Author Showcase: An Interview with Karen Morss
By Luisa LaFleur, The Children’s Book Review
Published: November 24, 2010
TCBR: Thanks very much taking the time to answer some questions. It’s always a pleasure to be able to get more insight into the stories and the authors. We get lots of requests by authors to review their books, sometimes a lot more than we can handle, but I have to tell you that as soon as I started reading the Flying Poodles .pdf file, I smiled.
KM: Thank you so much for your kind words! I love this story. I’ve read it hundreds of times and sometimes I can’t believe I wrote it.
TCBR: Can you tell us a little about the true story that inspired Flying Poodles?
KM: I had been mulling on this idea since 1996 when I first heard that standard poodles ran the Alaska Iditarod race from 1988-91. I was amazed as my poodles didn’t even like to get their feet wet! I’ve had standard poodles since 1985. Daphne, Sheba, Polo, Sophie and Lucy were all my dogs (Lucy still is!). Spark was Sophie’s father, a tribute to my dad who introduced me to flying. Belle lives down the street and Max belongs to my friend Wendy, who was with me when I wrote the first draft.
TCBR: The Night Before Christmas is a timeless classic. I think that once you’ve read or heard it you never forget it. Can you tell us a little about how you came to write Flying Poodles in a similar style?
KM: Once the opening line came to me, the rest was easy.
TCBR: The opening line is great! Was it difficult to put your ideas into verse?
KM: I knew my story was about poodles pulling a sleigh. The idea that they would fill in for the reindeer came to me during a visit to Carmel, California in June of 2008. That line just popped into my head fully formed. Sometimes the universe gives you gifts!
TCBR: The drawings are so warm and inviting. Can you tell us a little about the illustrations and the process of putting your words into pictures?
KM: I created a very simple storyboard—I had pictures of my poodles; I found a very sweet neighbor to play Mrs. Claus; and I ran into a kind and gentle man who looked like Santa at my dermatologist’s office. I sent the storyboard to Ginger Nielson. She then created magic!
TCBR: Have any of your personal experiences influenced your work: perhaps your own experiences with dogs?
KM: From 1995 to 2000 I owned a flight school in San Carlos, California. My silver standard poodle, Sophie, went to work with me every day. She loved to fly and would jump in an airplane as quickly as she would jump in my car! Her nickname was the Flying Poodle. One day several years ago, a flight instructor told me the story about the poodles running the Iditarod Race in Alaska. They finished each race about mid-pack, which is a serious accomplishment. The story planted an idea in my mind that grew and grew.
TCBR: Flying Poodles is also available as an iPhone and iPad application. Can you tell us why you chose to make your story available via this new technology?
KM: Because Oprah said it will change the way children learn to read. I think she’s right. And in the spirit of the holiday season, the app is available for free November 24th and November 25th so go get it!
TCBR: Was it a complicated process to develop the app?
KM: Not at all in this era of technological miracles! Red Bird Studios has a new build-a-book app that makes it easy to create a picture book app for the iPad and iPhone. Anyone can check it out at http://www.red-bird-studios.com/
TCBR: The holiday season is such a wonderful time of the year—filled with traditions and memories. Can you share some of your favorite holiday traditions?
KM: Every year, my husband and I go for a Christmas day flight. Seeing the world from 2000 feet in the air gives me a great perspective on things. I look forward to this flight all year long.
TCBR: I was thrilled to read that you’re donating a portion of each sale to the Smile Train. Can you tell us about the organization and why you chose to donate to them?
KM: Smile Train is doing work that changes a child’s life forever. A simple 45-minute surgical procedure can correct cleft lips and palates, which are are major problems in developing countries where there are millions of children who are suffering with unrepaired clefts. Most cannot eat or speak properly, aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job and face very difficult lives filled with shame and isolation. Smile Train’s mission is to provide free cleft surgery for millions of poor children in developing countries and to provide free cleft-related training for doctors and medical professionals. They give children a new chance at life. I just love what they do.
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