Kidlit author Buffy Silverman searches for snow fleas and happily answers questions about a worm's capability to grow in brains!

During childhood, if you spend long hours collecting insects, worms and words – well, you’re probably headed toward a career as a children’s author and poet. This describes Buffy Silverman. I’ve enjoyed Buffy’s insightful and whimsical poetry and writing for many years now and was thrilled she and I were able to make a connection!

Buffy, you’ve written over 90 books. You’ve had hundreds of poems, articles, and stories published in magazines and with educational publishers. That’s an incredible feat! With a large catalog of material already written, do you ever have days when you think you may run out of ideas that you’re passionate about sharing?

"One of the great benefits of having a dog is that I spend time outside every day—and that leads me to noticing what’s going on in the natural world. As long as my dog keeps sniffing, I’ll keep finding inspiration. There are certain topics that I’ve returned to many times (Insects! Predation!) I try to find new angles and approaches to writing about these subjects."

Tell us about your non-fiction books for kids.

"Many of my nonfiction books were written for series developed by editors. Some of these were featured subjects I knew little to nothing about. Mars? Pokemon? The Titanic? Cutting-edge Brain Science?? The trick for me is to start digging into research. The more I learn about a subject, the more interesting it becomes. And once I’ve discovered the “wow-factor”, I know I can write about a subject for a young audience."

What percentage of time do you usually spend on researching the facts versus the actual writing?

"I wish I could say I was organized enough to answer this question. Usually I go back and forth between researching a topic and writing about it. And as I’m revising, I delve into the research again. I’m a minimalist when it comes to outlining and note-taking—and that might not be the most efficient approach."

Millbrook Press is releasing a new book you wrote, titled On a Snow-Melting Day, next year.

"I don’t usually like to rush the seasons, but I’m counting the days until February 4, 2020 when On a Snow-Melting Day is released. The book will appeal to young listeners and readers, 3-8 years old."

Did it take long for you to find On a Snow-Melting Day a publisher?

"Surprisingly, no! The spark of the story began as a phrase I scribbled in a notebook on January 10, 2018. I participated in the Storystorm challenge, and on that day, Heidi Stemple encouraged writers to pay attention to what’s around them. That’s advice I give myself all the time. When Carol Hinz had an open call in spring of 2018 for nonfiction manuscripts that could be illustrated by photographs, I had recently finished my snow-melting manuscript. I almost didn’t submit it because I pictured it with illustrations, not photographs. But a friend who had read the story encouraged me to send it in. The moral of the story is to always listen to your writing friends."

What surprises can the reader expect to find “on a snow-melting day”?

"The book is an extended poem about all the changes that occur as winter retreats and spring begins. It features chickadees sipping from icicles, spotted salamanders marching over melting snow, and insects warming themselves in skunk cabbage. For a preview, read the synopsis at Kirkus Reviews which (to my amazement and gratitude) gave the book a STAR! Here’s a link to the review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-re... "

Your poems are included in a variety of anthologies.

"I was thrilled to have a poem published last year in J. Patrick Lewis’ The Poetry of US (published by National Geographic.) That poem, entitled “Tulip Time Festival” is about the annual tulip festival in Holland, Michigan, which is a one-hour drive from my house. Here’s a secret… I had not been to the festival when Pat asked me to write about it. But I watched online videos of the festival, and read all about it. Since then I’ve attended the festival--twice! I have also been proud to write poems for several of the Poetry Friday Anthologies, brilliantly put together by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong."

Who are your poetry mentors?

"My writing focus has wandered over the years, from narrative nonfiction for magazines, to writing nonfiction for educational publishers, to poetry. I think I first caught the poetry bug when I enrolled in an online children’s poetry class with Laura Purdie Salas, about 10 years ago. As I delved into children’s poetry, I discovered that this is the writing I am most drawn to and is what I want to do when I grow up! Many children’s poets who bring nature to life inspire me—Barbara Juster Esbensen, Valerie Worth, Joyce Sidman, Leslie Bulion, Douglas Florian, Deborah Ruddell, and Irene Latham have written books that I’ve read over and over again. I think poetry books are really the best mentors for anyone wanting to write poetry."

When writing for children, do you think it’s always important for your poem or story to encompass a particular message, or do you feel it’s fine to write and share literary kids’ work with entertaining in mind, and perhaps simply to show the reader another way of looking at something?

"When I write poetry it’s usually for an audience of one—myself! My ten-year old self is tickled pink when I come up with interesting word-play, a clever rhyme, or a humorous view. I suppose if I were trying to include a message it would be to encourage readers to notice the magic of the world around them. I do hope that young readers pick up on my enthusiasm for nature, and that an awareness of the natural world leads to a desire to protect our environment."

Your first published book, Bat’s Night Out, will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year! How wonderful - and perfectly befitting for this time of year when bats are prevalent. It would appear to be a great book to take on classroom visits.

"Yes! I often include Bat’s Night Out as part of a school program. When I speak to students, I highlight different approaches to a single nonfiction topic, including an informational book, some narrative nonfiction, and poetry. Bat’s Night Out portrays one night in a bat’s life through narrative nonfiction."

What quirky animal fact from your book, Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks? makes you smile when you think of it?

"Kids love the gross factor that’s included in a few questions in this book. I can guarantee that I’ll get a shudder when I ask this one: Is It True That a Worm Can Grow Inside Your Brain? And every student will want to hear more. Some of the questions clear up common misconceptions, which I count as a win. I’d rather kids not think that sharks are bloodthirsty killers or that bats are blind and get tangled in your hair."

What advice could you share with a writer just starting out?

"Go to your library and read, read, read! I’m a frequenter of the new book shelf at our children’s library, so I can imbibe what’s being published today. And don’t give up…I think my Kirkus star makes me an overnight success story, only thirty years in the making."

What inspires your photography?

"I’m lucky to live on the swampy end of a small lake in Michigan, so I spend a lot of time photographing the critters that live near me—dragonflies and damselflies, monarch butterflies, ladybugs munching on aphids, and more. I especially like to photograph the change of seasons. My dog ends up in a lot of photos."

If it were a “snow melting day”, what would you photograph?

"I always search for snow fleas when the snow starts to melt, but they are not that photogenic. I keep my eyes open for skunk cabbage blooms and tree buds stretching. Most of the illustrations in On a Snow-Melting Day are stock photos, but I’m delighted that a few are mine."

Fun stuff:

Pippi Longstocking is spending the day with you! What happens?

"I’d bake a pie for Pippi, probably with the Michigan blueberries I pick and freeze during the summer. After the pie I’d bring Pippi down to my basement office and let her choose whichever books she’d like to read."

Charlotte (Charlotte’s Web) wrote “Some pig” as one of her messages to save Wilbur. There were other messages she wrote: “Terrific,” “Radiant,” and “Humble.” What message would you send out?

"I might ask Charlotte to write a new message— “Look up, look down, look all around. Notice what’s happening outside your window!” Maybe that’s a little long for a humble web. But she was some spider, so perhaps she’d oblige."

On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring
3 likes ·   •  10 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on November 01, 2019 00:19
Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Laura (new)

Laura Salas What a fantastic interview! Buffy, I'm so excited to see this book, and I'm delighted to have been there when you felt the poetry spark. Congratulations on your starred review--that is just fabulous!


message 2: by Buffy (new)

Buffy Thanks, Laura--and thanks for the inspiration and encouragement over the years.

And thanks Raven, for inviting me to your blog and asking lots of great questions.


message 3: by Linda (new)

Linda On Laura's notice, I found this wonderful interview. Buffy's photos and words are always inspiring, so I'm glad to read more about her and what's she's done with poetry. Thanks, Raven!


message 4: by Michelle (new)

Michelle I'm so excited for On a Snow Melting Day! IMHO, Buffy is long overdue for a place at the table with those other children's poets she mentions who bring nature poetry to life!


message 5: by Raven (new)

Raven Howell Laura wrote: "What a fantastic interview! Buffy, I'm so excited to see this book, and I'm delighted to have been there when you felt the poetry spark. Congratulations on your starred review--that is just fabulous!"

This book will be great for kids to see. Buffy's the real deal, a fabulous wordsmith.....with just enough silly to consider spending a day with Pippi Longstocking! Love it!


message 6: by Raven (new)

Raven Howell Buffy wrote: "Thanks, Laura--and thanks for the inspiration and encouragement over the years.

And thanks Raven, for inviting me to your blog and asking lots of great questions."

Buffy, you have lots of fans, and we're all looking forward to your new book! Yay!


message 7: by Raven (new)

Raven Howell Linda wrote: "On Laura's notice, I found this wonderful interview. Buffy's photos and words are always inspiring, so I'm glad to read more about her and what's she's done with poetry. Thanks, Raven!"

And, Linda, I have a feeling we'll be treated to lots of goodies from Buffy in the coming years! Thanks for your thoughtful comment.


message 8: by Raven (new)

Raven Howell Michelle wrote: "I'm so excited for On a Snow Melting Day! IMHO, Buffy is long overdue for a place at the table with those other children's poets she mentions who bring nature poetry to life!"
Thanks so much for the kind comments, Michelle. Buffy's upcoming book will no doubt be a success! Warm regards.


message 9: by Marian (new)

Marian Grudko Another great interview, Raven! Reading this makes me want to say, "Forget Pippi - I want to spend the day with Buffy!"


message 10: by Raven (new)

Raven Howell Marian wrote: "Another great interview, Raven! Reading this makes me want to say, "Forget Pippi - I want to spend the day with Buffy!""
Hahahaha! Yes, I know what you mean. Buffy is multi-talented and in my opinion, an wise old soul whom anyone would enjoy spending the afternoon with.


back to top