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  • Writer's pictureManju Howard

Yvona Fast’s Passion for Poetry and Loons Lead to Collaborating on a New Book

I grew up in central New Jersey where the common loon liked to hang out for half the year. Today, I’m pleased to present Yvona Fast, author of Loon Summer. Her new book was published by Atmosphere Press.

For our Kidlit Creatives Members, you have a chance to win a signed copy of Loon Summer.

To WIN this special prize, follow the directions at the end of this post.

First, I want to share photographer Nina Schoch’s cover art!

From landing on just-thawed lakes in spring to raise their chicks, until they migrate to ocean waters in the fall, loons enchant us with their haunting calls and black and white plumage.

Diving, swimming, fishing, raising their chicks are portrayed through Yvona Fast’s lyrical poems and Nina Schoch’s stunning photos.

Fun science facts accompany each poem and photo, providing scientific information about loon calls, diving abilities, fishing skills, and how their raise their chicks.

Manju: Hi Yvona! Congratulations on Loon Summer. What inspired you to write poems about these beautiful birds?

Yvona: Loons are a local fixture in the Adirondack Park where I live. We have many lakes where I like to paddle (canoe and kayak) and swim, and we see them often on our lakes. While taking walks in spring, I always look forward to seeing "our" loons arrive on the pond.

I'm not sure when I started writing poems about loons - it was several years ago.

We do a local event each spring called "Poem Village" where people submit poems and they are printed on large posters and hung in local shop windows in downtown Saranac Lake. It is not a contest. Everyone is invited to submit poems, and many teachers have their students participate. I think three years ago, the 3 poems I submitted were all about loons. One is still hanging in the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation.

Manju: Did Dr. Nina Schoch’s photographs of loons inspire you to write the poems for Loon Summer? Or did your poems come first?

Yvona: The poems came first. I had written a bunch of poems, because I love loons!

I had read some books - Jane Yolen's Alligator's Smile and Egret's Day - and decided to follow a similar format.

When I decided to put them into a book, I approached Dr. Nina Schoch, because she has awesome photos of loons. Two of the photos in the book are mine - the rest are all Nina's.

I also wrote the original prose pieces. Because of Nina’s scientific background, she corrected some inaccuracies, and together we edited and re-worded some parts of the factual prose.

Manju: How did you decide which poems to include in the collection?

Yvona: I struggled with which poems to include. Some poems were too 'adult' for what I wanted to be a children's book. Then I was told that most of my poems were not suited for kids. So, I decided to call it a coffee-table book rather than a children's book. Now it is a book for all ages - with young children's poems like On Mama's Back, Hello World, Loon Nest - middle-grade poems like Airborne and Loon Party - and ones for adults like Tremolo and Call of the Loon. I have one more poem I didn't include, The Diver, because I hope to publish it as a board book or early picture book someday.

Manju: Beyond blog posts like this one, how are you and Nina marketing Loon Summer?

Yvona: We held a book launch and poetry reading at the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation on Friday, September 2nd from 6 – 8. Not only is this the beginning of Labor Day weekend – which means our town will be full of visitors – but Saranac Lake is doing a “First Friday” event. Downtown will come alive for a celebration of cultural diversity, history, food, business, and arts. At the Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid, they feature authors every Saturday all summer long. It is too late to get in for this year - they're booked through Columbus Day - but I hope to do it next year. I also sell all my books at our local Saranac Lake Third Thursday art walks, through the Artworks tent at the Saranac Lake Farmers' Market (Sept. 17 and Oct. 1), and at local artists' fairs and holiday fairs.

We plan to contact organizations listed in Loon Summer to ask if they have gift shops.

Also, I'm looking for more opportunities to spread the news online, through other blogs.

We are donating 10 percent of the profits to the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation.

Thanks very much, Yvona!

Yvona Fast: My writing comes from varied experiences as an immigrant, as a person with a hidden disability trying to fit into a neurotypical world, as the child of Holocaust survivors, as someone with a deep spiritual life who loves the natural world of lakes and mountains, trees and forests, sun, rain and snow.

My creativity also comes out in the kitchen, where I make healthy meals with vegetables from Mom’s garden, roadside stands and the farmers’ market. I have been writing weekly about food since 2005 and have had articles published in newspapers and magazines.

Prize offer: For a chance to win a signed copy of Loon Summer, read the post, leave a comment on our Kidlit Creatives page (must be a member) and share this interview on your Twitter or Facebook. Deadline to enter is September 14th.

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