Monday, February 7, 2011
Special Guest Today!
Last year, an old friend convinced me to take part in the Sydney Taylor Book Award tour. I enjoyed it so much, I asked to be a part of it again this year!
This year, Linda Glaser received the award in the Young Reader's Category for Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty. (As an aside, my kids really enjoyed it!)
EL: Linda, I was surprised to read that you struggled as a young reader. How does your struggles as a young reader inform your writing for young readers?
LG: Yes. I did struggle with reading when I was a kid. In fact, I thought I'd never learn how. That may be why I use a clear simple style when I write for children. I was the type of reader who needed that. And now, I want my books to be accessible to all children--including those who find reading difficult. When I do school visits I always let kids know that I struggled to read. I figure there are probably some kids listening who are heartened to hear that I know what they are going through and that there is hope.
EL: As a writer, it's fair to say that your subject matter somehow chooses you, rather than the other way around. How and where did you get your start as a 'professional' writer? (in this case, 'professional' means actually getting paid for what you produce--I believe anyone who writes as a mean to communicate can call themselves a writer!)
LG: I agree that anyone who writes is a writer. I've always felt a passion for writing. Even as a child, as soon as I learned to read, I used those same skills to write. I entertained myself with pencil and blank pad for hours on end. The very first time I was "paid" as a writer was when I entered a poetry contest in my late 20's. Before that I was a closet writer. So it was a huge leap to submit a poem to a contest. I was stunned that my poem won second place. I received a check in the mail for $7. It was absolutely thrilling. I'm pleased to report that since then, I've received larger checks for my writing. However, none have made me any happier than that one.
EL: What particular ideas set the writing process in motion for you?
LG: In college, I took a creative writing class taught by a teacher who only encouraged a few "stars" in the group. I wasn't one of them. By the time the class ended, I was embarrassed that I'd ever thought I could be a writer. However, I still loved to write and couldn't stop myself. So I became a closet writer for many years. Fortunately, I finally found a safe writing class. The teacher only allowed the class to offer positive feedback on the first draft. What a freeing feeling that was! That's when I first began to blossom as a writer. I think that's what still "sets the writing process in motion for me"--allowing myself the joy and freedom to write without being critical of it at first.
EL: What inspired you to write about Emma Lazarus? Or, how did she get your attention as a possible subject for a book?
LG: When I was a girl, I visited the Statue of Liberty with my family. Somehow I knew the famous lines "Give my your tired your poor...." And I remember looking up at the statue and feeling the power of those words. They meant a great deal to me since all four of my grandparents were poor immigrants. I was a young Jewish girl who loved to write poems. So I found it particularly inspiring that the person who wrote the statue's poem was a young Jewish woman. Many years later, when my editor for Bridge to America (my middle grade immigrant novel) encouraged me to write something else that I care deeply about, I realized that Emma Lazarus and her poem were there waiting for me.
EL: What challenges do you face as a writer? Meaning: what are those things that stand in your way when you have a particular idea you want to get across?
LG: The biggest challenge I face is to keep writing despite rejections. Yes. It still happens. I do get rejections. And sometimes I feel like giving up. Fortunately, my love for writing always seems to prevail. I'm most grateful for that!
For the full Sydney Taylor Blog Tour, please visit their site http://jewishlibraries.org/blog/?p=775.