Today I’d like to welcome the delightful Nancy Tupper Ling www.nancytupperling.com to Lupine
Seeds. A poet and children’s author, Nancy is a superb wordsmith who won both the prestigious Writer’s Digest Grand Prize and the Pat Parnell Poetry Award. Recently retired as a librarian, she is the founder of Fine Line Poets, finelinepoets.com, who seek to give voice to contemporary womanhood. Her children’s books include My Sister, Alicia May, Double Happiness, The Story I’ll Tell, and The Yin-Yang Sisters and the Dragon Frightful. She also has a number of books for adults, including Toasts and Family Celebrations.
Today, she’s visiting my blog as part of her tour promoting her latest title, For Every Little Thing. This beautifully illustrated collection of poems and prayers is such a lush celebration of life. What was the genesis for this collection?
Truly, it’s been such an honor to be work with the Queen of Anthologies, June Cotner. I’m amazed at all her book ideas that she’s constantly generating. The initial impetus for our anthology, FOR EVERY LITTLE THING, was to name it “Counting Blessings,” which was based on a poem by a long-time contributor, Barbara Younger. As we started gathering poems to inspire gratitude in a child’s day, I wrote a poem called “For Every Little Thing.” This became the title poem for our book and we began to refer to it as FELT in our daily emails. In March of 2018, we signed with Eerdmans and they hired the fabulous illustrator, Helen Cann https://helencann.co.uk/ to bring our poems to life.
You contributed a number of poems for this book. They are some of my favorites. Where did you find inspiration for poems like “Hearts in My Pocket” and “Tonight…”?
Thank you so much, Linda! I’m thrilled that you liked those poems. I wrote “Hearts in My Pocket” when our editor, Kathleen Merz, specifically requested a piece that would speak to families who have experienced divorce or separation. On the other hand, “Tonight . . .” was inspired by my daughter, Elizabeth, when she was about six-years old. We were visiting family in San Francisco, and after a beautiful day, she said: “Mama, tonight I will dream of the purple flowers, the ones that made you smile today. They’ll dance overhead. Their blossoms looked like fingers waving to the people. And I will dream that an orange fox sits beside me.” And there it was! Sometimes poems come to us as gifts and we need to be ready to receive them.
Some of the poets represented in For Every Little Thing are quite famous, others are lesser known. Some are older poets, one is only eight. How did you hunt down the poems you wanted to include in this anthology?
Great question! When we wrote the initial proposal, June and I included a variety of poets, dead/alive/famous/lesser known. Like you said, this requires a lot of research and “hunting down.” Since June has been creating anthologies for nearly thirty years, she has a database of over 1000 contributors. We also begin with a physical binder full of potential poems. Eventually, a “Call for Submission” goes out. We share the proposal as well, so potential contributors know what we’re looking for in terms of topics, themes, and chapters. As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts.
You worked on For Every Little Thing during the pandemic. Did world events influence you?
By the time the pandemic started, our anthology was in the capable hands of illustrator, Helen Cann. She worked during multiple lockdowns in the UK. In her words: “I was grateful for such a large project that not only kept me employed when so many others were losing their jobs, but it kept my brain occupied at a time of great stress.” Helen blogged about this difficult time and I’ve added the link here because it’s such a heartfelt description of how the practice of gratitude and appreciation for “the smaller things” in life can really provide hope.
Helen Cann’s post is heartwarming, a great reminder that, even now, children and adults have so much to be grateful for. Who do you imagine as the audience of For Every Little Thing?
According to Kirkus Reviews, FOR EVERY LITTLE THING contains “thoughtfully selected and prettily illustrated verses for religious households.” While this description is lovely, we’re hoping our selected poems are for every household, to encourage appreciation for little and big encounters in a child’s life.
Which came first, writing poetry or writing for children? How do the two aspects of your writing intersect?
Poetry came first. Ironically, when I was young, I vowed that I would never write poetry since that was “my Mom’s thing.” (My mother, Jean Tupper, is a published poet) That attitude changed in high school when I had a fabulous creative writing teacher, Ms. Alice DeLana. By my senior year, I was winning prizes for my poetry. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but I didn’t start writing picture books until I had two children of my own. In 2005 I won the Writer’s Digest Grand Prize. Part of the prize was a flight to New York City to meet an editor or agent of my choice. I quickly realized it would be best to present my children’s manuscripts that I’d been working on, rather than my poetry. Getting a picture book accepted is monumentally more challenging, and I needed all the help and advice I could garner.
My Sister Alicia May was your first published children’s book. Tell us about your journey to
In many ways, the Writer’s Digest prize led to my first picture book. When I sent my story, My Sister, Alicia May, to editor, Jean Cochran, at Pleasant St Press, the fact that I had won the Writer’s Digest Grand Prize definitely got her attention. Turns out she fell in love with the story too, which is based on two real-life sisters, one of whom has Down syndrome. Of course, I thought having one book under my belt would ensure others would easily follow. Ha! That was not the case. It’s been a long winding road, with lots of submissions, plenty of rejections, and conferences, workshops, and great critique groups mixed in along the way.
Double Happiness is written in poetry. What was your process?
You’ve mentioned that you draw inspiration from your multicultural family. Can you tell us more?
Yes, my husband is Chinese-American, and so our two daughters are multiracial. When they were younger, I noticed there weren’t many picture books that represented children from blended families like ours. Certainly, this has changed in the past five years for the better, and I’m excited to see how many more choices and new authors await this next generation.
Do you have any advice for poets and children’s writers?
My favorite bits of advice:
Even now I need to be reminded of all three of these. They may look simple, but it’s not easy for some writers to listen to advice. Sometimes we think we already know what we’re doing. I also hope I’ve become stronger writer in spite of or because of the mistakes I’ve made along the way. One of my favorite poetry teachers was a quiet, soul-filled man named Donald Sheehan who ran the Frost Festival in Franconia, NH, for many summers. Daily, he reminded the participants that while we might be desiring to break into the world of publishing more than anything in the world, if we’re unable to have a kind and generous spirit along the way, we’re missing the essence of the journey. I couldn’t agree more.
Are there any new projects in the works?
Just last month, June Cotner and I had another children’s anthology accepted. This one is entitled Bless the Earth: A Children’s Book of Prayers and Poems for Honoring the Earth and will be published by Keren Baltzer at Convergent/Penguin. We’re excited that this book will convey a spiritual perspective of caring for and appreciating the world, and will be the perfect way to acquaint children with the idea of respecting and being kind to our home.
Exciting news! In this time of environmental crisis, Bless the Earth sounds like a much-needed title.
Thank you so much for being my guest today, Nancy. I wish you the best of luck with For Every Little Thing, which is available for preorder here: https://bookshop.org/shop/nancytupperling or https://www.amazon.com/Every-Little-Thing-Prayers-Celebrate/dp/0802855199/ref=sr_1_1?crid=37G8APXGZ6OPU&dchild=1&keywords=for+every+little+thing+nancy+tupper+ling&qid=1632190888&sprefix=for+every+lit%2Caps%2C163&sr=8-1
To learn more about Nancy Tupper Ling and her work, you can visit her website at www.nancytupperling.com