The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview w/Candace Spizzirri and Review of Fishing w/Grandpa

Candace Spizzirri grew up in a small town in New Jersey with tree-lined streets and old Victorian houses. As a child, she spent hours playing at the park, catching minnows in a nearby stream, and exploring the woods at the end of her street. Passionate about education, Candace is a co-founder of an elementary school and high school in Southern California where she now makes her home. She loves spending time with her husband, grown children, daughter-in-law, and four grandkids.


Candace’s debut picture book, Fishing with Grandpa and Skye, released April 19th.

Welcome Candace,


Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write? )


I first started writing for kids back in 2016. It certainly wasn’t anything I ever thought I would do. and sort of came to me from out of the blue. In fact, I was a much stronger math and science student in school. But I always had a creative side and enjoyed painting, sculpting and crafting.


In January of 2017, I joined SCBWI and Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge and got serious about it. I connected with critique partners, started taking classes/webinars, and absolutely fell in love with writing!


I’m a morning person, so I write new drafts early in the day, but I can revise any time. I sometimes will write a first draft at the beach taking in the ocean breeze and sounds of the surf for inspiration or tucked into a quiet spot at my local library.


My favorite types of books to write are those with humor and heart. I’m a huge fan of rhyming picture books and started out writing funny and lyrical stories in rhyme. My first two book are in prose, but I hope to sell one of my rhyming manuscripts soon.

Oh, writing on a beach sounds heavenly! What is something no one (or few) knows about you?


Well, my family and close friends know that I’m not a great singer, but that doesn’t stop me from belting out the happy birthday song on the morning their big day either in person or on the phone. There may also be an accompanying dance. ;)

*Chuckling* I think there are many others who would be joining you in this endeavor. What was your inspiration for Fishing with Grandpa and Skye?


The idea for Fishing with Grandpa and Skye came from my own childhood. My Grandpa Henry and I loved to go fishing together. It was our special thing. This story is about the events of one particular day spent on the lake that is very dear to my heart. I often look to my own life as an idea generator.

You had a very special childhood to have such precious memories. You have a second picture book, Finley: A Moose On The Caboose (Gnome Road), coming in spring 2023. What is the hardest or most challenging thing for you about writing children’s books in general? And in particular, what was the most challenging aspect of Fishing with Grandpa and Skye? Why?


Yes! I’m so excited for my second book, Finley: A Moose on the Caboose! And hopefully there will be more books very soon.


Writing children’s books in general is hard, challenging, and oh so amazing! Since the story of Fishing With Grandpa and Skye closely follows the actual events of one particular fishing trip with my Grandpa Henry, getting the story down was easy for me. The hard part was tightening and editing each line and word until the story sang.


For Finley, the hardest part was getting the ending right. I often have trouble with endings and it takes me quite a while to figure it out. When Gnome Road Publishing reached out with interest asking for a revise and resubmit, they made some great suggestions on how I might rethink the ending. Fortunately, I was able to rewrite the ending and they loved it!

How many revisions did Fishing with Grandpa and Skye take from first draft to publication?


I’m not exactly sure how many revisions it took, but the actual story didn’t change much from the first draft to publication, which is unusual for me. What did change quite a bit was sentence structure, word choice, and length of the story.


The manuscript went from almost 700 words in the first draft down to 570 in the final. A lot of tightening was necessary to get this fish tale streamlined and ready to go.

That can be the toughest thing. Especially for one that is so close to one's heart and memories. What's something you want your readers to know about Fishing with Grandpa and Skye?


Although I use my granddaughter Skye’s name as the main character, this story is truly about many special fishing trips to Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, with my beloved Grandpa Henry.


The song in the book is one I made up as a young girl and sang to each fish before releasing them back into the water. I named every one and always blew them a kiss goodbye. I think Herman, the sparkly little sunfish I once caught, was my favorite.


I still have the gold heart necklace my grandpa gave me on that extraordinary day.


So. it's an ode to your granddaughter, grandfather, and yourself. When you first saw Beverly Love Warren’s illustrations in Fishing with Grandpa and Skye, did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite spread?


Oh, my goodness! I was thrilled when I first saw Beverly’s wonderful watercolor illustrations for Fishing. I have to admit the detailed, lovely spreads brought tears to my eyes. It was everything I had hoped for and more. I was surprised and delighted by her addition of the sweet little dog that accompanies Grandpa and Skye on their fishing trip. My collie Rex always went fishing with my Grandpa Henry and me, so this was such a fun addition to the story!

Text © Candace Spizzirri, 2022. Image © Beverly Love Warren, 2022.


I actually have two favorite spreads. In one spread early in the story, Grandpa and Skye are sitting back to back in the little skiff smiling at one another with text that reads:


“Now we wait,” said Grandpa. “Now we wait,” repeated Skye.

Sunlight warmed their faces as Grandpa whistled a tune.


Text © Candace Spizzirri, 2022. Image © Beverly Love Warren, 2022.


My other favorite is one where Skye imagines a whale of a fish at the end of her line. Beverly’s art shows a whale spouting lake water as Skye tries to reel in the monstrous mammal. It’s adorable!

I love the dog's face as he waits, too! Almost frozen in mid chew. Have you found anything particularly helpful in keeping you inspired and writing these past couple of years?


It’s been difficult to stay inspired and keep writing during the pandemic. Probably the most helpful thing I did was to take long hikes in the trails by my home in Southern California. There are many walking paths with gorgeous views along the way-ocean, canyons, and hills. I like to let my mind wander about characters, possible book titles, story plots, etc. I love playing the “what if” game.


Another source of inspiration is my four grandkids. They say and do the funniest things. I always come away from a visit with at least an idea or two. For instance, I have a work in progress called THE PLANETS PLAY which was inspired by my granddaughter Skye’s obsession with all things planets. She asked me to write a story about the planets playing together. And Skye wanted it to rhyme, which although my first love and the reason I started writing to begin with, it sure wasn’t easy to do! But mission accomplished. By the way, according to Skye, it’s always Neptune’s fault.

Ha! Can't argue with kids' logic. She might just be right. Can you think of something you wish you’d known before you started the publication journey with Fishing with Grandpa and Skye? How about as you embark on the journey with Finley: A Moose On The Caboose?


I wish someone would have given me the advice to just relax and enjoy the process. Publishing is a slow go. There will be ups and downs along the way for sure. Patience and persistence is the name of the game. I have trouble with the patience part. Persistence comes more naturally.


So, I’m trying to relax and enjoy the journey.


You'll have to tell me if you succeeded. Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


I always have lots of stories I’m revising and new ones rumbling around in my brain. Right now, I’m excited about several manuscripts that I have worked on for the past couple of years.

Well, I'm looking forward to seeing the cover for Finley: A Moose On The Caboose. And will keep an eye out for future announcements. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Central Park in New York City! I grew up not far away in New Jersey and loved spending time in the park. The people. The energy. The beauty. I haven’t been in quite a few years and I do miss it.


I would love to visit Grand Canyon National Park one day. It must be spectacular. However, it does make my heart race a little as I have a fear of heights and probably won’t be getting too close to the edge.


You can see an impressive amount without getting right up to the edge & the visitor/information centers are amazing! I hope you get to see it someday. Thank you Candace for sharing with us a bit about yourselves and your debut picture book.


Thanks so much, Maria, for having me on your blog today!


To find out more about Candace Spizzirri, or to contact her:

Website: http://candacespizzirri.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ccspizzirri1?lang=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100023632007597

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ccspizzirri/


Review of Fishing with Grandpa and Skye


Time spent with a grandparent is magical and precious. I have some wonderful memories from walks, beaches, and creating things with my grandparents. There is so much love expressed in the cover and throughout the book, it is a wonderful intergenerational treasure.

Fishing with Grandpa and Skye


Author: Candace Spizzirri


Illustrator: Beverly Love Warren


Publisher: Clear Fork Publishing (2022)


Ages: 5-8


Fiction


Themes:

Grandparents, patience, conservation, and family time.


Synopsis:

Days on the lake are a Skye and Grandpa thing. They load up their tackle box, hop aboard their skiff, and chug out to their favorite fishing spot. Today, the sun is shining, the fish are jumping, but will Skye hook a big one? FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE explores the rewards of patience and celebrates the love between generations.


Opening Lines:

On special days, Skye went fishing with Grandpa.

It was a Skye and Grandpa thing.


“I hope I catch a fish today,” she said.

“The biggest one ever!”


“Sounds like the start of a fish tale to me.”

Grandpa laughed. “Ready?”


“Ready, set, go!” she cheered.


What I LIKED about the Book:

Following a fun, visual interaction between the cat, dog, and Grandma throughout the title and dedication pages, the book opens with tenderness in both the text and illustration, as Grandpa and Skye head off for a special day together fishing. Continuing her illustration thread, Beverly Love Warren's sweet golden dog joins them for the adventure carrying the rope toy the cat had earlier. While the cat gets restrained by Grandma.

Text © Candace Spizzirri, 2022. Image © Beverly Love Warren, 2022.


With a gentle sense of humor, Grandpa jokes with Skye as they head to their fishing spot in the lake. Beautifully soft and expressive illustrations exude a sense of stillness and contentment as the pair sit in the sun together waiting on the fish.

Text © Candace Spizzirri, 2022. Image © Beverly Love Warren, 2022.


As a fish finally bites, only to abscond with Skye's bait, I am reminded of hours spent with my brother trying to catch a mudsucker that kept stealing our bait. This is such a great capture of a child's "patient," focused determination to succeed at a task. And the actions and interactions of the dog offer fun extra moments throughout the illustrations.


The next tug on her line is a clump of algae. Skye moans and is ready to quit, until Grandpa offers her a treasure that belonged to his mother. Telling Skye, "You look so much like her and have her adventurous spirit." Turns out she was the one who taught Grandpa all he knows about fishing. Enthralled and buoyed by the special treasure, Skye casts her line again. I love how Beverly shows the passage of time through the slow but steady bites on an apple.


When only the core remains, Skye's line is tugged a third time and "another shimmer danced at the end of the line." I really enjoyed the sprinkles of lyrical lines which dance through the text like the sparkles skipping along the lake's ripples. This time, Skye succeeds and names her fish Herman. I have to admit, I was very happy that they did a catch & release. Though I doubt most sports fishermen blow the fish a big kiss as they release them. Though this action, and the ending, highlight the tender personality of Skye and special loving bond she shares with her Grandpa.


It is a very sweet book, perfect for a read snugged on the lap of a grandparent. One made all the more loving and special by discovering that it is an historical fiction based upon real trips and treasures the author shared with her own grandfather. A tender book for encouraging family time and the creation of precious memories.


Resources:

- make your own fishing pond using paperclips & a magnet, a ring & hook, or paper cups & hooks.

- play a fishing game.


- do you have a special thing you like to do with a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or older neighbor? Draw a picture or write a description of your special day.

- Skye had to wait and wait to catch a fish. What is the longest time you've had to wait for something? How did you pass the time?

Decorative scroll design
Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Decorative scroll design

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