It wasn't until recently that the e-book format provided a conduit for sharing his quirky free-rhyming story style to a broader international readership. Peter's Canadian homegrown originality has been well-received, with new myths like the Snow Alligators, The Immovable Rock, or The Very Last Apple poised to become creative milestones.
Currently, readers will find 20 stories available in e-book form, some including illustrations, as bedtime reading for children of several age categories. See also this recent post on With Five Questions which features an excerpt from one of Peter's stories.
I began in 1986 writing a few stories for my own sons. At that time, there was little to nothing that we found was fun to read or interesting for bedtime, except Dr. Seuss, Mercer Mayer, Beatrix Potter, and some random stories like Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are and E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. Bedtime is important. Reading as a ritual is important. Dreams are important. There were many commercial children stories cashing in on the popularity of media, like Disney characters. Back then the whole world seemed to revolve around writers who thought their stories about loveable dinosaurs where innovative and cute; today, it's all about vampires, werewolves, and magicians.
The real motivation back then was not to become bored stiff while reading to my own children, and the writing aspect was both fun and a challenge.
The style I use is somewhere between "Prose Poetry" and "Free Verse Poetry." I call it FREE-RHYMING PROSE. It's one thing to write a story or even prose, but it's another to write a story in free-rhyming prose. Truly it's uncommon and much more challenging than a simple "Dick and Jane" type children story.
2. Tell us more about the illustrations for your children's stories: who are some of the artists you've collaborated with, and do you do some of your own illustrations as well?
The artists and each artist's style are as important and specific to each story, as is the story itself. I view student artists no differently than seasoned artists. The ideas are original and provide inspiration for the artists, but the visualization is always a challenge. I view my illustrators as friends, associates, and collaborators. Any success will be shared, and they know I continue to struggle with general recognition of the unique nature of free-rhyming prose children bedtime stories.
At the heart of art is the heart of the artist. What I am saying is that for art to survive it is best that it appeal and have something more. The best art has a story and heart, something beyond the visual and technical creativity.
Not including aesthetic comprehension and dictum of style, it's not even about two types of art: academic art or commercial art. No matter what the artist intends, all art is commercial. No art can survive without being sold. To be sold it needs exposure and something more. It needs a heart. The heart can be the story of the artist, the story of our shared humanity, the writer's vision, etc., but ALL successful art has a story, has a heart.
Technically, there are some exceptional artists, but I'm not one of them. I illustrated some of the stories, but only with the help of the reader's imagination are these considered adequate.
For the children, to better comprehend a story, artwork has increased value. When artists take time to provide reasonably competent illustrations for a good story, based on their talent and skill-level, it certainly adds dimension and depth to the art and to the story. The proper elements put together can be magical.
Only a few illustrations seeded into the story will enhance it greatly. My stories constitute several conceptual elements to motivate reading and precipitate a positive reading development. With all stories, some illustrations are an expanding element and necessary for a clear understanding of the story.
3. Why did you decide to publish your stories in e-book form?
It was really the only way to get the stories out there, with international exposure, and targeted to the method and medium available to me.
I was quite surprised by the simplicity of the process. I have given my works over to Amazon-Kindle exclusively. The results still aren't impressive, but that's also why we're doing this interview. The stories need exposure.
4. What makes your stories different, unique, or special, when compared with the myriad of other children's story books that fill the proverbial cyber bookshelves?
My stories are designed for both the reader and the listener.
Children will request parents to re-read, over and over again, a story that has caught their imagination. If not written in free-rhyme, many of these stories can quickly become dull and a burden to read.
When written in unrestricted free-rhyming prose, a story is both a delight to read and to hear. The reader feels accomplished when reading my stories and, in the act of storytelling, begins exaggerating tone, inflection, and mood.
When constructed in free-rhyming prose, while reading along, children quickly begin to retain portions of each story.
Once the child begins reading independently, these stories act as memory assisting templates, to guide the beginning reader through their first reading selections. The reading successes of a child will fuel additional comprehension activities and help to jump start reading skills that greatly motivate the young reader.
For the adult reader these stories are always a treat. I understand the necessity to include a reader's interests and needs as part of the story telling activities.
The length of these stories is designed to be between 10 to 15 minutes, to act as a short break or bedtime activity. Unlike Dr. Seuss, I have avoided making up new nouns and adjectives for purposes of rhyme, other than some tintinnabulation (words designed to give greater description of sounds), finding that teachers do not appreciate this activity of making up words.
I also find that by identifying children by full name, as the story characters, adds a sense of character reality and identity. The children accept the diversity of people, which opens their imaginations to accepting limitless fictional situations and opportunities.
5. How have various readers (children, parents, and teachers, for instance) responded to your stories?
After writing a few stories, I was asked to do readings at several schools and libraries, precipitated by my sons and their peers.I received hundreds of enthusiastic children's letters, then decided to share some of my stories with a larger audience.
I can't say that I understand or believe in social media, but I do need some real exposure. I have no doubts that my unique stories will find success and recognition, given time. What does concern me is the lack of reviews for some stories that I think are simply magical bedtime stories, with or without illustrations. Stories like The Very Last Apple, The Immovable Rock, Foggy Daze, The Fishing Derby, and my latest, What Was That, could be great fun for parents and children. Sure, they're not all for the 3-5 year olds, but 6-9 year old children should find them fun. Some other stories are also fully illustrated but have few reviews; therefore, no exposure, even though they are unique, fun and great for bedtime reading.
I always have a story in-the-works. It takes a clean spirit and mind to write these unique and original stories.
I try to reach all readers and sell the stories at the lowest price point that Amazon-Kindle allows. This is to attract as many readers as possible and have the stories reviewed by as many parents as possible.
Being stories sold at 99 cents, this doesn't mean they have lesser content, value, or quality reading. It only means they are a bargain.
I guess the best indicators come from the parents reading the stories. Below are some of the reviews I have received on Amazon-Kindle, the majority being VERY positive and supportive. There are too many to share, but here below is a sampling. Personally, I have been very bolstered by the responses.
I THINK IT'S A ROCK (Written by Peter W. Collier and Illustrated by Cam Craig)
review by Faye Tipton
I enjoy this book as much as my four year old son does. The great illustrations are cute and fit the story perfectly. The rhymes have a fun way of building up to a climax and my son joins in with " ...but maybe not". Highly recommended.
review by M. Jackson
This book is really cute. Even if you are not a child, it will still make you smile. Seems all children loved Dr. Seuss books, and this book also rhymes--but on a much different level than Dr. Seuss. I like this kind better. Children everywhere are sure to love it.
MONSTERS I KNOW (Written and Illustrated by Peter W. Collier)
review by MRubio
Monsters I Know is a big hit in our family. Our kids loved it! The illustrations are strange and unusual but really good. By strange and unusual I mean they really grabbed our kids' attention. They kept flipping back and forth to see the illustrations. Great stories and a lot of fun. I highly recommend this book to anyone with small kids.
PRESSED IT TO TEST IT (Written by Peter W. Collier and Illustrated by Katie Balfe)
review by Peggy A - TOP 1000 REVIEWER
A lot of children's games encourage button-pressing, and the things that happen are fun and/or entertaining. Consequently, it's no wonder curious children want to press buttons to find out what will happen.
As adults, we know that buttons shouldn't be pressed automatically. But kids need to learn this. The examples used in the story are common, everyday occurrences that children can relate to. Reading about the consequences of pushing the wrong buttons allow children to understand the harm that can be done without the pain of real-life learning. "Pressed It to Test It" is a cute story that does a great job of teaching children without becoming preachy.
KIDS I KNOW (Written and Illustrated by Peter W. Collier)
review by V.A. Roncelli
Really liked this book, easy and fast paced for kids. This book is one of the little treasures in our library. Thanks so much for the giggles.