Friday, January 11, 2013

Author Laurel Snyder

Laurel Snyder is the author of two of my all-time favorite middle-grade books: Penny Dreadful and Bigger Than a Breadbox. I invited her on Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate the release of the Bigger Than a Bread Box audio book. Thankfully, she agreed to celebrate with me.

I wrote the words in red, and Laurel wrote the words in black. Many, many thanks, Laurel! 




The Bigger Than a Bread Box audio book came about very accidentally!  It just so happens a new audiobook production company is moving into my neighborhood, and I met the guy responsible, and… MAGIC!  What are the chances?

The companion book to Bigger Than a Bread Box has nearly killed me!  It turns out that historical fiction requires a lot of research. It turns out that time travel is IMPOSSIBLE and creates all manner of problems.  It turns out that writing a prequel set a generation ahead of a book you’ve already published is very very complicated, because the characters you’re writing have to grow up to become the characters in the first book.   But I’m finally there.  I just got a very exciting letter from my editor, and I can now say, with authority, that Seven Stories Up will be out in spring 2014.  And I’m very proud of the work I’ve done.  It took five full drafts, this book, and it changed radically each time. I’ve learned so much.

Maryland and Iowa are as different as two places can be. I think they’re the two halves of me. Baltimore is the Kansas and Iowa is the Oz.  A person needs both, right?  Baltimore will always be my true home, my real self, and my deepest love, but the years (and vacations) spent in Iowa have helped me hold on to my sense of the ideal, the over-the-rainbow. I remember when my mom visited me in Iowa City the first time, she looked at me in shock, and said, “Why, you’ve found Brigadoon!”  Baltimore is not Brigadoon, but it’s got a deep magic all its own.  

I connect with schools and libraries on Skype because I can.  I think it’s a huge gift to be able to visit so many places, and to do so without having to charge. There are so many schools these days with absolutely no budget for extras. To be able to break through that, offer my time, a few books, a correspondence with the kids… it’s a gift to all of us.  Most of all to me! Being in touch with kids is what keeps me writing, generating new ideas. I don’t know how anyone can write without that contact. Kids are the smartest, most honest, most imaginative people in the world.  I’m grateful they’re willing to hang out with me.


The Longest Night

The Longest Night: A Passover Story is a book that took 20 years to write.  Seriously.  I began trying to write about the plagues in college. I wrote a poem called The Plagues, and performed it, actually, as spoken word, but it was never quite right. Then I tried again in grad school, in a poem called, Long Walk—the Night Before, and it was published, but it wasn’t quite right either.  When I wrote The Longest Night, partly because I needed to find a way to explain the Passover story to my own kids, and Schwartz & Wade offered to publish it, I couldn’t believe my luck. It felt like I’d finally found the right form.  I’ve spent 20 years thinking about what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it.
The Longest Night

Catia Chien’s illustrations are insane and wonderful.  I was awestruck when I saw them. They’re very unusual—dark in some places, and light in others, but also pretty abstract.  It’s a scary story, but transcendent, and figuring out how to handle the art was a huge question.  If they’d been too realistic, the book would have been impossible for kids to handle.  Walking that line, in both text and art, was tricky.   How to handle disease and wild beasts and (ahem) dead babies in a book for children?  But the instinct to avoid this story, to gloss over it—that bothers me. Kids are strong and curious, and they’re going to have to live in the world.   And if you don’t show them the darkness, the light loses its power. I think all of that is in this art.
Audio books are a new thing for me!  We’ve just discovered them at our house, because my car has no media player of any kind (my kids shoved a bunch of nickels in the cd changer).  But on this last trip to Iowa (in my husband’s car), we listened to The Hobbit, and then to the first 3 books in the Chronicles of Narnia, and it was an amazing experience. I’m hooked.

Click here for the results. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about why I believe in magic!  But there’s always time for that next year!  Thanks so so so so much.



I am giving away a print copy and an audio copy of Bigger Than a Bread Box


Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 1/11 to 11:59 p.m. on 1/13. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 



 
Borrow Laurel Snyder's books from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops


3 comments:

  1. Great interview - I really appreciate (and empathize with) the struggles of that companion book to BREADBOX. Can't wait for SEVEN STORIES UP!

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  2. Great interview! I was fascinated to read about the challenges of writing the sequel to Bigger Than a Breadbox.

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