Sunday, August 23, 2009

Welcome Claire Saxby!


Claire Saxby is talking about her new picture book, Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate. The first question I asked her reflects the problems with googling titles... I happened upon a site that miss-punctuated the title!

Welcome, Claire!
1. The Sheep Goat and the Creaking Gate is a fascinating title. It asks questions immediately; what is a sheep goat? Or is there a comma missing? And is the creaking gate literal, or does it imply something that needs help (oil)? Are any of these questions intentional, or are they serendipitous?

A. There is a comma! The creaking gate was an image that stuck in my head.
Every now and then I wrestle with what I actually meant psychologically, but it eludes me. Certainly nothing intentional. So I'll settle for...it's a device to help draw in the audience. They 'creak' for me every time I mention the word. On the surface level, which is where most children will access the story, it's a sheep who's ignoring what she has for what she wants, and a goat who is temporarily led astray. I toyed with using names for each character (not the gate) but liked the generic names better.

2. Goats and sheep don't star in as many stories as one would expect, given their intelligence and humour (goats) and their iconic Aussie status (sheep). Do you have any idea why this is?

A. No idea at all! I think sheep and goats deserve their place in our literature along with the cuter, cuddlier animals. I do have a fondness for sheep, despite having worked closely with them on a farm. They are funny to watch, generally fairly content with their lot, and I have to say, quite cuddly! (lambs and sheep, not rams...they're not cuddly at all). I have written about sheep before (sort of) in my book 'Runaround Rowdy' although the focus there was on the sheep dogs they worked with. I did want to stay away from stereotypical images of either animal, despite the lighthearted nature of the story, and Judith's cartoon-y illustrations help to keep the story light and funny.

3. Did you have any resistance from editors who wanted you to make this about a more "popular" (fictionally speaking) animal?

A. Not at all. This story has had three lives. One in School Magazine, one online and now here in picture book form. Perhaps the editors all belong to the sheep and goat appreciation society and were secretly cheering the opportunity to give both animals their turn in the sun (and moon and stars).

4. Do you read your texts aloud to "test" them or do you have sufficient "ear" in your mind?

A. Yes, I do read my texts aloud, but also listen to them in my mind (is that possible?). I also test them with a couple of readers. I ask them to point out bits that don't make sense but also to read them aloud. Then I can see how the text operates in the hands/voice of a first-time reader.

5. Is the story based on fact in any degree?

A. I have seen sheep poke their head through a fence to reach something that obviously takes their fancy. This even when they have their own food supply. I've help disentangle them from said fence.Goats are more known for finding things of interest beyond their own fences. I've been slowed down on a few country roads and had to report runaway goats. And I've certainly met my share of creaking gates. But this sheep, this goat and this gate? Never met them before. Pure products of imagination.

Here's a complete list of Claire's stops on her blog tour.

Here is a complete list of the dates so you can join Claire on her blog tour:Monday 17August 2009 Dee White: http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com/Tuesday 18 August 2009 Rebecca Newman: http://www.soupblog.wordpress.com/Wednesday 19 August 2009 Mabel Kaplan: http://belka37.blogspot.com/Thursday 20 August 2009 Sandy Fussell: http://www.sandyfussell.blogspot.com/Friday 21 August 2009 Dale Harcombe: http://orangedale.livejournal.com/Saturday 22 August 2009Sally Murphy: http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com/Sunday 23 August 2009 Robyn Opie: http://robynopie.blogspot.com/Monday 24 August 2009Sally Odgers: http://spinningearls.blogspot.com/

23 comments:

Sally Murphy said...

lol - without the comma sheep goat reminds me of that weird cartoon Cat Dog.
Great interview guys.

Claire said...

It is funny. We call our dog a cat dog...she's a cavalier king charles spaniel and is as close to a cat as possible without causing allergies for my husband! And she curls up on your lap like a cat, sleeps on the window ledge...and so on and so on...

Thanks for having me here Sally, it's nice to be virtually in Tasmania today.

Dee said...

Great interview Sally and Claire. And I totally agree Claire, sheep and goats definitely deserve their place in literature.

Dee

Mabel said...

Being a farmer's daughter,I feel a great affinity with sheep. I love the fact that their eyesight is poor but their hearing is good - so they respond to sounds and voice. We used to tease my father the way the sheep responded to his voice when he had to hand feed them during summer. And once we had a pet sheep (orphaned at birth) who thought she was a dog and used to try to round up the others.
A most evocative story, Claire! Thank you, SallyO for creating such a delightful exchange.
Mabel

SANDY said...

Everywhere people are talking about the graet title ant the questions it immediately asks. And I'm one of them. Excellent interview guys.

Sally_Odgers said...

Thanks everyone. Funny thing, Claire; I often see a chihuahua sharing a window ledge with a tortie cat while out walking:-)

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

It never occured to me that sheep and goats weren't getting their fair share of the book market. Glad to see that Claire is helping fix that obvious form of descrimination.

Wonderful interview. We had a cat named "Spot," which, for those who don't know, is usually a dog's name.

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