Posts Tagged ‘interviews’

Confession: ever since we set foot in the young adult department at the Cambridge Public Library and casually asked librarian Maya Escobar for book recommendations, we’ve been secretly plotting how to get her to do a Q&A with us.

When we finally got around to asking her about the state of YA–including common misconceptions about YA books and readers–and what it’s like to be a YA librarian, she graciously agreed.

picture day

Photo courtesy of Maya Escobar, who’s clearly showing off her love of comics!

1. How did you become the CPL YA librarian?

I first worked at Cambridge Public Library part time, mostly in the evenings, when I first got out of college.  I worked at the checkout desk and met and observed all kinds of interesting folks — not just library visitors, also my co-workers!  Then I went off for a bit and worked in graphic design and publications, ending up at a nonprofit called YouthBuild USA.  I really liked being back in a nonprofit setting, which was also geared towards improving the lives of young people.  But I missed having more face-to-face interactions with those people; I was mostly sitting in front of a computer, working on layout and editing.

Around that time I ran into CPL’s director, Susan Flannery, on the T, and she said if I ever wanted to come back to the library she was sure there would be something for me.  So I went in for an informational interview with the current head children’s librarian at the time, and learned more about what was involved in becoming a children’s librarian.  I decided that I wanted to go for it, and applied to the GSLIS program at Simmons and an entry level position at CPL at the same time.  And those both worked out!  So here I am 🙂

2. Best job perk?

I work with really wonderful, smart, creative people!  And the children’s staff at Main has always been made up of a fun group of people who are really passionate about this work and have wonderful senses of humor.  I also like not having a formal dress code.  After working in the financial district, I can tell you: khaki pants NEVER AGAIN.


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After reading Kelly Jones’ wonderful book, we decided to ask the author some questions about her writing and her inspirations. Kelly kindly responded–take a look:

author Kelly Jones with her unusual chickens (photo courtesy of Kelly Jones)

Author Kelly Jones with her unusual chickens (photo courtesy of Kelly Jones)

1. Your author’s note says you keep chickens. How did you get into poultry farming?

I grew up in a small town, and my best friend had chickens. Later, when I had my own suburban yard, I started reading up on chicken-keeping and touring urban farms. Finally, I took the Chickens 101 class from Seattle Tilth, and decided to give it a try!

2. How did your (presumably normal) chickens inspire the unusual characteristics of Sophie’s super chickens?

Henrietta’s telekinesis was inspired by a chicken who shoved other chickens out of her way. Chameleon’s camouflage came from not being able to find a chicken who was hiding in my backyard (it’s amazing how well they blend in!). And watching one chicken grab a slug and take off running, with all the other chickens in hot pursuit, inspired Roadrunner’s super-speed. I liked thinking about which superpowers would actually be useful to chickens doing chicken stuff, instead of, say, saving the world, which is just not that interesting to chickens.

3. Are any of the characters based on people you know? Is Sue?!?

All of them — and none of them! Sophie isn’t based on any one person; she turned up in my head exactly how she is in the book. The rest are all a mix of bits and pieces of people I’ve met or imagined. Real people are too complex to fit easily into stories; they don’t do what I want them to do. But to help characters feel real, I tend to borrow characteristics, names, hobbies, and other pieces from people I’ve met.
photo courtesy of Kelly Jones

Photo courtesy of Kelly Jones

4. What was your favorite book when you were 12 (Sophie’s age)?

I was a very strong reader, so by twelve, I’d already read and loved all the Daniel Pinkwater books I could get my hands on, including Sophie’s favorite: The Hoboken Chicken Emergency. I was ready for something new! On special occasions, when my family went out to dinner, we’d go to our local bookstore afterwards (RIP A Clean Well-Lighted Place in Larkspur, CA!) and my parents, my brother, and I would each choose a book. An awesome bookseller recommended Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer to me (it was first published the year I was twelve), and it immediately became my favorite. I’d never read an epistolary novel before, and I loved the idea that two writers wrote a whole book in letters to each other! I tried to talk all my friends into trying the letter game.


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18405519Understatement: Star Mackie, of Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera, starts the school year on a rocky note. Not only is she the new kid, she 1) sports a mullet ‘do 2)lives in a trailer park on the edge of a dump and 3)starts an after-school club about trailer parks.

In other words, Star has no street cred or friends to speak off. Her teacher unfairly assumes she’s a delinquent and a bad influence on the class because she failed to turn in her first vocabulary assignment, a trend Star continues just to spite him. Meanwhile, Winter, her teenage sister, who used to be close, has become moody and distant with problems of her own. And her mother implodes every time she brings up her absent father, aka “her genetic donor,” whom Star knows nothing about and has only glimpsed once from the crest of a Ferris wheel.

Drawn to the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Star starts a marginally more successful club, the Emily Dickinson Club, and gains two new members, including Eddie, a fellow “delinquent” who memorizes entire poems and has strong opinions on Robert Frost. Along the way, she contemplates what poets have referred to as the “thing with feathers” and “dreams that fly,” and defines–and finds–it for herself in every corner of her life.

The discussions from Star’s club got me thinking, what does the author  think about hope? Robin Herrera gamely answers in this Q&A.

1. Since we already know Star Markie’s response, finish this verse in the style of Emily Dickinson but in the voice and experience of Robin Herrera: Hope is a…..?
I’m very in line with Eddie’s answer – a rock. But I got the idea from the Simon & Garfunkel song, “I Am a Rock,” which is one of my favorite songs. For something more original, I think hope is a cookie. (I’ve been associating a lot of things with food lately.) It takes a lot of work to make a cookie, and how it turns out depends on how much focus and work you put into it. (At least for me. I’m a terrible cook.) Hope is a lot like that as well – you can hope for something, but that won’t make it come true. What makes it happen is how much you work and focus to get it. Even then, you may still burn the cookies.


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Meet Kevin Emerson, author of The Lost Code. Just released today, the book is a fast-paced adventure that blends sci-fi with a whole bunch of other genres. From my review:

The Lost Code resembles a YA version of the Percy Jackson series, but darker, and with Atlantis instead of the Greek myths. If I had to assign a genre, I’d aim for climate apocalypse/dystopia/YA fantasy/action-adventure summer camp tale, with a dash of the TV show Lost and a smidgeon of The Hunger Games. 

And now, the interview:

Where did you get the idea to mix climate change dystopia with fantasy? 

It was weirdly organic. Looking back, I don’t even quite get how it happened. A lot of seemingly unrelated stuff kind of fused together in my brain, and I feel like it was mostly subconscious at first.

That said, there were some concrete things: I read this book called The Atlantis Blueprint which got me thinking about what Atlantis may actually have been. Around that same time, a few years ago now, I wrote this scene where my main character, Owen, is drowning at summer camp, and mysteriously survives. It had Lilly, and the Siren, and the dome. It just kind of came out and I was like, ‘WTF is this?’ I knew I wanted it to connect to Atlantis, but I didn’t know how. Also, I’d wanted to write about summer camp for awhile, because that was a powerful experience for me in my own YA years.

The key to making it all fit was something from my Atlantis research: many ancient cultures have a very similar flood myth, and a similar idea of wise people arriving out of darkness with knowledge to share. There’s a possibility that the Atlantis culture predated the big Biblical flood event. Then, I read about how that flood event may have been connected to climate change. That was the big connection. I thought: we are facing a flood of our own, and the Atlanteans faced one.

The word ‘dystopia’ never actually crossed my mind, until my editor brought it up, though by definition it is accurate. I was just reading a lot of climate change articles and my science-major brain was thinking about where those possibilities could lead, and the results could be pretty bad! (more…)

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Meet the Hazardous Players: writers, artists, and the creators of Knighttime, an online fantasy adventure series that might best be described as podcast meets illustrated guidebook, or medieval tales with every medium under the sun.

In short, their work shows that old-fashioned storytelling is alive and well. So without further ado, we’re delighted to present our interview with the Hazardous Players, edited lightly for length (all images courtesy of Knighttime):

Knighttime tells stories through a unique blend of audio, drawings and text. Is there anything else like it, and if not, how did you get the idea to blend these mediums?

We would like to start off by thanking Jen and Lisa for this interview, we really appreciate it.

Knighttime is an experiment and though we would eventually love to publish Knighttime through more traditional means, the website allows us to play with ideas and media.  As we all discovered our mutual interest in fantasy and our abilities to make ridiculous voices we, the Hazardous Players, thought perhaps different mediums would allow us to play with many narrative ideas, using different creative techniques to express some aspect of the story and craft the humor. Maybe an idea works better as an episodic audio story as opposed a written story, or perhaps some combination of the two, oh look that’s interesting—but wait maybe throw in some video or art, oh yea why not, here are some photos I took, try those (sort of our thought process in action there.)  The internet seems a perfect playground to try new ideas. We readily admit that not everything we do is successful, but that is part of the enjoyment of experimenting, occasionally you get Frankenstein’s Monster and sometimes you end up with Flubber.


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