RHONDA GOWLER GREENE
Master of Education, 1983
Children’s book author
West Bloomfield, Mich.
Don’t Give Up | All Rhonda Gowler Greene had to show for three and a half years of trying to reach her goal of becoming a children’s book author was 220 rejection letters. Yet, she was buoyed by the fact that some rejection letters weren’t as bad as others. “The last year I was getting some personalized rejection letters, with notes on them from editors, which is really good because it shows you’re getting a little bit closer,” she says. “That’s probably what kept me going.”
Rhyme Time | After finally getting her first book, the award-winning “Barnyard Song,” published in 1997, Greene has published nearly two dozen children’s books, most picture books for children ages 2 through 8. Her clever poetry is illustrated by various artists, resulting in an appealing book that helps children learn.
Teaching and Reading | Greene’s books are in keeping with her childhood dream of being a schoolteacher—which she was before becoming an author. She was an elementary learning disabilities teacher and also taught in preschools, with her teaching stints occasionally interrupted as she and her husband, Gary, also a Xavier graduate, reared four children.
The Right Word | Even though Greene is now an established and respected author, writing children’s books is still hard work, especially because of the search for the precise words needed to appeal to youngsters. “Probably what I spend most of my time on is getting the right word,” she says. “That is what is so important in a picture book. I use the thesaurus a lot. Mine is falling apart. I also use a rhyming dictionary a lot. Often I will put my work away for a day or two and then look at it again. If a word is not the right word, I just keep at it. Sometimes I spend days on one word.”
Competition | Despite television, movies, the Internet and computer games, Greene feels there will always be an important spot for children’s books. “There’s a lot of competition for kids’ attention now, but I still see my local library being used a whole lot,” she says. “With all the book stores and libraries and parents reading to their children, I don’t think books will ever disappear. One thing that is becoming a popular item in children’s books is graphic novels. That’s a big change affecting kids’ books.”
What’s Ahead | As for Greene’s future, she’s trying something a little different. “I still really like to do picture books, but I’m also working on something for a little bit older kids, probably for grades four through eight,” she says. “I’m looking to write something not in rhyme but in free verse.” No matter the age level that Greene is writing for, one thing remains the same—the search for just the right word. “I think it’s important to use the word that fits best, whether that’s a difficult word that a child has to learn through context or by asking someone else,” she says. “I study the best books out there in the genre that I want to write in, and I try to make my writing that good.”