Posted in Meet the authors

Starlight

Website: https://www.galacticadventuresofhazel.com/Instagram: https://instagram.com/galacticadventuresofhazel/

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  1. When you were my age (10), did you have a book inspire or impact you?

I used to love reading Enid Blyton’s children’s books. Her Adventure Series were pretty awesome – four kids going about solving mysteries and having outdoor fun – really got my ‘adventure’ imagination going at a young age. I loved the way she had a theme associated with each book, The River of Adventure, The Castle of Adventure, etc., so that there was a different tone, color and flavor to each adventure.

I feel that I should also mention here that while I was growing up, I hadn’t encountered many novels where a female character gets to be a main protagonist. I really wanted to see girls taking on the leadership roles in books involving adventures. And so, when I decided to write about galactic adventures, I wanted it to be about a girl. The Galactic Adventures of Hazel – Gurecoa, is the first book of the series. This story is about a 12-year old girl, Hazel, and her friends who travel to different galaxies to find out what Gurecoa really is.  This is an entertaining novel which will appeal to both girls and boys who can relate to Hazel, a people person, in many ways.  

2. Have you read anything recently that inspired or impacted you?

I just finished reading “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking. It is amazing how masterfully this genius scientist explains the complexities of the workings of the Universe with simple analogies and spatters his accounts with wit. His concepts of time and space, singularities, black holes, arrow of time are both mind boggling and inspiring. I was overwhelmed by the intricacies and the scale of the universe in terms of the parameters of space and time.  

It was indeed a great read and provided me the necessary fuel to channel my imagination in the right direction in the coming months. The more you know about science and technology, the better you will be able to do justice to a sci-fi fantasy book.

3. Can you share what your usual day as an author looks like?

My typical day would be to sit in front of my laptop and type away chapter after chapter talking about the series “The Galactic Adventures of Hazel” and be blissfully “absent” from Planet Earth for at least a few hours, except of course when I have to munch on something which painfully brings me back to Earth. Anyway. But to be able to put that kind of effort means there is also a lot of planning and thinking that goes before it.

As an author, I have this constant background process that runs in my mind, where I’ll be thinking about how to add a new character or to what world does Hazel go to next. Small things such as looking at a building or going horseback riding can trigger one’s imagination, and I would be quickly jotting notes on my phone when that happens. I guess, authors are like scientists in the department of creativity. 

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4. Is there a newer or less known author you think kids should know about?

A few years ago, I read the Septimus Heap series written by Angie Sage. It took me on adventures through a world of magic and I couldn’t help but fall in love with these remarkable characters: Septimus Heap, Jenna and Marcia Overstrand as I went through her seven books. Her use of humor takes the story to a whole new level. If anyone loves Harry Potter, they would enjoy reading this series as well. 

It is amazing how authors start with an idea and bring out a whole new world for all the readers to enjoy.

5. What is a cool thing about being an author?

Personally, being an author, I find there is never a dull moment. There so much imagination and creativity that goes into the works that it never grows stale. I can’t imagine how a little bit of writing can transform a dull lack luster day into an exciting journey of imagination and fun.

Another thing, which I frequently talk about, is how writing has taken me on a roller coaster ride. Here I am, creating a whole set of galactic adventures and worlds of the 46th century, and I can’t help myself but feel, I’m actually going on an adventure with Hazel and friends. I create a scene where Hazel has seconds to make a decision to escape from a sea monster, for example, and as I write, it’s funny that I start feeling anxious or thrilled as the story unfolds. I used to think that it is only the readers who feel these emotions but I have to say even as an author I’m not exempt from them.

6. Is there anything hard about being an author? I know it is not rainbows, cupcakes, pens and a pot of gold.

There’s a lot of commitment that goes into being an author. It’s like having your own enterprise. It’s not just writing, but like I explained there is a lot of imagination and creativity that needs to go into it. At any given point of time, say take today for example, I am not only writing my manuscript for my third book in the series, but also marketing my first book and working with my publisher on the publication of the second book. Additionally, one has to handle book signings, interviews and more importantly providing answers to amazing kids like you who are interested in knowing more about the book and my journey.

On top of that, if you are a new author you may have other obligations such as taking on a full-time job to support yourself financially. But if one loves what he/she does, I guess every experience and phase teaches authors something which ultimately leads them closer and closer to their goals.   

7. Book access and diversity in books is a big topic. As an author what do you think your role is in this topic?

That’s a great question. With the internet, I guess accessibility has become somewhat easier, as a book could be downloadable from anywhere in the world. Although my book is available as a soft cover, hard cover and ebook formats, in the coming years I hope to endeavor to make it more access friendly by way of audio books, translations, picture books to name a few.

Diversity is such a talked about term these days and the author that comes to my mind who has done a most remarkable job is Rick Riordan. His fantasy novels on Magnus Chase have such a collection of diverse characters that it is both a delight and wonder to read.

My book takes place in the 46th century where galactic travels and interactions with other alien species are a norm. It inherently speaks diversity in a futuristic, imaginary way. You see a mishmash of characters: Hazel, the main protagonist and her brother are part-Tarian, an alien race inhabiting a future Earth, their friend Lumens is from a light dimension who appears to be a sixty-year old man but there is more to be said about his age. And then there’s this AI Doorbell friend that is both annoying and nosy. With diversity in that era being as normal as checking your internet or using your cell phone in this age, the book delves more into friendships and cultivating deep and rich bonds.    

8. If you could portal into any book which would it be?

From my childhood I have been interested in Space and the Universe. I was curious as to what lay beyond our planet Earth and if there was life beyond. As a little girl I wanted to explore distant galaxies and far-off planets. Unfortunately, advanced space travel is something not yet known to our species and sadly, under these present circumstances I couldn’t be a space explorer as I had imagined.  

The Galactic Adventures of Hazel is, I could say, an inspiration and imagination of the childhood fantasies I had had of the Universe. If ever I get the superpowers to portal into a book, it would be into: The Galactic Adventures of Hazel. I would love to fly the Intergalactic Vehicle (IGV) that Hazel and her friends use and take part in the IGV tournaments, have a row with the annoying Doorbell or enjoy some nice little galactic treats at Himmelska, the famous restaurant in the Milky Way, in Locenburg, the city of Waterfalls! 

Locenburg, the city of Waterfalls

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Posted in Meet the authors

Vicki Loubier

My online presence would be:  vvstories.weebly.com and facebook.com/author.vicki.loubier


1. When you were my age (10), did you have a book inspire or impact you?When I was 10 (WOW, that was a long time ago) I believe I was in 4th grade and I was writing then.  I actually won an award for a story I wrote.I can’t think of any particular book that inspired me but I would have to say something rhyming and silly.

2.  Have you read anything recently that inspired or impacted you?Everyday I read inspirational phrases that are usually in a rhyming format and that’s how I like to write my children’s stories, in a rhyming format.

3. Can you share what your usual day as an author looks like? My usual day as an author…Well, I work full-time at the local University, and often times I see a child in my travels when I’m out at a store and something they may say, or an adult may say even, may trigger something funny for me to write about.

4. Is there a newer or lesser known author you think kids should know about? Yes. Me!  I try to write my stories so they have manners or some kind of meaning in them that children can relate too, in a good way. 

5. What is a cool thing about being an author? The best thing about being an author is seeing my hard work in actual print.

6.  Is there anything hard about being an author? You are self published so how does that work? Hmmm, finding illustrators is the hardest thing for me.  I use a site called createspace to self publish my books.  There is certain criteria that must be met as far as number of pages and margins to name a few, but once I have uploaded the text and pictures and the see the final product in print (usually weeks later) it is all worthwhile. I love to write.

7.  Book access and diversity in books is a big topic. As an author what do you think your role is in the topic? Being an indie author is tough because I am not a salesman or marketer and that kind of comes with self publishing to get my books known. I have read different stories at the local YMCA, children’s center and schools which I enjoy because their faces light up and the questions or statements can be quite funny.  I also have my books in a local gift shop in Vassalboro, ME., and I also do craft fairs as available. I also have donated my books to schools and hospitals in hopes of putting a smile on a child’s face.

8. If you could portal into any books which would it be? I’m going to choose mine and say, ‘Fred The Frog’s Big Adventure Story and Coloring Book’.  Reason being is because along Fred’s journey he meets many different animals in the forest and it makes for an interesting adventure.

Posted in Meet the authors

Miranda Paul

1. When you were my age (10), did you have a book inspire or impact you?

There were several books that inspired me when I was young. One of them was Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. The book spoke to me because—believe it or not—Miranda was NOT a popular name where I lived in the 1980s. People always messed it up, misspelled it, or called me Amanda or Melinda (in fact…I got an email from a friend addressed “Dear Amanda” just last week). As a kid, I wanted to change my name so badly to Michelle or Kristen. Today, I wouldn’t give up my name for anything.

2. Have you read anything recently that inspired or impacted you?

On the kidlit side, I read two books that made me cry! One is called Hand in Hand by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum, and the other is called A Map Into the World by Kao Kalia Yang. I’m also a huge fan of anything written by Aisha Saeed and Jacqueline Woodson. On the adult side, I like to read nonfiction. I find myself impacted by true stories and facts. I’ve recently read books about genetics, astronomy, and people’s life journeys (called memoirs). I also read a book about how to deal with difficult people, and though it wasn’t my favorite, it did help me to think about how to be polite and kind but still address my concerns or needs. Speaking up was something that was hard for me as a shy kid, but I have grown up to become much better at communicating. In fact, I have a book coming out next year called SPEAK UP that is all about the ways we can find our voice and make a difference.

3. Can you share what your usual day as an author looks like?

That’s a tough one. My writing days don’t always look the same. I used to think that was a bad thing, and when I became a “real” writer I’d have a daily schedule and stick to it. Then I learned that when life has its ups and downs, its interruptions and moments of peace, I’m living my life rather than watching life pass by. Adventures and changes help keep me sharp physically and mentally, and because of those things, I’m a better person. When I’m a better person, I’m a better writer. If all I did were write, if I didn’t experience life or interact with people, what would I write about? Would my writing be ordinary or dull? I try to do a lot of writing in summer and winter, and I do more school visits and revising in spring and fall. When I’m home, I write more in the morning—I get tired pretty early at night. It’s a good thing to establish habits and routines, and some people need them to stay motivated or finish their work, but I guess I’ve mostly had enough passion and motivation to find ways to write on planes and trains and even in the shower.

4. Is there a newer or less know author you think kids should know about?

Oh, there are so many! There are several newer voices—especially Chrystal D. Giles, Sylvia Liu, and Carole Lindstrom—who have published a poem in a book I edited called Thanku: Poems of Gratitude. Marlena Myles illustrated it, and I think everyone should be on the lookout for more of her art. There are so many more I’d like to name, but this interview could get really long…

5. What is a cool thing about being an author?

Working in pajamas! Meeting kids (kids are pretty cool)! Getting to bring my cats to work! Getting letters from readers! 

6. Is there anything hard about being an author? I know it is not rainbows, cupcakes, pens and a pot of gold.

There are cupcakes and pens, and occasionally rainbows. I haven’t yet found a pot of gold, but I’m holding on to hope. Seriously, though, there are tough things. It’s not always easy to make a living, even if your books sell well. There’s also a lot of hard work and rejection. Every book I’ve made has taken years, not months or weeks like some people think. Some authors really struggle with staying motivated to finish a project, because you often work alone and don’t get paid until you’re completely done.

7. Book access and diversity in books is a big topic. As an author what do you think your role is in this topic?

I’m a co-founding member of an organization called We Need Diverse Books (www.diversebooks.org). One of my upcoming books, Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, benefits the organization with every sale. I think everyone’s role is to think about diversity and try to be inclusive. We can examine our own thoughts, words, and actions. We can be readers, supporters, sharers, buyers, and even writers of books. I run a Mentorship Program for WNDB that pairs new or upcoming voices in children’s literature with an established mentor, usually an author, to help guide them. So far, I’ve been able to help pair 37 mentees with a mentor, and many have gone on to sign with agents or publish books. It’s satisfying to be a small part of the big work that needs to be done. But we can always do more.

8.  If you could portal into any book which would it be?

Either IN THE CANYON by Liz Garton Scanlon and Ashley Wolff, or GRAND CANYON by Jason Chin. I loved my visit to the Grand Canyon a few years ago and I’d absolutely love to visit again.

If you wanted to ask about books coming up next, I’m extremely excited for an upcoming book called Little Libraries, Big Heroes. It’s about Little Free Library cofounder Todd Bol and how he spread his idea of sharing books all over the world. The book releases on September 3 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books) and is illustrated by the incredible John Parra. I hope everyone will check it out, and maybe put their copy inside a Little Free Library!

Posted in Author Meet Up, Meet the authors

Brooks Benjamin

Online presence (website/social media)
www.brooksbenjamin.com
Twitter: @brooksbenjamin
Instagram: @thebrooksbenjamin

  1. When you were my age (10), did you have a book inspire or impact you?
    Yes! Bridge to Terabithia had a huge impact on me. I grew up on a little farm in the middle of nowhere and I really connected with Jess. But then I got to the end of the book and got so mad at Katherine Paterson for what she did to Leslie. I vowed to never read the book again and maybe even form an anti-Terabithia club or something. But I couldn’t stay away from that story for some reason. It had rooted itself in my heart and it wasn’t going anywhere.

2. Have you read anything recently that inspired or impacted you? Recently, I can’t get enough of Ronald L. Smith’s books. He writes the most wonderfully creepy stories and his latest, The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away, has quickly become one of my most favorite books of all time. And it’s the one that inspired me to begin working on a spooky story of my own.

3. Can you share what your usual day as an author looks like?
It’s positively glamorous. I’m talking fluffy fleecy robes, cereal in diamond-studded bowls with milk that has the little gold flakes in it, imported coffee, you name it.
wakes up
Oh, sorry, what was the question? My typical day? Got it. Well, I’m also a full-time teacher, so most of my day looks like me running around, making weird jokes and goofy faces, trying to make kids laugh while I teach them stuff. Which is odd because that’s also how I look when I write. I do that for one hour before I go to work. I have my cereal (normal bowl, normal milk), my coffee (it’s from Kroger), and a head full of ideas freshly plucked from dreamland.

4. Is there a newer or less known author you think kids should know about?
Absolutely. Greg Howard should be on everyone’s to-read list. His first MG book, The Whispers, is positively phenomenal and he’s got a new MG coming out next year that is going to be so much fun!

5. What is a cool thing about being an author?
Connecting with young readers will always be my absolute favorite thing about being an author. Emails, letters, drawings, all of it. And when I’m lucky enough to meet readers in real life? My smile practically wraps the whole way around my head. Which is scary. It scares people. Especially me.

6. Is there anything hard about being an author? I know it is not rainbows, cupcakes, pens and a pot of gold.
Well, there are cupcakes. But that’s because I like cupcakes and I buy them sometimes. Mainly because being an author is hard. One thing every author faces is rejection. For every book we have out there, there are probably two or three (or more!) that never made it. Rejection stings. And when you’ve got anxiety like I have, sometimes that sting carries a bit of poison that soaks into your brain, infecting every thought you have about your writing. Sometimes it can feel like you’re sinking. But luckily I have the most amazing wife who is a pro at helping me stay afloat. And my agent is so relentlessly supportive. I’m very grateful to have them on my side.

7. Book access and diversity in books is a big topic. As an author what do you think your role is in this topic?
You know those cheerleaders who toss the other cheerleaders into the air so they can do some amazing flip kick twist move? I think that’s my role. Not doing the flip kick twist move, but heaving others into the air so they can do it. I want to find those books my students need and show them off. I want to lift up those voices because, unfortunately, a lot of times they don’t get the attention they deserve.

8. If you could portal into any book which would it be?
This is such a tough question! There are so many books I want to live inside. But if I had to pick just one, I guess I’d go with the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series by Sayantani DasGupta. There’s so much magic and action and adventure. There are also plenty of monsters, but I know I’d be safe because Kiranmala is exceptionally good at kicking evil’s butt.

Posted in Meet the authors

Erica S. Perl

Online presence (website/social media)

https://www.ericaperl.com/

https://www.facebook.com/erica.perl

https://www.instagram.com/ericaperl/

  1. When you were my age (10), did you have a book inspire or impact you?

    I love realistic fiction, so I read a lot of books by Judy Blume, Norma Klein, Paula Danziger, Beverly Cleary, Louise Fitzhugh, and E.L. Konigsberg. I also loved Daniel Pinkwater’s THE HOBOKEN CHICKEN EMERGENCY, Sydney Taylor’s ALL OF A KIND FAMILY books, and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A LITTLE PRINCESS. But my favorite book was then – and is still – E. B. White’s CHARLOTTE’S WEB.

2. Have you read anything recently that inspired or impacted you? I am currently reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s SHOUT, which is a very powerful book. I also recently read two very funny picture books: HORSE MEETS DOG, by Elliott Kalan, illustrated by Tim Miller and THE GREAT INDOORS, by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Ruth Chan. Both definitely fall in the category of “books I wish I wrote”! And I recently finished Donna Gephart’s THE PARIS PROJECT, which comes out in the fall. I highly recommend it. Great characters, terrific voice, funny, and moving – you’ll love it.

(Bridget note: Super jealous! I can’t wait to read The Paris Project!)

3. Can you share what your usual day as an author looks like? I have two dogs so most days I run or walk with my dogs first thing, because it helps me focus (and helps them conk out so I can write). Then I hit my desk and write. I break for lunch and often I cook or read or daydream for a while before coming back to my desk to do some more writing or some editing of stuff that I’ve written. And on Friday afternoons, I go to Improv class!

4. Is there a newer or less know author you think kids should know about? I think kids should know about Alan Silberberg, who is my co-author on a top-secret book project. He is also the author of books including MILO, STICKY NOTES AND BRAIN FREEZE and MEET THE LATKES, both of which you should check out. He is a very good writer (and illustrator) and he is VERY funny.

5. What is a cool thing about being an author? I love doing school visits. It is fun to spend the day talking with kids about books and writing. And librarians are the best (and not just because they treat authors like rock stars!), so it is always cool for me to have the chance to pick their brains about books they love and books they wish existed.

6. Is there anything hard about being an author? I know it is not rainbows, cupcakes, pens and a pot of gold.It’s NOT??!!! (Just kidding – I know it’s not). I find it hard when I get stuck. You know, when you’re writing and everything is going great and then you hit a wall. I usually try to take a break and work on something else, then come back when my brain is fresh. Often, the answer will come to me when I stop trying to force it. But I am an impatient person, so waiting is not easy for me

7. Book access and diversity in books is a big topic. As an author what do you think your role is in this topic? I am very excited to see so much diversity these days in books – in terms of characters, authors, topics, settings, and more (and to see all kinds of diversity – race/ethnicity/religion/gender/size/ability and much, much, more). It’s so important to hear from people whose experiences are different from yours, yet who might be more like you than you would imagine. Book access is also hugely important. For many years, I worked for First Book (www.firstbook.org), which is a national non-profit organization that has provided millions of books to kids. I’ve seen firsthand how book access can change lives.

8. If you could portal into any book which would it be? Harry Potter! Book One, specifically. My favorite Harry Potter is Book Four, but I wouldn’t want to be there for all the stressful parts. But, I’ll take the Hogwarts Express and a chocolate frog any day

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Posted in Meet the authors

Donna Gephart

Online presence (website/social media)
Twitter: Dgephartwrites

1. When you were my age (10), did you have a book inspire or impact you?

When I was 10 I decided to become a writer. My favorite books were Mr. Popper’s Penguins and The Hundred Dresses.

2. Have you read anything recently that inspired or impacted you?

I love Dusti Bowling’s books!

3. Can you share what your usual day as an author looks like?

I try to wake early, walk my dog and write for several hours. I love taking long walks in the woods to let my mind work on story problems.

4. Is there a newer or less know author you think kids should know about?

Linda Urban is a great writer, especially her book A Crooked Kind of Perfect.

5. What is a cool thing about being an author?

So many cool things. I love getting to meet young people and sharing my passion for reading and writing with them.

6. Is there anything hard about being an author? I know it is not rainbows, cupcakes, pens and a pot of gold.

Oh, if only it were rainbows, cupcakes, pens, pots of gold and unicorns. Writing means a lot of time alone, working hard to express the ideas in your head in a way that young readers will connect with.

7. Book access and diversity in books is a big topic. As an author what do you think your role is in this topic?

I work to get books into the hands of young people who need them most through donations and organizations that provide books for young people. I personally diversify my own reading lists and recommend diverse books and authors.

8. If you could portal into any book which would it be?

It would be fun to join my character Olivia Bean on the set of Jeopardy!

Thanks so much!

My new book coming in October is The Paris Project:

Posted in Meet the authors

Padma Venkatraman

Credit: Connecticut head shots

Author website/social media:

Website: http://www.padmavenkatraman.com

Twitter: @padmatv

Instagram and facebook: Venkatraman.padma

1. When you were my age (10), did you like to read?

I didn’t like to read, I loved to read! I had a tough childhood, in which books were a saving grace.

2. What is a book that made an impact on you?

Several books had an impact on me… and here are a few that come to mind. THE SECRET GARDEN, for example, was wonderful in some ways (I loved the magical element, the garden and the robin) and awful in others (many aspects of the story drip with racism and ableism). I liked a book called THE SPRIG OF BROOM because it was one of the few that wasn’t overtly racist (except in that it was populated entirely with white characters). I also enjoyed a book called 31 BROTHERS AND SISTERS – because it was the ONLY book I had as a kid that featured a dark skinned girl who defied gender norms in her society; as a child, I assumed the book had been written by an African author; as an adult, though, I discovered the book wasn’t and that it had limitations I hadn’t been sensitive too as a child…despite all that, it was the one example – the only example I had – of the kind of book I wanted to write in that it was the only one I came across that actually had a protagonist with dark skin who was in some ways like me, a girl who rebelled, a girl who had a burning desire to forge her own way in the world, a girl who fought to express her independence.

3. Is it hard to come up with book ideas?

Nope. I wish I could live long enough to finish writing all my book ideas, but as it turns out, even if I managed to write a book a year until the day I drop dead (and I plan to drop dead at the age of 101 with a pen in my hands), I won’t be done with all my book ideas…

4. The Bridge Home talks about a less nice side of India. A lot of the books I have read about life in India are not so nice life. Do you have book suggestions that show the nice side? (I hear it is really pretty, colorful,busy)

I like to think THE BRIDGE HOME show both sides of life in India – after all, the characters manage to find laughter and courage in the toughest situations – which is pretty wonderful, no? Anyway, here are suggestions for the nice side – I think my novel A TIME TO DANCE explores a nice side, for the most part, as it looks at Indian dance and a mostly functional family and solid friendships. There are also many lovely books that show the nice side of Indian culture – I just read a charming little book that’s coming out this fall called COUNT ME IN by Varsha Bajaj which shows a totally nice South Asian Indian American family; as for books set on the Indian subcontinent, one of my favorites is RICKSHAW GIRL by Mitali Perkins which is about a very lovely Bangladeshi family; THE GRAND PLAN TO FIX EVERYTHING is a joyful romp by Uma Krishnaswami that’s set partly in India; Deepa Agarwal is an Indian author who’s been writing fantasy inspired by Indian tales for decades, such as the book BLESSED, but I’m not sure how easy it is to get her books in the United States…

5. What author or book have read recently that impacted you

Margarita Engle is an author whom I admire and someone I care for deeply; she is so generous. I read SOARING EARTH – a companion to her acclaimed and award-winning memoir in verse ENCHANTED AIR.. and it’s one of the few sequels I’ve read that is just as wonderful as the first book. It came out this spring, I think, around the same time as THE BRIDGE HOME.

6.Is there a new or lesser known author you think kids should be aware of?

In this day and age of twitter, I’d like to mention a few authors who aren’t on social media (because I hope and think kids should be aware of them and I’d like to make sure we don’t forget their marvelous work just because they aren’t on the internet): Donna Jo-Napoli is a prolific author, who, among other things, has written books that relate to Greek Mythology that are really interesting – such as the young adult novel THE GREAT GOD PAN. An Indian-American author who comes to mind as I write this note is KASHMIRA SHETH; she’s pretty well known, but I think it’s important for us to celebrate people like her, even as we welcome new authors into the field. Mildred Taylor’s ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY is a classic, in my opinion, and a book I hope kids are aware of – and again, an author who isn’t on the internet I don’t think. CAROLYN COMAN is a superb author, whom I think kids should be aware of; her novel WHAT JAMIE SAW is pretty incredible and an absolute gem of a book. To me, Coman is one of the immortal names in kidlit. As for authors who are on all things twitter and whom I do think are pretty well known, but here’s a shout out to them, just to be sure – Dan Gemeinhart, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Phil Bildner, Ann Braden, Brian Lies, Kristy Dempsey, and the incredible Kathi Appelt, author of THE UNDERNEATH which is a superb book.

7 What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?

Read, read, read. Don’t worry about whether adults around you think a book deserves acclaim or awards – have the strength to form your own opinions. Most important of all, don’t be in a hurry to see your name in print – it’s not publication that makes an author and author, it’s love of the written word, love of the process that makes a person an author. Material success isn’t always a reflection of a book or an author’s true worth – there’s a lot of luck in this field. I became an author because of my desire to communicate and to increase compassion in the world because to me, a book isn’t merely something that entertains, a book is a magical key that unlocks empathy…that’s not to say everyone who is an author needs to feel this way, but it’s just to say this is where I come from.

8 As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?

The most wonderful thing in the whole world is to hear from readers who’ve been touched or moved by your work. In a way, I feel like my books aren’t really mine. THE BRIDGE HOME belongs to Rukku, Muthu, Arul and Viji, to the real people who inspired the story and to the characters in my head and heart who are very real to me – every honor I receive is an honor for them, too. When I was in India, a boy broke down when he delivered the vote of thanks after my talk – and I heard later that he rarely ever expressed himself so seriously; so many children have been spurred to action because of THE BRIDGE HOME and that means a lot. Finally, I know of at least six children and two adults who drew enough strength from the book that they were able to move from tough situations in their lives to places of greater safety – and that is humbling and honoring in the most immense way possible. It is a priceless gift to that the book was one small positive step in their lives, one tiny element of change for the better in our world.

9 If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?

THE LORD OF THE RINGS – despite all the violence – and I’d change it, so there were a bunch of heroines of color! It’s such a wonderful read, in so many ways, but there are a lot of problems in it, too – and I think it would be sort of boring to enter a book world in which everything was pretty much fine already … it’s more fun to think of a book world that needs change, a book world in which I would need to challenge gender-norms and racism and able-ism, especially a book world in which I’d have to ride horses and use magic while I did all of that! And after that, for rest and entertainment, I’d like to enter the world of THE JUMBIES by Tracey Baptiste, because that’s a world which is filled with magic and doesn’t need to be fixed!