Saturday, November 21, 2009

Your Book - On the Analyst's Couch

Have you ever put your manuscript or book under psychoanalysis?

I asked myself why I wrote Tyrannosaurus Math – which is a very different question than how I got the idea.  As I told Rex Green during our interview, I’ve always been a huge fan of Tyrannosaurus Rex. But why did he pop up as the main character in my book? He was a symbolic way of “attacking” math (my least favorite subject in school). He was a joyous way of channeling years of pent up frustration with boring word problems. For me, it was perfect casting.

What is the personal connection between you and your book(s) ? Are you reflected somehow in the main character? I posed these questions to my fellow authors in the Children’s Authors Network 

Alexis O' Neill on The Recess Queen

I have to tell you – bullies infuriate me!  I hate (yes, hate!) people who push others around either physically or verbally.  As an adult I worked for a doozy of a bully once (who knew that adults could be bullied by other adults?  I thought this was just playground stuff!)  So, I had the right emotion for a bully book – but how was I going to get the bully in my story to stop being a bully?  In life, things are messy and don’t tie up neatly in pretty bows.  (At least not always.)  So I thought I’d create a perfect world in my story.  In a perfect world, a bully can change.  And even in a messy world, there's always the hope that just the right gesture (like inviting someone to play) can make a difference.

April Halprin Wayland on New Year At The Pier

Every Jewish New Year I join 200 singing  friends from my synagogue as we walk to the end of the pier in Manhattan Beach, CA.

There we take pieces of bread and toss them into the ocean to symbolically let go of any thing we wish we hadn't done in the past year.  To clean our slate for the new year.

The wind, the songs, the sea, the feels so wonderful.  If I couldn't bring readers to the pier myself, I wanted them to feel the poetry of this joyous ritual called tashlich.  What better way than a picture book?

Janet Wong on Homegrown House

The girl in HOMEGROWN HOUSE is me in two ways: I am both the girl in the book, who is tired of moving, and also the mom who wants to move to a “better” house. I lived in eight different homes by the age of fifteen. I realized only about ten years ago how much moving from house to house had formed me. I was living in a perfectly good house in Seattle, but rather than settle in and make it “homegrown,” I found myself itching to move to a “better” house—something with a water view. We ended up moving just ten blocks away! In hindsight the little girl in me was right, and we should not have moved to the house with the lake view. We have since moved once again, for my husband’s work, and will move again next year, to a house we are building.

Jeri Chase Ferris on Demanding Justice and other titles

I like to be treated fairly, and I’m pretty sure you do too. When people are not treated fairly I like to make it right, and I’m pretty sure you do too. I write books about people who lived dangerous and exciting lives, who worked hard and made our country a better place – Benjamin Banneker, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Biddy Mason, Matthew Henson, Marian Anderson – but because of the color of their skin they were treated most unfairly. In telling their stories, I want to bring them back to life and let you (and everyone) see what they did for America. I want them to be given fairness and justice, recognition and thanks.  My most recent book is the biography of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, a free black woman who lived during the time of slavery and spent her entire life fighting for justice. The title of her story is DEMANDING JUSTICE, and that is what I want to do with each book I write.

Joan Bransfield Graham on Splish Splash and Flicker Flash

 The characters in my books are water (SPLISH SPLASH) and light (FLICKER FLASH).  What better way to explore their varied shapes than with shape itself--

concrete poetry.  Growing up on a barrier island along the southern coast of New Jersey, I was always fascinated with the ocean and water in general.  From the Atlantic to the Pacific (I'm now in California.) with some sailing on the Chesapeake and a five-year stop near Lake Michigan, I am definitely a water person.  Studying photography for many years, developing my own black and white prints, and now having fun with my digital camera and Photoshop, I am always sensitive to the effects of light and shadow.  I think my characters picked me.

Off to the CSLA conference in Ontario,  where Alexis, April, George Pilling and I will be talking about "Serendipity: Happy Accidents in Writing."  More on that later!


  1. I enjoyed reading the "why" of these stories and I think kids would, too. So many think "ideas" just pop into our heads out of nowhere-- certainly not our own lives!

  2. Thank you all for sharing these stories.