Something Personal

By Soman Chainani

Writing THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD & EVIL series is like running a fantasy corporation. Six years into writing, five books later, I wake up every day and juggle over 150 characters, 40 plot lines, and a world so big it feels like it’s outgrowing my own head. But it’s what I was born to do – write big worlds and sophisticated stories that can keep up with a clever child’s imagination. 

image

But there was something else I was born to do, only I never thought I’d find an outlet to do it: tell my own story.

And my most personal story is about my grandmother, who without sounding too crass, was a person far more significant in my life than my own parents. We shared the same birthday. We both liked gourmet food and fancy hotels, even if we couldn’t afford them. We both were highly suspicious of my grandfather. And most of all, we were deeply, deeply unhappy.

But Nani didn’t want me to be. And something about my own unhappiness made her intolerant of her own.

And so the summer trips began.

Read more

We’ve Been Waiting in the Wings Forever: A Queer Theater Story

By Amy Rose Capetta

I discovered the joys of theater in middle school for a sad but simple reason: I was quitting dance. At the age of twelve, I was told by my teacher that I couldn’t continue at an advanced level without losing a significant amount of weight. The issue of body policing in the performing arts comes up in my YA novel Echo After Echo, specifically for the main character, Zara, who is not the waifish ingénue people have come to expect. Fortunately, when I chose to leave dance behind, I fell into theater, and despite being a different body type than many of my fellow actresses, I found roles and fell in love with acting.

image

My new life of green rooms and backstage bonding brought my first queer friends. It’s no real secret that the theater world, from the professional stages in NYC to the drama clubs in most schools are havens for creative and hardworking LGBTQIAP folks. Before I even knew I was queer, I found my people, and they shared my fervor for story-making, a heady mix of love and ambition that still drives me. We collected, we rehearsed, we constructed sets with questionable structural integrity, we held our hearts outside of our bodies night after night, we threw AMAZING cast parties.

Read more

Author Q&A with Nikki Grimes

Check out our Q&A with Nikki Grimes, author of THE WATCHER ( Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers, October 2017)!

1. What inspired you to write The Watcher?

A few years ago, I was invited to write a Golden Shovel poem for The Golden Shovel Anthology, a collection honoring the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet, Gwendolyn Brooks.  This new poetry form, created by Terence Hayes specifically for this anthology, was brand new, and so this was my first introduction to it.  I fell immediately in love with the form and could not wait to use it again, for a project of my own.  One of the first two ideas that came to me was to apply the form to the exploration of a Psalm.  It seemed perfect.  The Psalms are poetry, after all, and the Golden Shovel is all about borrowing lines from existing poems to create new ones.  The question, of course, was which Psalm.  I had a picture book in mind, and in order for this treatment to work for a picture book, the Psalm had to be relatively short, and so I searched for just the right one.  Psalm 121 is one of my favorite passages of scripture, and the length seemed exactly right.

Read more

Nocturnal Villains: The Antidote to Bullying

Contributed by Tracey Hecht

I remember when I was a kid that adults would often respond to my beliefs on social, human, and political positions with some version of: Well, you won’t feel that way when you grow up. I was raised in a conservative town with conservative ideals (starting, I suppose, with the belief that kids’ opinions were not of equal value!). But I remember thinking, even at the time: Oh, I bet you’re wrong about that. I bet I’ll feel exactly the same way when I grow up.

Well, I’m grown up! Or I am at least by the measures specified by the adults of my childhood, and I in fact do feel the same way on most of those issues. With the confidence of age, I might even maintain some of my positions more vigorously.

I am currently the writer of a book series for seven- to twelve-year-olds. The series has some other stuff I still like from childhood: imagination, mystery, a little bit of adventure. But in these books I also focus a lot on compassion and understanding. In particular, I extend these themes to my villains. I do this because my human, social, and political views are, at their core, founded in the belief that humans are the same. People of all gender, color and income levels—we’re not as far apart as we sometimes appear. In fact, our distance is sometimes our shared vulnerabilities and insecurities, just expressed in different ways.

image

Read more

The Changing Face of Family

Contributed by Natasha Friend

Every book has a conception story. Mine begins with the shameless binge-watching of an MTV reality series called “Generation Cryo.” Over the course of six episodes, the show follows 17-year-old Breeanna, daughter of a lesbian couple who was conceived via sperm donation, on a search for her genetic half-siblings. Thanks to the Donor Sibling Registry, Bree connects with Jonah and Hilit and Jayme and Jesse and Paige and Molly and Will, and ultimately brings everyone together to track down their biological father.

Prior to watching the show, I had only a cursory understanding of sperm donation and its effects on families. I understood the science, but I knew nothing of the emotional fallout—of how angry and hurt and confused some donor-conceived children could grow up to be, or how fraught the relationships with the non-biological parents who were raising them could become. I was fascinated by the idea of a new “insta-family.” Unlike children conceived via sperm donation prior to the 1990’s, today’s generation of donor-conceived kids have access to Internet search engines, registry websites, social media, and video chat technology, all of which allow them to connect with their genetic half-siblings, and even with their sperm donor, in a mind-blowingly short amount of time.

As a 21st century mom, psychology major, and YA author, how could I not write a book about this? 

image

Read more

Making a Difference

Contributed by Audrey Penn

The most important thing I can do as an author of children’s books is offer stories that open communication between child and parent. In my Kissing Hand series, it is Mrs. Raccoon who helps Chester through his many issues and difficulties beginning with separation anxiety. Other books in the series deal with new siblings, moving, bullying, dying, fear of speaking in front of others and wanting to return home during a sleep over. These are issues all children face, but with the help of books and characters like Chester Raccoon, and the caretakers and teachers who bring them to life, children can face issues armed with understanding and a sense of self.

When writing, I often think about the brilliant diversity of color and sound, shape and size, and speed and agility that is present in the animal kingdom. Most people embrace these amazing differences with open minds and without prejudice. It is because we all too often close our minds to the beautiful diversity in people that I stay within the animal kingdom when writing my children’s books.

image

Read more