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Author of the Month
2009 Archive
Jessica Warman
Jessica Warman, Author of Breathless
ETC: The primary focus of the book is on relationships, specifically that of Katie and her mentally ill brother, Will. Since the book is semi-autobiographical, can we assume that you have a similar relationship with your brother? Is he like Will?

Jessica Warman: My relationship with my brother is a complicated, painful thing. Right now weíre estranged. Even though my brother is not institutionalized (like Will is at the end of the novel), I almost feel like Katie and Willís relationship is healthier in many ways. I was able to give her character some kind of closure, which I donít think Iíll ever get with my brother; the pathology just goes on and on. He hasnít read the book, and doesnít care to, which I suppose is fine with me, but thereís a small part of me that wants him to understand my perspective so badly. So I suppose that the answer is yes, my relationship with my brother is very similar to Katie and Willís. But in the novel, I was able to provide the catharsis for all of the characters Ė Katie, her parents, and even Will Ė that I donít necessarily think my family will ever have.

ETC: On a similar note, how did your parents respond to the book? What about your close friends?

Bill Cochran, author of My Parents Are Divorced, My Elbows Have Nicknames and Other Facts About Me
Bill Cochran, Author of
My Parents Are Divorced, My Elbows Have Nicknames and Other Facts About Me

ETC: Your new children's book is titled, "My Parents Are Divorced, My Elbows Have Nicknames and Other Facts About Me". It is a funny, sweet, honest take on tough topic - divorce. Why a children's book about divorce?

Cochran: Well, for my first children's book, The Forever Dog, I tackled a very difficult topic (death of a pet), but still managed to weave some humor and smiles throughout the book. My editor asked if I could tackle another difficult topic in the same way. Having been through both sides of divorce, I felt it was a natural next topic for me, and I'm very pleased with how it turned out. I think it's a funny book, that just happens to be about a very serious topic.

My day job is as an advertising copywriter where I write for clients, so writing from the heart in children's books is a welcome escape for me.

ETC: Okay, so how did the story come about? And more importantly, did you nickname your elbows?

Margaret McMullan, author of Cashay
Margaret McMullan, author of Cashay

ETC: There are a lot of powerful messages in this book. What inspired you to write it?

McMullan: I always wanted to write about two sisters because I have a sister and we are very close. Also, both my sister and my husband were involved with tutoring so-called "difficult" kids, and I was interested in writing about their experiences. In addition, a long time ago, I cut out a newspaper article about a 7-year old boy getting shot accidentally on the way to school in Chicago. I wanted to write about that and how it is to live in a world that's both dangerous and hopeful.

ETC: Was it difficult to write in the first-person voice of an African-American teenage girl from an inner city neighborhood? Why or why not?

Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Meet Kathryn Fitzmaurice, Author of The Year the Swallows Came Early

ETC: If you had to sum up your book in one sentence, what would you say?

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: I'll use the one they have on the copyright page in the front of the book. It reads, "After her father is sent to jail, eleven-year-old Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson must decide if she can forgive the failings of someone she loves."
Read the entire interview

Katy Kelly, Author of Melonhead
Katy Kelly
Author of Melonhead A new series for ages 9-12

ETC: Why did you use Washington, D.C., specifically Capitol Hill, as the setting for both your Lucy Rose and Melonhead series?

Katy Kelly: I grew up on Constitution Avenue, Five blocks from the U.S. Capitol, three from the Supreme Court. My brother and sisters and I played pick-up soccer on the Library of Congress lawn and rode our bikes down to the Smithsonian museums. Lots of people tell me that they had no idea that Capitol Hill is also a neighborhood, with families, dogs, a farmer's market, coffee shops and schools. I wanted to show kids that Washington as more than government.

ETC: How did you come up with the character of Melonhead?

Katy Kelly: Melonhead first appears in Lucy Rose, Here's the Thing About Me. I based him on my brother, Michael, and my five nephews. Like them, Melonhead is a curious boy with good intentions and sometimes unfortunate results. He is an original thinker, full of interesting, if not well thought out, ideas. His motto might be, "Why take the sidewalk when the roof is available?" Melonhead is active but not particularly athletic. He and his best friend, Sam are rookie inventors with big plans. Unlike my brother and nephews, Melonhead has a nervous mom who, as his dad explains, "doesn't understand the ways of boys."

Crystal Hubbard
Crystal Hubbard, Author of
ETC: How do you choose the subjects of your books?

HUBBARD: It would be more accurate to say that the subjects of my books choose me, not the other way around. So many people and things interest me, but the ones I can't turn away are the ones that stay with me long after I've left them. Marcenia Lyle, the subject of my first children's book, Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl's Baseball Dream was such a subject. I first heard of Marcenia Lyle on Ken Burns's documentary, Baseball. That brief mention of her sent me to the library to learn all I could about her. It took five years to get that book into print, and every second was worth it because the book turned out beautifully.

Jimmy Winkfield, the subject of my second book, was given to me by my editor, Jennifer Fox. I knew of the prevalence of African-American jockeys in the history of American horse racing, but I hadn't known how truly amazing the lives of these athletes were. Jimmy Winkfield, the last black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, reached the highest echelons of his sport. His life was fascinating, and once I learned more about him, I knew that I had to write about him.

My next book is about Arthur Ashe. He's the most well-known athlete I've written about. I typically like to tell the stories of figures who are lesser known, but I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ashe twice when I was a kid. He had a tremendous influence on me, so when I got the chance to tell his story, I took it.

ETC: Why is it important to you to tell the stories you've chosen?

Author, Zetta Elliott
Zetta Elliott, Author of BIRD
ETC: If you had to sum up your book in one sentence, what would you say?

Elliott: I would say that BIRD is a story about the power of art to ease grief and uplift the human spirit.

ETC: What inspired you to write BIRD?

Elliott: Inspiration isn't easy to pin down. Long after I'd written BIRD, I realized that it was a blend of personal experience and imagined possibilities. When I first started writing for children, my goal was to produce compelling stories that told the truth-I felt my urban students didn't have enough opportunities to SEE themselves in books. As a young reader growing up in Canada, I almost never saw myself reflected in the books that I read, and I was a voracious reader. We didn't buy books in my family, but my siblings and I had our own library cards, and once a week we walked up to the public library and took out as many books as we could carry. Not having books in your home is a real disadvantage, and if you're watching TV and you still don't see yourself reflected in the programming, you can start to wonder if you truly exist. So all the stories I write are designed, in part, to create a different kind of visibility for black youth.

The news media show countless reports of black youth doing drugs, selling drugs, and engaging in gang violence. But those reports rarely probe the depths of these realities, and they're not generally balanced by reports of success and achievement.