What fiction most influenced your childhood, and what effect did those stories have on your writing?
I loved books about magic, or books with a sense of wonder or adventure. Diana Wynne Jones was one of my favorite authors. I loved the Anne of Green Gables books as well. Arthurian legends, the Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Prydain, books about spies... I loved them all. I also enjoyed science fiction as well, but more so later, in my teens. I think I enjoyed anything that showed me new worlds or new ways of looking at the world. But mostly, I wanted to be wrapped up in an adventure. So, when I began to write, it began as a way of taking my mind to new places and thinking about things in new ways.
Why do you write for young people?
I love the age group I write for because they have one foot firmly on the path toward growing up, yet their other foot is still happy hopping on the playground. Young people can tap into their sense of wonder so easily. Their ability to pretend and imagine is so great, as is their ability to form new ideas about themselves and the world around them.
What prepared you to write for children?
Nothing specific, really. I took a wide variety of classes in college, mostly in the arts, but I don't have a degree in writing. I don't even have a degree. I simply never stopped reading books written for children. And I think reading is one of the best ways to learn about writing. I have a daughter, who is now nearly fourteen. I've always read to her, and still do. We've always talked about the books we read together, and she loves to write as well. It's just something I do because I love stories, and I find that I prefer to tell stories to kids!
Savvy won this year's Newbery Honor from the American Library Association. How has that award changed the way you write, market and live?
It was an amazing honor and thrill to receive such recognition. It was also fairly overwhelming because Savvy is my first published book. But there's nothing like being mid-revision to keep one grounded! The Newbery Honor has definitely made me busier! I am very proud of the award, not just for myself, but for everyone who helped get Savvy out into the world and gave me such excellent input during its process... my agent, my editor, the great people at Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin, and Walden Media. Savvy has a big family. That family has supported me throughout it all.
What are a few of your all-time favorite books?
Oh, that's so hard. "All-time" is such a sweeping, permanent concept and I find that I love different books at different times in my life. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was the first book I couldn't put down when I was a kid. I still want to go to Prince Edward Island because of Anne of Green Gables. I read the Lord of the Rings several times growing up. Recent favorites are A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban, and Red Glass, by Laura Resau.
What's the best advice you've heard on writing for children?
Don't talk down to your audience just because they are young. Children have an intelligence that we often lose in the business and self-importance of being grown up.
What aspect of writing is the most difficult for you to conquer? How do you overcome it?
Lack of confidence... trusting my own voice. Isn't that what Mibs needs to learn in Savvy, as well? Also, I'm such a character-driven person, sometimes I get carried away and forget that I need to keep driving my plot.
If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?
Jane Yolen just commented on another blog post about Savvy that her "savvy" is that she is "a plot magnet." She is also incredibly prolific! If I could have just a little bit of Jane Yolen's magic, I would be very, very happy. Also, I danced around the house for a week singing "Jane Yolen has a savvy! Jane Yolen has a savvy!" I'm my own special breed of fan-girl... all because of Owl Moon.
Your current work in progress is ...
A follow up to Savvy. The next book could be called a sequel, or a companion book. But it follows an all new main character--one nobody's met before. A cousin of the Beaumonts. But there will be some familiar faces along the way. I felt Mibs's story had been told and wanted to explore a "savvy" birthday from an all new perspective, while still being able to spend time with some of the characters I love.
Do you have a dream, something you'd love to achieve with your writing?
A perfect first draft! Wouldn't that be lovely? Quite honestly, my experiences with Savvy have exceeded all my dreams. It's been the most amazing experience. I'm not sure I'd feel right asking for anything more (aside from that perfect first draft thing).
Thanks so much for a wonderful conversation, Ingrid!