Welcome to the second installment of my interview show, Waffles with Writers! Every month I chat with a working writer over a nice, waffle-centric meal.
Today’s brunch companion is Tara Lazar, whose first book, The Monstore, hits stores this week. Two other titles are hot on its heels: I Thought This Was a Bear Book (Aladdin, 2014) and Little Red Gliding Hood (Random House, 2015). If that wasn’t enough, this September her essay “Grow Up. Be Serious. Oh, Nevermind!” will be published in the YA anthology Break These Rules (Chicago Review Press).
Long story short, Tara is busy.
Mike: Good morning, Tara! The waffles are just about ready and– Um…I know I’m serving breakfast food, but I didn’t expect you to arrive wearing jammies. Do you find that jammies work well with your writing lifestyle?
Tara: Of course! All my life I wanted a job that required me to work in jammies. Since the Macy’s mannequin and midnight boogeyman assassin positions were already filled, being a children’s author was the next best thing.
Congrats on your first book, The Monstore, by the way! I’ve always liked monsters. If you could customize your very own monster, what would be some of his main attributes?
I think I will borrow a monsterly attribute dreamed up by a student from Mrs. Mozer’s second grade class: a monster that shoots cupcakes out of its foot.
Why its foot?
Well, it’s better than from the mouth, I say. That would be an ABC Cupcake (Already Been Chewed).
In addition to your writing skills, you are also an accomplished figure skater. If you were to compete at the 2016 Winter Olympics, which 1980s pop ballad would you choose to accompany your routine?
“Rio” by Duran Duran. Because she “dances on the sand,” so it would be a hot, beachy number. If you haven’t noticed, ice arenas are really, really cold.
You recently introduced your daughter to a number of episodes from The Brady Bunch – and shame on you. Is there anything about that show that could help a writer improve his craft?
You can often learn by non-example. The Brady Bunch writers came right out with the lesson, smacking you the way Alice whacked that award-winning sculpture of Mr. Brady’s head.
Mike Brady would tell his kids the lesson with a stern yet loving stare, or the kids would repeat the lessons aloud for themselves (and the audience). When Jan campaigned for most popular girl, she made many promises but didn’t keep them. Her entire family admonished her for not making good on her promises, but she ignored them. At the end of the show, Jan finally learns her lesson and reads a speech apologizing for her selfish ways. Instead of showing that Jan was sorry, the writers told everyone she was sorry. I guess they only had 22 minutes and had to tie things up neatly with a bow. I say leave neat bows for gifts, not stories. Nothing ends on that perfect a note.
Have you ever discovered a good nugget of writing on The Brady Bunch?
How about “Oh, my nose!”?
In addition to the children’s book thing, you and I have something in common: we both headed up public relations departments. Let’s see if you still have the old magic: You work for BP. In 100 words or less, please put a positive spin on a two million-gallon oil spill off the coast of Atlantic City.
Come on down the shore! Just bring a bottle of balsamic and there’s free salad dressing for all! Bon appetite!
Yep. You’ve still got it. You once mentioned that you collect junk for inspiration. What is the junkiest thing that has ever inspired you?
Junkiest thing that ever inspired me has to be a piece of shriveled pepperoni.
What did it inspire?
A pizza story, silly! What else?
What is the junkiest thing you own that you hoped would provide inspiration, but hasn’t?
A chipped, miniature ceramic kitten with a ball of blue and red string. I thought it was really cute and would make a good writing mascot, but I’m perplexed because I don’t even like cats and I have no intention of writing a cat manuscript. Yes, we writers can be strange.
Well, thank you so much for stopping by, Tara! It was a pleasure. Would you like to grab a piece of junk from my house as a souvenir?
May I have that rusty bicycle wheel in your garage? With writing, you gotta just keep rolling on…