Get to know April's Author of the Month, Marilyn Singer, as she talks about the inspiration behind her latest book, Echo Echo, reverso poetry and which Greek god she would be for a day.
Where did you get your idea for this book?
I’ve written three books of reverso poetry. A reverso is one poem with two halves. The second half reverses the lines in the first half, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization. The second half has to say something completely different from the first half, or it’s what one blogger’s kid called a “same-o.” My husband came up with the word “reverso.” Before that, I was calling these “up and down poems.” He said with needed a better word—and he was right!
My first two books of reversos, Mirror Mirror and Follow Follow, are based on fairy tales, which I also loved hearing and reading when I was a kid. I also loved Greek mythology, so it made sense that my third book, Echo Echo, would be based on that. The reversos feature one character with two points of view, one character at two points in time, or two characters, often with opposing points of view. So I look for strong stories in which to find these characters. Fairy tales and Greek myths are full of them—and also full of emotion, magic, wisdom, powerful and haunting imagery—all the stuff that makes for good poetry!
What was your favorite book when you were growing up?
I had loads of favorite books—a few of them were Grimm’s Fairy Tales (and other books of fairy tales), Alice's Adventures in Wonderlandd, All-of-a-kind Family series, Shakespeare (when I got older), and lots and lots of poetry.
How old were you when you started writing?
I wrote poems from third grade on. I used to read them to my classmates and teacher! I kept writing poetry throughout elementary and high school and college. I didn’t start writing children’s books until I was in my twenties. My first stories were based on insect characters I made up when I was eight. I was surprised to find that I was writing for kids—surprised and pleased! I was lucky, too, in that my first book, The Dog Who Insisted He Wasn't, was accepted very soon after I wrote it. When it was accepted, I said to myself, “Well, I guess I’m a children’s writer!” Being a writer is a career with a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes no one wants to publish what you wrote. Sometimes a lot of people do. To be a writer, you have to keep writing—which can be hard, but also fun!
What is your favorite word?
Poets have lots of favorite words. There are words I like because of the sound and image, such as crystalline or brocade or crisp. There are others I love because of what they mean: laughter or puppy or hug. There are others that are perfect for the specific poem or piece of prose. Read my poems and you’ll find lots of those, I hope!
What is your favorite Greek myth?
I’ve always liked “Arachne and Athena.” I love that we got the word “arachnid” from this myth, and I kind of get a kick out of two characters who act rather unpleasant. 😉 Two other favorites are “Orpheus and Eurydice,” which is a great love story with a sad ending that inspired a wonderful film, Black Orpheus, and “Pygmalion and Galatea,” which is a great love story with a happy ending that inspired a terrific play, Pygmalion.
If you could be any Greek god or goddess for a day, who would you be?
I’d be Hermes—guide, messenger, healer, and trickster. I like tricksters! Plus he had winged sandals. Who wouldn’t want winged sandals?