Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on our children’s book author guest, Anna Staniszewski . Anna will be at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester along with two additional middle grade authors, MarcyKate Connolly and Rajani LaRocca on Sunday, March 22nd at 2:00 PM. They will all be here to talk about magic in books, sign their books, and answer any questions you may have.
Anna Staniszewski is the author of over a dozen books for young readers, including the novels The Dirt Diary and Secondhand Wishes, as well as the picture books Dogosaurus Rex and Power Down, Little Robot, and the Once Upon a Fairy Tale early chapter book series. Her newest novel, The Wonder of Wildflowers, is loosely based on her experiences as a young Polish immigrant. Anna was a Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the PEN New England Discovery award, and she currently teaches in the MFA Writing for Children Program at Simmons University.
Here’s my first question, Anna: Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
My books are available in most libraries and bookstores, as well as through online retailers.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
You can visit my website at www.annastan.com or follow me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/annastanisz), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AnnaStaniszewskiAuthor/), or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/anna.staniszewski/).
What was the inspiration for The Wonder of Wildflowers? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
My newest book, The Wonder of Wildlfowers, is by far the most personal project I’ve worked on. It’s about a young girl who is an immigrant in a country that’s closed itself off from the rest of the world in order to protect its most valuable resource, a magical liquid called Amber. The idea was inspired by my own experiences as a Polish immigrant, acclimating to life in what felt like a magical new land.
What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out The Wonder of Wildflowers? How did you overcome that challenge?
When I first had the idea of writing a story inspired by my own experiences, I started off by trying to write it as realistic fiction, peppered with a bit of humor. But the genre and voice just weren’t working. Then it occurred to me that perhaps this land didn’t just feel magical to my protagonist—perhaps it really was magical. Once I knew that about the setting, the voice and plot fell into place pretty quickly.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
I would call the story magical realism or light fantasy, since it’s a world that feels very much like our own but with a little bit of magic sprinkled in. I’m always intrigued by stories that mix reality and fantasy, so that the magical elements feel as though they could really happen. That blend of the real and the fantastical always gets my imagination going!
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
I’m constantly amazed by the connections I’ve been able to make through my work—meeting readers during school visits and book events, and making lasting friendships with other writers. I’ve had readers write to tell me how much they relate to the characters in my books. One girl even told me that my book inspired her to make up with a friend she’d argued with. If that’s not a kind of magic, I don’t know what is!
What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome that?
The biggest thing I’ve had to overcome in my writing process is perfectionism. When I was starting out, I’d spend months perfecting the first few chapters of a project and never actually finish it! I finally had to let go of trying to make my early drafts perfect (since there is no such thing!) and allow myself to write poorly in order to get the story down on paper—then work on improving it later. I’ve since learned to love revising, since it allows me to use my perfectionist tendencies to figure out the best way to put the pieces of the story together.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
Community is so important when you’re writer, at any stage of the process. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is a great resource, both online and in person, and it was particularly useful to me when I was starting out. I’ve also learned a tremendous amount—and made some great connections—through The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, Mass and the MFA Writing for Children program at Simmons University (where I currently teach). Writing can be a lonely endeavor, so it’s essential to have writing friends and critique partners who can support you along the way.
Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy writing schedule to answer our questions, Anna!