In celebration of Children’s Book Week, StorySnoops is once again hosting interviews with some of our friends in the literary world. Children’s Book Week is the national celebration of books and reading for youth. We hope you enjoy our special posts this week.
Today we are joined by one of our favorite authors for middle-graders, Rebecca Stead. Rebecca’s most recent book, When You Reach Me, is the winner of several prestigious awards, including the 2010 Newbery Medal, the Boston Globe Horn Book Award, and more. Destined to become a beloved modern classic, When You Reach Me is a must-read for middle graders of both genders.
Hi Rebecca! We are so happy to be featuring you today! We read that while you have always been passionate about writing, you were actually a public defender at one time. What is it about writing for children that appeals to you?
Writing for children is pretty incredible: First of all, I’m free to write about things that interest me, to dive into big questions about how life works, and more importantly, why. When the story is going well, writing is more satisfying than any other work I’ve done. Second, the community of people in this field – readers, writers, editors, publishing staff, booksellers, teachers, librarians – is unfailingly warm and wonderful. It’s always a privilege to write for a living, I believe. But to write for children is a privilege and a joy.
Judging by the homage you pay to her in When You Reach Me, you are obviously a huge Madeleine L’Engle fan. Which other authors did you enjoy reading as a child?
So many! To name a handful: Judy Blume, Louise Fitzhugh, Norma Klein, James Herriot, Louise Meriwether, Robert Heinlein, Paula Danziger, and Sydney Taylor. I read all kinds of books, and was, as you can probably tell, a child of the 70′s.
How has winning the Newbery Award changed your life?
The Newbery has changed my life both irrevocably and not at all. It’s higher praise than I’d ever dared to dream about, and has brought me a lot of readers and invitations to travel, both of which are incredibly wonderful. Again, the word privilege comes to mind. But an award doesn’t change the experience of writing at all (or if it does change the experience, it certainly doesn’t make it easier!).
Both of my sons have read my books, including Liar & Spy, which will be out in August. They have favorites (and unfavorites), but I’m not going to disclose them. They’re 11 and 13, and have high privacy needs.
You have many young fans out there. Do you have any advice for budding young writers?
I’m afraid I have the usual advice, because it is the truth at the deep, deep bottom of my writing life: READ. Also, don’t question your instinct to write, and don’t ask yourself whether your writing is any good. Raw material is raw material -protect it, treasure it, and, when you have enough of it, use it to craft your story. (Do not expect a gorgeous, well-crafted story to simply spill out of you – that happens for no one I know, and this comforts me.)
We are excited about your new book, Liar & Spy, coming out August 2012! Can you tell us about it?
Liar & Spy is about Georges (pronounced “George”), a seventh-grader in Brooklyn who’s having a tough year: his best friend has ditched him, his dad got laid off, and his family had to sell their beloved house and move into a neighborhood apartment building. There, he meets a kid named Safer who quickly drafts Georges to help him spy on “Mr. X” in the apartment upstairs. At the bottom of all this is a not-so-simple question: what can Georges do to live the life he wants, instead of the one he has?
Thanks for joining us today, Rebecca! If you’d like to keep up with Rebecca and her books, visit her at her website. And don’t miss Liar & Spy, coming out in August. Join us tomorrow for a special StorySnoops retrospective