese woodblock prints. I have come to really appreciate the processes, traditions, and themes present in Asian art and poetry. A few years ago, I came up with the idea to do a haiku book for babies, in a way that would make haiku more approachable and playful for a younger audience but would still reflect some nuances of traditional Japanese poetry and art.

Why are haiku so well-suited for babies?
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I think the simplicity of haiku and the syllabic cadence is soothing and peaceful for little ones. Also, the nature and seasonal themes typically present in haiku made this poetic form perfect for highlighting baby’s first discoveries in the natural world.
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What inspired you during the writing process of Haiku Baby?
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For me, the writing and art processes are interconnected and often happen at the same time, so my inspirations for writing are also my inspirations for art. I’d say the very “essence” of haiku was an important inspiration. The idea of the “ahhh” moment in nature is something I was conscious of creating–I wanted to make each haiku and image combination more about the “moment” and “experience” and less about the “character” itself. I tried to think back to my own childhood and capture those first, sensory experiences in nature. The cultural tradition of haiku was also an inspiration–I wanted to pay homage to the art form itself by weaving in Japanese kanji symbols and other Asian imagery and motifs like parasols, mountains and cherry blossoms.

Your illustrations in Haiku Baby are amazing and add so much to the haiku. What do you like about being both artist and writer?
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I LOVE brainstorming and coming up with new ideas, so it’s really rewarding to start with a concept and let it evolve into words, images, and finally a finished book. Sometimes my ideas start with images, and I go backward and write to those pictures in my head. Or sometimes it’s the other way around–I think of the words first and then come up with images that accompany them. I like following an idea through the whole creative process and being involved with the decision-making all along the way.

What’s next on the drawing board? Any future haiku endeavors?
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My newest book with Random House, Have You Ever Tickled a Tiger?, just came out on May 26–it is a fun touch-and-feel book for babies and toddlers that features animals like a prickly hedgehog, a whiskery walrus and a huggable octopus. I have another book coming out in September with Little Green Books/Simon & Schuster called Don’t Throw That Away! by Lara Bergen–this book is made from recycled materials and features an eco-conscious super-hero that teaches kids how to recycle and reuse common household items. Also, I am excited to announce my first self-authored picture book, Sweet Dreams Lullaby, which comes out with Random House in January 2010–this is my biggest book venture yet and I can’t wait to share it!

I’d love to do another haiku project sometime–it is definitely a possibility.
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