Friday, March 1, 2013

All About Middle Grade Interview: Laurel Snyder (author of Bigger Than a Breadbox)

This week on All About Middle Grade Interviews, I am very excited to welcome Laurel Snyder to the blog. She is the author of Bigger Than a Breadbox and many other wonderful sounding children's books. Hope y'all will give her a very warm welcome.

About the author:

Laurel Snyder is the author of  three novels for children, “Penny Dreadful,” “Any Which Wall” and “Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains OR The Search for a Suitable Princess” (Random House) and two picture books, “Inside the Slidy Diner” and “Baxter the Kosher Pig.” (Tricycle).

In addition to her books for children, Laurel has written two books of poems, “Daphne & Jim: a choose-your-own-adventure biography in verse” (Burnside Review Press, 2005) and “The Myth of the Simple Machines” (No Tell Books, 2007). She also edited an anthology of nonfiction, “Half/Life: Jew-ish tales from Interfaith Homes” (Soft Skull Press, 2006) A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Michener-Engle Fellow, Laurel has published work in the Utne Reader, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Revealer, Salon, The Iowa Review, American Letters and Commentary, and elsewhere. She is an occasional commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, but most of all, she is a mom.

You can haunt Laurel Snyder at-
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Because buried inside the book is a secret treasure map.
2. What was the most difficult part when it came to writing Rebecca's story in your book? 
This book actually slid out more easily than my other novels,  because it's rooted in my own childhood memories. I didn't have to work very hard to develop a character.  But for that very reason, it was emotionally more difficult.  I was reaching back for these painful moments from when I was a kid, and my parents were splitting up. I cried a ridiculous amount while writing. It's a little embarrassing now to admit that.
3. Why do you think readers will connect with Rebecca and her story in Bigger than a Bread Box? Anything you hope they'll take away from her story?
It's really important to me that this book doesn't have any villains.  So often, in families, we take sides, and then have a hard time shaking them.  I'd like to think readers will understand that these characters are all flawed people, who've made mistakes, but they're trying hard to love each other. They're doing the best they can.
4. Laurel, for the sake of curiosity, what (for you) makes writing for children so enjoyable and worth all the hard work that goes into writing a book?
I think if you ask people what books have mattered most  in their lives, they'll name at least a few books they read before they were 18.  Because in those years, people are open, ready to absorb new ideas.  Minds are waiting to be blown.  There's something really amazing about getting to speak to people in those years.

Also, I think children's authors are allowed to experiment more.  Kids are willing to follow you just about anywhere.  When you write for adults, you're more limited in how far you can expect the reader to stretch beyond their comfort zone.
5. I've been browsing through your library of works, so, my question to you is: How important is it for you as an author to include a little realism into your books?
Every book is different, and I change as an author, from book to book. I've spent about 4 years now working on books that have a lot of "grit" in them.  Real emotion, family dynamics, etc.  For those books, realism was critical.  Right now I'm feeling the need to take a little breath, write something more whimsical.

That said, what makes something "real" isn't always what makes it "realistic."  I just had a conversation in a Twitter chat the other day, about  Pippi Longstocking being "real."  The question is, does the reader believe in the character, as they're following along?  And that kind of "real" matters in any book, I think.  As a kid, I liked books that made me feel like magic and adventure could happen to anyone, in the regular world. I think all of my books share that sensibility.
6. I hear that you have been writing stories since you were quite young. Are there any that you wrote in the past that you would like to re-work and one day publish? 
Ha, yes.  As a kid I wrote about unicorns a lot. I was unicorn OBSESSED.  There's a little story I wrote in about 5th grade, about a "very naughty unicorn." I'd like to go back and write that story again, but I haven't figured out how.  I can't seem to strike the right tone.
7. One book that you think everyone needs to read at least once in their life??
Interesting question.  I'm not sure there's one book I think EVERYONE should read. I think every reader needs to find their books, and every book needs to find it's readers.  That said, I'm reading The Little Prince to my kids right now. I think everyone should at least try it.   
8. The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, who do you choose? 
Can I go to comic books for this? Because if we've got a robot infestation, I'd call on Magneto, in that phase where he was a good guy. 
9. Care to tell us about your writing cave (include picture if you want)?
I have a shed!  We renovated it last year, because we live in a teeny tiny house, and there wasn't any room for all my junk.  I'm out there some days, and some days I float around the house with my laptop.   But it's nice to have a place outside the house, where I can feel truly alone. It's very quiet and disconnected... 
10. Any upcoming projects that you can sure with us?
Well, I just just just FINALLY turned in the companion to Bigger than a Bread Box. It's called Seven Stories Up, and it follows Rebecca's mother (Annie)  on a crazy time travel adventure. She's 12 (it's 1987) and she's never known her grandmother (Molly).  Annie's mom has raised her pretty much alone, and she wishes she knew her family.  Annie falls back in time, and gets to meet Molly as a kid, and they run around 1937 Baltimore together.

And I'm always working on a picture book. Right now I'm revising a ballerina a book called SWAN, which is going to be so gorgeous I could cry.

Laurel, thank you so much for stopping by and answering some questions. Your answer for question two very nearly made me tear up (and I don't cry easily).

Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder, September 7, 2011. Published by Random House Books for Young Readers.
A magical breadbox that delivers whatever you wish for—as long as it fits inside? It's too good to be true! Twelve-year-old Rebecca is struggling with her parents' separation, as well as a sudden move to her Gran's house in another state. For a while, the magic bread box, discovered in the attic, makes life away from home a little easier. Then suddenly it starts to make things much, much more difficult, and Rebecca is forced to decide not just where, but who she really wants to be. Laurel Snyder's most thought-provoking book yet.

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1 comment:

  1. Like that she is reading Tha Little Prince to her children. I loved that book when I was younger.


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