Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #58: Tricia of The Miss Rumphius Effect

h1 December 4th, 2007 by Eisha and Jules

Here’s a kidlit-blogger who probably needs no introduction, but we’re going to do it anyway. It’s Tricia Stohr-Hunt of The Miss Rumphius Effect, and we’re pleased as can be to feature an interview with her this week. We’re both pretty big fans of Tricia’s, particularly since we got to hang out with her and many other fabulous bloggers over coffee at the Kidlitosphere Conference in Chicago a couple of months ago (somehow we were in the group that didn’t get wine at Target). Eisha also has the pleasure of overseeing Tricia’s esteemed and insightful participation as a panelist on the Nonfiction Picture Book Nominating Panel for this year’s Cybils. Tricia is an enthusiastic and knowledgable kidlit lover, which is exactly what you want in a Cybils panelist.

Here’s another reason we love her: she sent us a baby pic. Prepare for cute-baby freakout…


Anyway, if you meet Tricia in person, you can call her Tricia, or you can call her Dr. Stohr. But you might not want to call her Mrs. Stohr-Hunt. Here’s why:

(Boy, do I hate that hyphen.) I wasn’t going to change my name when I married, but the little old lady at the office where we got our marriage license refused to leave Hunt off. When the license came back and we finally looked at it (the day before the wedding, of course), it was too late. I am known as Dr. Stohr at work, however!

Her blog is a fabulous resource for children’s lit fans of all types, but it’s especially great if you happen to be a teacher. She frequently composes Thematic Book Lists, including nonfiction, poetry, and picture books based around elementary curriculum topics. There’s lists on Reading Maps, Books that Fill the Senses, and a great booklist on China that Tricia composed in preparation for her awesome three-week trip to China, Tibet and Taiwan this past spring.

If you read The Miss Rumphius Effect, then you know that Tricia is also well known for her love of poetry, which she shares in her weekly Poetry Stretches. Here she describes a poetic form, and invites readers to compose their own poems in the specified form and share them. It’s a daunting idea, but the results are often inspiring. Even Jules got up the gumption to participate, composing a cento in honor of Eisha’s birthday this year.

Here’s Tricia’s own take on the features of her blog:

Since the blog began I have worked on creating thematic lists. These are annotated lists of books and poems on topics traditionally taught in elementary schools. The lists were originally written for teachers, but I find lots of librarians and homeschoolers like to use them. I have written more than 20 author salutes, which are posts that highlight the work of authors (and some illustrators) on their birthdays. The first Monday in August I began a new series called Monday Poetry Stretch. I pick a poetic form or some guidelines and ask others to play along with me. Later in the week I link to the results. It’s been great fun and keeps me writing and exercising my poetry muscles. A few weeks ago I proposed a renga, an ancient form of collaborative Japanese poetry. I started it and then readers and bloggers left the next stanza. It was amazing. I keep hoping folks will come back to add to it. You can read it here.

And in case you’re wondering, here’s how she came up with the title:

Here it is, right from my first blog post.

As for the title, I selected it because I am living my life in the shadow of Miss Rumphius and trying to live by these words:

“When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.”

That is all very well, little Alice,” said her grandfather, “but there is a third thing you must do.”

“What is that?” asked Alice.

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful,” said her grandfather.

“All right,” said Alice. But she did not know what that could be.

Miss Rumphius planted lupines, but I want to do so much more. What could that be? Like young Alice, I still do not know. When I find the answer, I’ll let you know.

We thank Tricia for taking time out from her busy end-of-semester schedule and Cybils duties to chat with us. It’s not quite the same as sipping Starbucks with her in a Chicago hotel lobby, but it’ll have to do until next year in Portland.

* * * * * * *

7-Imp: What do you do for a living?

The University of RichmondTricia: I am a faculty member in the Education Department at the University of Richmond (UR) {Ed. Note: Here is Tricia’s spot in cyberspace at UR’s web site as well as her personal site}. It is a small department that I have chaired since the fall of 2000. My undergraduate degree is in biochemistry and my Masters and Ph.D. are in science education. I generally teach future elementary teachers, though I am also working with students preparing to teach middle and high school subjects. I teach a course on how to teach elementary math and another that focuses on integrating science and social studies in the elementary curriculum. I use a lot of children’s literature in both of these courses. I love teaching! I get to work with an amazing group of students who will someday make terrific classroom teachers. I also spend time in classrooms with experienced teachers in an effort to help them feel more comfortable teaching math and science.

I’ve been at UR since 1994. Before that I was a science teacher. I suppose this career was always in the cards for me, having been a tutor in high school and college and an unusually bossy kid with a love for school supplies. I mean really, how many kids do you know who like shopping for pens, pencils and composition notebooks better than back-to-school clothes? If you know someone like this, he/she is probably a teacher!

7-Imp: How long have you been blogging?

Tricia: I posted my first entry on November 6, 2006. So, I’ve been blogging for just over a year.

7-Imp: Why did you start blogging? Why do you continue to do it?

Tricia: I started because I wanted to require blogging in my class. How could I possibly ask my students to do something I wasn’t doing myself? So, I jumped in. I wasn’t sure what I was doing or where I was going, but before I knew it I’d been embraced by the amazing community that is the kidlitosphere. I keep blogging because I need to write. Given the technical, academic and oftentimes very boring stuff I must write for work, I need an outlet for all the other stuff kicking around in my brain. I love putting together the thematic lists because it gives me a good excuse to pull books off my shelves, sit on the floor of my office, and really think about how they can be used in instruction.

7-Imp: Which blog or site would you take to the prom to show off and you love it so much you could marry it?

Elaine MagliaroTricia: I am convinced that Elaine Magliaro {pictured here} and I are kindred spirits. I would have loved to teach with her as my teaching partner or librarian. I’m also quite fond of educating alice and A Year of Reading. Oh how I wish Monica, Mary Lee, and Franki were teaching right here in VA. I’d be in their classrooms every week. I’ll also admit to a major blog crush for Roger Sutton. I mean really, who isn’t smitten with this man?

7-Imp: What are your other favorite things to do, other than reading and blogging?

Tricia: I love to cook and am really good at it. When we moved into our new house, we renovated the kitchen. I’ve got a six-burner gas stove, two ovens, a warming drawer, and oodles of stainless. If you cook, you’re drooling right now. I also like to iron (no lie), organize stuff (call me if you need your closets or attic cleaned), and listen to music.

7-Imp: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Tricia: I started my college career at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT. I was a terrible cadet and earned a lot of demerits. The very first one I earned was for “article adrift in room.” I left my iron on the windowsill to cool while I went to church. I guess they would have preferred a fire to a messy room. Once you rack up demerits, you get restricted and/or have to march. It seemed like I was always restricted and I did spend many a Saturday morning marching tours in the quad while in full dress uniform and carrying an M-16.

Even though I was a lousy cadet, I had some great experiences and learned a lot in the time I was there. I took two summer cruises on the US Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, the only active commissioned sailing vessel in the US Maritime services. I was lucky enough to watch the launch of the space shuttle Discovery from the rigging of this ship.

Other tidbits -– I sang the National Anthem for the Hartford Whalers on a few occasions while living in CT. If you followed my trip to China, you already know about the tattoo I got in Beijing!

7-Imp: What’s in heavy rotation on your stereo/iPod lately?

Tricia: The Once soundtrack, Death Cab for Cutie, Rufus Wainwright, Gomez, and anything by Frank Sinatra.

7-Imp: If you could have three (living) authors over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose?

Julius LesterJanet Wong; image taken from http://www.janetwong.comTricia: I hate that the three who came to mind immediately were all men, but there you have it. Julius Lester {pictured}, Russell Freedman and Peter Sís. If you’d asked me for three poets, I would have picked three women, so I think I will! Naomi Shihab Nye, Janet Wong {pictured}, and Joyce Sidman. And illustrators? After this whole Blogging for the Cure effort, how would I ever choose?

The Pivot Questionnaire:

7-Imp: What is your favorite word?

Tricia: Oh, must I really pick just one? I have a book with words I love, for the way they sound and feel in your mouth when they roll off your tongue. The words are written on scraps of paper, napkins, receipts -– anything I could put my hands on when I heard or read a word that moved me. You’ll find words like “gossamer,” “serendipity,” “wanderlust,” “abstruse,” and a whole host of words in Yiddish.

7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?

Tricia: I equally despise “hate” and the c-word.

7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

Tricia: Intelligence, a well-turned phrase, good food.

7-Imp: What turns you off?

Tricia: Intolerance, narrow-mindedness, dishonesty.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Tricia: “Crap.” It’s always been “crap.” Sometimes I like to preface it with the word “holy.”

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?

Tricia: My son laughing and rain on water.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?

Tricia: Screeching tires.

7-Imp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Tricia: Duh! Librarian (of the children’s variety, preferably in an elementary school).

7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?

Tricia: I’m one of those lucky people that could really be happy doing just about anything. Honest. But, that said, I would never have made it as a door-to-door salesperson, and I lasted all of one day as a telemarketer. YUCK!

7-Imp: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Tricia: “We’ve been expecting you. Your family’s waiting for you in the library.”

21 comments to “Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #58: Tricia of The Miss Rumphius Effect

  1. I’m ready for the prom, ladies! Ever since some wise blogger–I don’t remember which one–recommended The Miss Rumphius Effect last year, I’ve been a loyal reader of Tricia’s blog. I love her thematic book lists, her background in science, her original poems, etc. She impresses with her knowledge of so many subjects. Her students are fortunate to have her as a teacher. I am sure she sets a great example for her pupils who will become educators themselves. It’s interesting to know she wasn’t a stellar cadet. Nobody’s perfect!

  2. Ooh! Wouldn’t a poem titled “Object Adrift in Room” be wonderful? And it must feature that iron on the windowsill.

    I’m so glad you’re teaching our teachers. My daughter’s thinking about going into science education, and I can’t think of a better role model than you. And I wish I lived closer so I could “drop by” at dinnertime and take some of that fabulous food you cook off your hands.

  3. I actually DO live not too far from Tricia, so I may drop in for dinner some time! My closets could use organizing, too. But I’d rather read Miss Rumphius than spend time cleaning out drawers. Often I dash from the computer to the library, trailing book lists.

    When I was little, I used to ask my mother how would I find everybody in heaven. I’m still not sure, but I’ll look in the library first.

  4. Wonderful interview. I’m a big fan of The Miss Rumphius Effect, too. Tricia, the Coast Guard & Object Adrift in Room sound like perfect memoir material. Have you ever thought of it?

  5. Everyone, I meant to include in this interview that The Miss Rumphius Effect made the finals for Best Education Blog at the 2007 Weblog Awards. Wahoo!

    Tricia, I love that you write down words you love. My grad school children’s lit prof would have us do that as students when we talked about children’s poetry, the sounds of words, etc. I love the word “abstruse.” Really. I always have. I use it, too, when I’m with someone who will know I’m not trying to be pretentious but that I just love a good, juicy word like that. And “gossamer” is nice, too.

    I also love Gomez. Does it get any better than Gomez?

    I’d rather chew on tin foil than iron clothes. In fact, I generally try to avoid it altogether, but then I don’t work in a University right now like you. And rain on water? Great answer.

    Thanks for letting us feature you. Yours is one of those good blogs that always surprises me when I hear it’s just about one year old. It just seems like The Miss Rumphius Effect has been around longer, but maybe that’s ’cause we can’t imagine the kidlitosphere without you.

  6. what a fabulous interview! I live only minutes from Tricia, so now that I know about the organizing I may just call on her…

  7. Word to everything Jules just said, and double-word to meaning to include Tricia’s Weblog Awards finalist status. Oops.

    I’m a terrible ironer (is that even a word?), and tend to throw clothes in the dryer to fluff them before wearing. Not very energy-efficient, but they come out better than if I’d tried to iron. I’m jealous of all your skills, domestic and scientific.

  8. Miss Rumphius in ’08!

  9. It seems pretty clear to me that Tricia’s already making the world more beautiful. And more interesting, informed and well-fed. So, now that that’s all taken care of…

  10. Thanks so much for this great interview. Now that I hear about her cooking, I may have to move to Richmond.

  11. We were all such impossibly gorgeous children! And Dr. Stohr has the courage to show off her impossibly gorgeous adult self. Go Miss Rumphius! I very much agree with Liz: she’s so already taken care of the making the world a more beautiful place thing. I’m so honored to know people with such amazing lives! (And I agree: National Anthem: evil to sing!) Thanks for another great interview. grrlz!

  12. Thanks for another great interview, J&E. It’s amazing how easy it is to think that I know someone because I read the person’s blog everyday. And then I read your interviews, and learn all sorts of things that I had never suspected. So cool. I especially love the childhood picture. And I do agree that Tricia is making the world a better place, through her work and her blog.

  13. Alright, you all. You’re making me blush. Thanks for all the kind words. I do tend to substitute the word better for beautiful in that excerpt from Miss Rumphius. I suppose that’s why I teach. I still believe in the power of teachers to effect change, even if it is only one life at a time.

    This was so much fun! A big thank you to Jules and Eisha for letting me talk about myself!

  14. Hanging out in the hotel lobby drinking Starbucks in Chicago was AWESOME, as is Tricia.

    Tricia, You know, I use those thematic lists as guides for purchases for my library, so it’s like you’re a children’s librarian once removed already.

  15. Abstruse, gossamer . . . those are my kinds of words, Tricia. And you look great in your photos!!

  16. I first started reading Miss Rumphius because her lists were so amazing. When I meet her in Chicago, it was like I’d know her forever.

    Great feature.

  17. I really enjoy Tricia’s blog. It’s nice to find out more about her! Great interview.

  18. Object Adrift in Room! I have a few of those. I’d never make it in the Coast Guard.

    Another great interview, J&E!!

  19. I work with Tricia (in the office next door, I might add) and I can attest to the use of ‘crap’, since it is usually with much emphasis and audible next door. But… I will have to say that on matters of children’s lit, science/math instruction and … cooking … we all bow to her expertise. She is a great colleague and a wonderful teacher. I’m glad you found her!

  20. A little late to the party here, but I have to say that NOTHING would make me happier than to teach in the same town where Tricia was the chair of the education department! Ah, the new teachers we could raise together…sigh. But I have to believe that life works like Robert Frost says, “(Wo)Men work together, whether they work together or apart.”

  21. […] honorable Tricia Stohr-Hunt of The Miss Rumphius Effect features Poetry Makers, in which she’ll be interviewing […]

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