Q: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
A: As long as I can remember, I've always loved to be immersed in a story. Whether through a book or movie, I was charmed by the notion that a you can be whisked away to a whole different world, complete with new people and new events and new outcomes. The possibilities were endless, and this is what enticed me. Being in charge of all these elements, with no limitations but the boundaries of my own imagination, has always been both liberating and daunting (but in a good way that challenges me to grow).
Throughout my adolescence, and young adult years, I was plainly focused on building a practical future for myself and put writing for pleasure aside. The stories kept coming in my mind, though. Around the time I was in my mid-thirties, rather settled as a mom and wife, my yearning to create bubbled to the surface. I've been writing screenplays and novels ever since. I feel most alive when the story is racing forward and outward at full speed, and I have to keep typing or jotting down notes quickly while the idea is fresh.
Q: What are your favorite middle grade books?
A: One of my personal favorites from my own youth is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The fantastic world that comes to life in this story enchanted me and challenged me to stretch my own imagination. I love how the author beautifully intertwines profound lessons for his readers within the pages.
Another book that I always enjoyed sharing with my students is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This story brilliantly illuminates themes of forgiveness, humility, and perseverance, all the while gripping the reader with curiosity.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien is fantastic with its mystery and lessons of courage and sacrifice.
For older middle-grade readers, my favorite recommendations would include: The Giver by Lois Lowry, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. All three of these stories will stay with you long after you finish reading the last page.
Q: What advice do you have for readers who are interested in becoming writers?
A: The first thing I would suggest is to read as many books as you can and watch a lot of movies. Yes, movies count! Somebody had to write that movie as a screenplay before it was a movie. But, that doesn't mean you should forget about the books. As you read and watch, take mental notes about what appeals to you. What are the parts of the story that reach in and take hold of you? Do you like the way the characters speak to each other? How does the problem of the story get resolved? Notice how the characters change over the course of the story, and how they have to fight their way through, making you root for them when it seems like everything is against them. It is also a valuable experience to understand why you don't like certain books or movies. Why did you find it boring or undesirable? Knowing what you don't want as a writer is just as important as knowing what you do want.
The other piece of advice I would give is to start storytelling in your mind and strengthening your imagination. You can practice this in everyday life. For example, if there is a story in the news or something happened at school that seems terribly unjust or upsetting to you, consider what you would change if you could. How would you rewrite the ending? What could someone have said or done differently to change the course of events?
And lastly, of course, you have to write! This can be done in a journal, a notebook, or a computer if you have one. The more you do it, the easier and more natural it will become. Don't limit yourself by trying to be perfect. Like any other endeavor, you will improve with practice. But you have to make yourself write consistently. This is a discipline that is challenging even for adults to stick with. Even if it's only a sentence or two each day in the beginning, you are on the right path!