Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is very happy to shine our Friday spotlight on middle grade author Ann Clare LeZotte. Ann Clare LeZotte is the author of the 2021 Schneider Family Book Award–winning Show Me a Sign and the stand-alone companion Set Me Free (both Scholastic). Now a full-time writer, Ann worked for many years as a youth librarian in Gainesville, Florida, with a focus on marginalized communities and ASL literacy.
Ann Clare, Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
My local, Latinx-owned indie, Third House Books, in Gainesville, Florida. https://www.thirdhousebooks.com/
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I’m on Twitter, posting updates and boosting other authors’ awesomeness!
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Set Me Free?
I love historical fiction. And I’m passionate about Deaf history. I am Deaf, bilingual (ASL and English) and bicultural. I feel our history is rich and complex and hasn’t been told (for the most part) in youth literature. At the same time, I love adventure stories. So, I’ve tried to craft a Deaf heroine who deals with the prejudices of her time (the early 1800s), which are still reflective of biases many people have against Deaf people today, but who is also exceptional in her time (there are always people like that) and can illuminate bigotry for young readers while entertaining them.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
Aside from Mary, my favorite character is the old sea dog Ezra Brewer. He’s fun to write. I like describing the way he signs. He warms up his gnarled hands and arms in advance, he “gathers words out of the air.” He is a Deaf elder who carries the island’s history, who doesn’t suffer fools who would see him as lesser for his disability. He flouts conventions. Although he and Mary sometimes bicker, I think she draws strength from his unconventional ways. It was important to me to have an Obi-Wan Kenobi type mentor (with more flaws!) for Mary, who is Deaf. He sees her as his “horse in the race” but also is personally aware of the prejudices she faces. Most d/Deaf kids I’ve met are looking for representation along with mentors.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Keep at it. I’m not an ingenue. I’m sort of a late bloomer. And that doesn’t matter with writing. If one or a hundred people don’t like your pitch or manuscript, that doesn’t mean you won’t find that one person who loves it. I did. It took time. Writing and publishing are slow. Don’t follow trends. Find your own “voice.” Write what you know and love. And write with respect if you’re describing experiences that are not your own.
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
I’m glad you asked this! Most people would be shy to ask a Deaf person if they enjoy music. I absolutely do. I can distinguish between different pieces of music. People who get in the car with me always shout (“Turn it down!”) because the music is cranked up so loud! I am currently revisiting Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. I have the boom box on the floor in my office. It vibrates through my legs–and I feel it in my nose!
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
Making friends in bookstores and libraries in a wonderful thing, both for promotion and for sustenance. Be happy for your fellow writers’ successes. It takes nothing from you—comparison and resentment creates harmful stress and grief.
Ann Clare, Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions!