Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Interview with Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson is a multi-award winning author of such prestigious awards as the Coretta Scott King Award, the Newbery, the Caldecott, and a finalist for the National Book Award among others. While these awards can communicate to you that her writing is well respected, what I can tell you is that she's a master of words, and a creator of stories that burrow into your heart and live there. She captures the human experience with heartrending precision, and depth of compassion.

I am beyond honored to share this interview with you, in hopes that if you haven't already, you'll soon discover her writing for yourself.

Amy: You've written books for many different ages, picture books, middle grade, and young adult. Do you a favorite age group to write for? Have you ever considered writing an adult novel?

Jacqueline Woodson: In the 90s I wrote an adult novel, Autobiography of A Family Photo. It was VERY different from my other works but often got confused as a young people’s novel because there was a young girl on the cover. Eeeep!! I’ve written many adult short stories and another novel – that I am finally finishing. I think my heart is in young people’s fiction which makes me a much slower writer of adult fiction. But I do it all.

Amy: I must now read that! Many of your books deal with very serious themes and topics. What draws you to tell these kinds of stories?

Jacqueline Woodson: I write about what’s important to me. I can’t imagine writing about anything else.

Amy: Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

Jacqueline Woodson: I don’t know what the public knows about me…? Can you give me a clue… Should I be nervous?

Amy: If someone was brand new to your work, what would be a good book for them to start with?

Jacqueline Woodson: Hush or If You Come Softly, I think. I’d have to know what the last book they read was.

Amy: If You Come Softly was the first book I read by you! Do you enjoy reading? If so, who are some of your favorite authors or what recent books have impacted you?

Jacqueline Woodson: I love reading and I’m a slow reader. The last book that blew me away was Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat. Couldn’t read anything for weeks after that book.

Amy: You have had the opportunity to travel a lot and meet with different readers. Do any particular experiences stick out as special to you?

Jacqueline Woodson: I think I get something out of each place I visit – Not always good but always a learning experience. The kids are always amazing and so alive and thoughtful, the teachers are often passionate… I love that part of writing – getting to meet people who I touched through my writing and then who touch me through their passions. I can go back over the years and get teary over some of the interactions I’ve had. I sometimes have to pinch myself with this gift I’ve been given – to be able to do the work I love and be loved for it!

Amy: What do you think are some of the challenges facing young people today? How can fiction help them deal with them?

Jacqueline Woodson: I don’t know – I’m no longer a young person. I think fiction help us all in its ability to allow to look outside our own worlds into the worlds of people we might not otherwise meet.

Amy: Crossing my fingers...what are you working on now? Will we see anything new from you?

Jacqueline Woodson: You’ll see a few new books soon – In the YA realm, my latest is Beneath A Meth Moon which is still in the making and the story of a young girl struggling with Meth addiction. I feel like I learn something from every book I write and from this, I’ve definitely learned that I’ll never ever do Meth. I mean, not like I was thinking of doing it but talk about a sucky drug!! Wow. I’m so glad to be able to not have to be in the world of Meth everyday. Each Kindness is my newest picture book --- It’ll follow BAMM. Then another YA….

Amy: Many many thanks for taking the time to answer the questions!

Jacqueline Woodson: Great questions. Thanks!

Courtesy of Penguin, I have two copies of the bind-up of If You Come Softly and it's sequel Behind You to give away to residents of the United States. To enter, just fill out this form. But don't forget to leave a comment as well! :) I will leave this open until February 23rd at 11:59 PM PST. I will notify the winners by email.

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