KN: Vulture View is filled with poetic elements such as alliteration, repetition, rhythm, and rhyme. Were all of these elements present in your first draft or did you add some as you revised your manuscript?
APS: Yes, those elements were present in the very first draft. I had been thinking, for years, about writing a book about flight and hawks. Vultures were in drafts of my hawk book. But then, one day, they took over. Or, should I say, I was watching vultures rise up over a rain forest in Panama when the words to the book came into my head. I heard, "The sun is rising, up, up. It heats the air up, up." Once I saw the connection between the sun coming up and the air rising up and the vultures rising up, I knew I had a book. The cadence and alliteration just unfolded. Of course, there were still many drafts to polish the language.
KN: On your website you talk about how in high school you took care of a young turkey vulture while working at a raptor rehabilitation center, and that later on you spotted them migrating through Panama. Did seeing the kettle migrate inspire you to write Vulture View?
APS: Yes, it started in Panama, although the book was not ultimately set in the rain forest. (Many of my other books, such as Meet the Howlers and Army Ant Parade are.)
KN: We tell students it’s important to use strong, “WOW” words while writing. Could you share some of the ways you sought out “WOW” words while writing Vulture View?
APS: Well, I do a lot of editing to eliminate fluff. So I guess my technique for writing with "wow" words is to eliminate all the "non-wow" words! I like concise, specific writing. I love active verbs.
KN: Please tell us about winning the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book award.
APS: Oh, wow. What can I say? The passionate, hard-working members of that award committee helped change my life. I'd been ill for months with whooping cough, cracked my ribs because of it. I was just barely healing, and had just that day, for the first time in months, gone out of the house, to see a movie with my husband. I could barely speak because my voice had been damaged by the whooping cough. Now, just imagine, how it feels in such a vulnerable state to find a message on the answering machine that some librarians at some conference have called. Hmm...strange. Yet, how nice that they like my books! Honestly, that in itself was lovely. I had no idea that it was awards time of year. But then they had called back and left a second message. What? I have won an award? A Theodor Geisel Honor Award? What? My favorite part was when the committee erupted into cheers in the background and said "Hurray, April!" I just stood there and listened to the message and cried with joy. It was particularly sweet because it came at such a tough time in my life. Of course, another great part of it is that the award for Vulture View is for both text and illustration. You know that the illustrator is the great Steve Jenkins. So that call, and all the happy messages and award hoopla, including the ALA conference, were a pleasure. My entire family, especially my nieces, made the most out of the entire thing. They loved the silver stickers on the books. Someone locally gave me a basket of gigantic vulture sugar cookies. Since then, I have been on t.v. talking to a T.V. (turkey vulture) puppet. So we've had a ball. I think we've perhaps changed a few people's attitudes about vultures, too.
KN: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us?
APS: Well, I think it's an exciting time for nonfiction. There are many nonfiction authors experimenting with language and format. New nonfiction awards, and awards such as the Geisel, which have welcomed nonfiction, have helped bring these books to wider audiences.
KN: Thanks so much for the interview.
APS: Thanks for helping point out quality books and bring them to educators and to readers in general!
KN:Read the April 5th post for accompanying activities for VULTURE VIEW. I won't be posting a book of the week this week because it is spring break here in Massachusetts. I'll post a new book on the 25th. Have a great week!