Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Good Morning Readers!

Laurie Halse Anderson and TBF go WAY back. All the way back, in fact, to the very beginning. Laurie was one of our first 11 authors featured at TBF, and she’s made several reappearances at the festival. She’s also attended a TBF Read-a-Thon and always spreads the TBF love. Laurie was kind enough to take time out of her VERY busy schedule to answer a few questions for me, and today, I’m going to share her answers with you!

Carly Reads: Your young adult realistic fiction deals with a number of tough issues, including eating disorders, suicide, rape, and teenage pregnancy. What role do you think books can play in helping teens deal with these issues and other struggles?
Laurie Halse Anderson: Teenagers are young enough that the harsher realities of the world can shock and hurt them, and old enough that they want to understand those realities. Even kids who haven't been through the struggles of the characters in my novels want to understand what the characters are experiencing. Readers who have dealt with tough realities want solace and hope. Books give us information, insight, and empathy. They also save lives. I've had countless letter and emails from readers who, after reading one of my books, found the courage to speak up and get help.

CR: You also write historical fiction for younger audiences, how does writing for this age group differ from writing for young adults? Do you prefer writing for one group over the other?
LHA: In the early stages of a writing project, I don't think about the audience at all. I focus on character's voice and listening to her story. It will take two or three drafts for me to get the structure and imagery of the story in place. Then I begin revising; that's when I consider my audience. For my YA novels, I make sure that the pace of the novel moves smoothly, that there is humor and the wide range of emotions that teens are swamped with every day. For my younger readers, I make sure that scenes are described well so that they can clearly picture where the characters are and what is going on around them. This is especially important in a historical novel because the world of 250 years ago was quite different than our world today. I really enjoy writing for both age groups!

CR: Have you always known that you wanted to be a writer? Was your journey to getting published like, and what advice do you have for aspiring writers?
LHA: I never thought about being an author when I was a kid. I was a reader, first and foremost. After several years of being a journalist, I decided to try my hand at writing books for children. It seemed to be a more positive way to make a contribution to the world than writing another story about city budgets or Santa visiting the mall. I was a fairly awful writer when I started and have hundreds of rejection letters to prove it. After a few depressing years, I embraced the concept of revision and my books started - gradually - to become less bad. My first published books were picture books. Then I wrote “Speak” and my life changed completely.

CR: What five books are on your list of “Books I Can’t Live Without”?
LHA: 1. The Oxford Unabridged Dictionary 2. The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 3. Blueberries for Sal 4. The Collected Works of William Shakespeare 5. Weetzie Bat

CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the Seventh Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
LHA: One of the many wonderful things about the Teen Book Festival is that is has become another home on the road for our wandering bands of motley YA authors. It has become part of our community. So I am looking forward to seeing old friends, like Terry Trueman, and to hanging out with new friends, like Brandon Mull.

Laurie, thank you so much for answering these questions for me! I’m looking forward to seeing you again in May!

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