Quarto Kids | 1 September 2019Meet the Author: Marilyn Singer Share article facebook twitter google pinterest This month’s featured author is Marilyn Singer, poet extraordinaire and author of Wild in the Streets: 20 Poems of City Animals. We asked Marilyn questions about her process and career so far and give you a chance to sneak a peek at some illustrations from the book! Pre-order your copy of Wild in the Streets: 20 Poems of City Animals here. Where did the idea for Wild in the Streets: 20 Poems of City Animals come from? Sometimes an idea for a book pops into my head, and before I know it, I’ve written it. Sometimes an idea sits in my brain for a while before I get around to doing something with it. Wild in the Streets came from an idea I had FORTY YEARS AGO. Yep, you read that right. Four decades ago, inspired by the pigeons surrounding me in NYC, I wanted to write a prose nonfiction book about urban animals, largely ones found in the U.S. I wrote a proposal, but nothing came of it. One editor suggested that instead of just focusing on American city critters, I write about urban animals around the world. I liked that idea, but there were few books on the topic and this was way before home computers were available. It was hard to do the research. Oh, I did try—I wrote snail mail to lots of people, many of whom were kind enough to write back. But it was slow and difficult going, so I abandoned the project. Then came two things that made the project possible: the Age of the Internet and my love for poetry. The former made research much, much easier. The latter made me decide on a different way to write the book. Instead of just prose, I would combine that with poems about animals in different cities. I have always loved writing poetry and I’ve written quite a few collections, many featuring animals. Poetry frees me to capture moments in time, snapshots, but also things beneath the surface. It allows me to surprise myself and my readers. It lets me give voice to beings other than myself in concise ways. In 2015, I was honored to win the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry, which confirmed that, hey, some people like my work. So, poetry seemed like the right genre for this book. I hope you think so, too! How did you choose which animals would be included in the final book? Anyone interesting end up on the cutting room floor? I knew about some of the animals from earlier research—besides pigeons everywhere, I’d seen the peregrine falcons in NYC, the bats in Austin, and the monarch butterflies in Pacific Grove. I’d read about coyotes in Chicago and boars in Berlin and watched films about the rhesus monkeys in New Delhi and the storks in various towns. To find more animals, I read more articles and books and watched more videos. There are many, many animals that have adapted to city life, but I didn’t want to include just birds, mammals, and insects, so to show variety I tried to find reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, and spiders as well. There were others I could have included and ones I chose not to. For example, I wrote a poem about urban foxes, which are particularly common in London, for another book (A Strange Place to Call Home), so I didn’t want to revisit that. I did write a poem about rats and squirrels for Wild in the Streets which ended up on the cutting room floor, maybe because they are too common and maybe because folks don’t want to read about rats! What is the main message you want children to take from Wild in the Streets? In order to protect species—to counter habitat destruction, pollution, and other factors that have hurt them—you have to get to know them. You have to understand why they have moved into human territory—territory that often was once theirs. I hope that the book presents this information in a surprising, amusing, moving, and sometimes challenging, way. I am also a great believer in nurturing wonder. To see how, in spite of so many obstacles, animals manage to survive and even thrive in environments that can be difficult or alien to them—that is wondrous to me. And I want to share and nurture that wonder. What challenges did you encounter while writing this book? What surprised you most? Well, the research was certainly challenging. Sometimes it was hard to find out how animals got where they are, so I had to dig even deeper for answers. I found experts and wrote to them for further information. Also, as I mentioned, I wanted to include a variety of creatures, so sometimes I’d start with a species and try to see if it was found in cities. I think that discovering that there are river crabs in Rome under the ruins of Trajan’s Forum was a real surprise! So were the hyenas that enter the city of Harar and are fed by “hyena men.” Hyenas are fierce animals and to find out that some people have this mutually respectful relationship with them was startling and wonderful! What advice would you give to aspiring authors? I am asked this question a lot, and I always give this advice: “Read, read, read. Observe with all of your senses. Keep a sense of wonder. And then sit down and write!” About Marilyn Singer Winner of the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry, 2015, Marilyn Singer has written more than 100 books in many genres. She created a poetry form, the “reverso,” featured in three of her award-winning collections: Mirror Mirror, Follow Follow, and Echo Echo (Dial), illustrated by Josée Masse. An animal lover, Marilyn likes to look for critters in parks, preserves, zoos, aquariums, in the wild and in her own backyard—and then write about them. She lives in Brooklyn, NY and Washington, CT with a dog, a cat, and two doves, as well as her favorite dance partner, who also happens to be her husband. Visit Marilyn online here. Wild in the Streets $17.95 Buy in US / Canada Buy in UK / Europe Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.