In my opinion, books are the best accessory.
The Styling Librarian Interviews
I was thrilled when my lovely Facebook friend and admired author Amy Axelrod agreed to an interview with me.
I loved sharing her Pigs will be Pigs Fun With Math and Money book with students whenever I could find a good fit for it. Additionally, there are fantastic math activities and skill sheets for all the pig math concept books freely posted on Amy’s blog! Great way to explore math with picture books! I also enjoyed Amy’s other picture books including My Last Chance Brother which is an exaggerated, hilarious sibling rivalry book which many students identify quickly with. I honestly would love to grab a copy of Your Friend in Fashion, Abby Shapiro and I look forward to trying it out soon! There is an audio clip on the link that is quite the teaser! Hope you enjoy this interview, I found it quite enlightening.
What was your favorite childhood book memory?/Are there any authors that you liked as a child that you still read now?/ Do you have any books from when you were a child?
My favorite childhood book is still my favorite book…. Impunity Jane, by Rumer Godden. First of all, I loved the author’s name. Nobody I knew was named Rumer. It sounded so exotic! Rumer Godden wrote wonderful stories about her childhood in India and about dolls. I was a doll girl. I collected them from around the world, played with them until I was way past the age of it being “cool”, and then resumed collecting in adulthood (even though I was the mother of two sons). Impunity Jane is the story of a little china doll that wants to be free and explore the outside world, only she’s stuck inside a dollhouse. The grandmother who gives the little doll to her granddaughter tells her that the doll was well-made and could be dropped with impunity. I think impunity was my first “big” vocabulary word. Rumer Godden wrote many stories about dolls and I have copies of Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, the Doll’s House, and the Story of Holly & Ivy on my bookshelf. I re-visit them frequently.
P.S. I remember wondering why Demi Moore would name one of her daughters, Rumer, and then I read that she was indeed named for Rumer Godden and that Demi Moore is a big-time doll collector with her own doll museum. I’m sure that’s the extent of our commonalities!
P.P.S. I also loved Eloise and looked a lot like her in first grade….tangled blonde hair, one sock up, one sock down. I have all of the original editions from the 50’s as well as the Eloise doll.
Have you read any children’s literature books recently?
I read children’s literature constantly, although lately I have not read as many picture books as in the past. That’s probably because for the past few years I’ve made a writing shift from picture books to MG and YA fiction. Splendors and Glooms, The Friendship Doll and Deadly are waiting for me on my night table. I recently read, A Monster Calls, which involved an entire box of Kleenex.
What was your favorite genre you read as a child? How have your tastes changed as an adult?
My favorite genre was mystery. I loved Nancy Drew, as did all the girls of my generation. I used to receive a quarter every week for helping my mother with the household dusting. When I saved a dollar I would buy another Nancy Drew Mystery. Another favorite childhood novel was The Poor Little Rich Girl, by Eleanor Gates. That’s on my bookshelf, too!
I read very little mystery these days. I would say at present my favorite genre is memoir. I love reading about other people’s lives. I recently finished Unorthodox (Deborah Feldman), Just Kids (Patti Smith), and When the Danube Ran Red. This is an incredibly powerful story by Zsuzsanna Ozsvath about her childhood in Budapest during the Holocaust. I wanted to read Keith Richards’ memoir because I saw photos of his unbelievable personal library, but I was shamed (by someone who shall remain nameless) into not buying it!
I think reading memoir prepared me to write my debut middle grade novel, Your Friend in Fashion, Abby Shapiro (Holiday House 2011). It’s based on my childhood growing up in an extended household with eccentric relatives. The heroine, Abby, is a doll collector and a budding fashion designer. She wants to be Jackie Kennedy’s personal fashion designer in order to earn enough money to buy the hot new doll, Barbie. Abby includes her original fashion sketches in the letters which were paper dolls drawn by me as a child. Over time, Abby’s letters take on greater significance as she pours out her heart to the “Possible Future First Lady”.
Writers Group/ Writing Tips
I have never been a member of a writers group by choice. I don’t even share what I’m writing with my husband until I’ve finished. Over the years I’ve become better skilled at self-criticism and self-editing. I think writers groups serve a great function for those willing to share, but that’s not for me.
Writing tips…that’s a tough one. I often tell kids to carry a camera if possible. All of my picture books, including The Pigs Will Be Pigs Math Series were inspired by family experiences. Looking at family photos gave me the impetus to write for kids, and students can do the same thing, too. I’ve used photos in creative writing workshops with kids and they really like it. It eliminates the old complaint… “What should I write about?”
Do you have a new book being released in the next year?
I’m very excited about The Bullet Catch, co-authored with my son, David. This YA novel will be published by Holiday House in 2014. I don’t know the exact month of release as we are presently in the re-write phase. We like to describe this book as “murder and mayhem in the golden age of magic.” The Bullet Catch is an historical novel, set in NYC in 1917, and is the story of Leo, a magician’s assistant, who becomes caught in the web of deceit involving two rival magicians. We did a tremendous amount of research for this book, including a visit to The Harry Ranson Archive on the campus of University of Texas, Austin to examine Harry Houdini’s personal collection of clippings and letters.
All I’ll say is that I do not own a Nook or a Kindle and have no plans to buy one. I prefer to tuck a book with my small Scholastic Book Clubs flashlight under my pillow for emergency night reading. I remember reading an interview with Sendak a long time ago, where he described a mother telling him that her young son loved one of his books so much, he ate the pages. Sendak replied something to the effect that was the best compliment he’d ever received. You can’t do that with an e-reader.
If I weren’t a writer
If I weren’t a writer I would be a librarian. Really, I’m not saying that for brownie points! Or maybe a pastry chef. But definitely not a nurse.
The best advice I’ve received for my profession:
Just look forward. Keep writing. Don’t worry about what other authors are doing or what’s being published. Listen to your own voice.
The habit I never break
I try not to answer the phone or leave the email window open. But, sometimes I can’t help myself. I can be a procrastinator.
Anchovies! The more the merrier! The saltier the better!
Why do people always assume..
Adults often assume that I’m a bookstore with a million copies of my books to distribute at will. Sometimes kids assume that I hang out with the likes of J.K. Rowling.
Thank you so very much to Amy a fellow secretive writer, photo inspired, mystery and memoir reader. I certainly have a fuller plate of to-be-read books after this interview! Grateful for your time! -Debbie
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