Get to Know… Sarah Aronson!

Hi, my name is… Sarah Aronson. Family legend has it that my mom was going to name me Sally (a more modern version of Sarah), but when I was born, I screamed and yelled and my face turned bright red (maybe because she was going to name me Sally). Bottom line, in spite of her realization that my name (sort of) rhymed, she changed her mind and named me Sarah. She figured I’d change it when I got married.

I like my name! (Especially when people roll my R’s.) I have met two other Sarah Aronsons! The most famous Sarah Aronson was a Jewish spy who worked with the British during WWI.

Over the years, I’ve been introduced as Sarah Arson. Or Sarah Arnoson (on a book spine). In high school, friends called me the Beak. Now I love being known as the author of Just Like Rube Goldberg and The Wish List series!

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True story: When I was little, I desperately wanted a nickname. My first choice was GaGa, because I liked drawing G’s and A’s. (Yep. Go ahead. Call me Old Lady Gaga.)

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I am a… mom, a wife, a daughter, sister, friend, and of course, a writer. I’m a person who loves the idea of making something out of nothing, of playing with words. I find ideas when walking by Lake Michigan, or eavesdropping, or reading, or inviting wonder into my life. Confession: this wasn’t always easy for me. If you have heard my lecture, The Power of Play, you know that I pledged to write without expectations—to embrace play—and now I am much happier. And more productive. When I get a great idea, I open my sketchbook and explore!

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I am also a teacher of other writers—a great honor. I love working with other writers, helping them understand their stories and helping them see how play and intuition can help them reimagine their characters and plots. It’s the best part of every day, and I am proud of the writers that have taken my classes.

I am also a person who likes to ride her bike. I live in Chicago, and there are no hills, so riding a bike is easy peasy lemon squeezy!

As a kid, I was… so impatient for everything. (I still don’t like waiting!) I signed up to play piano in a talent show—before I’d ever taken a lesson. My mom would tell you I was born a story teller (one degree separated from truth), and that I always had too much gusto. My dad would probably add that I liked being the star of the show. (I got that from him!)

Writing is… fun/hard/easy/a joy. Writing is rewriting. Writing is a search for a story. Writing is inspiration, intuition, and intellect. It’s deleting the whole manuscript, to find the truth. Writing is how I get to know myself and the world around me.

Reading is… the bridge to everything! When I read, the world is more knowable. I become braver. I can put my feet in someone else’s shoes. I am more confident.

Books are… the building blocks of a better tomorrow! Readers are my heroes!

Did you know… that my I worked in a library in high school? That I also worked for Jack La Lanne? (My job history is a bit like a Rube Goldberg machine: I have also been a physical therapist, religious school educator, bookseller, office assistant, and substitute teacher.)

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I have loved Rube Goldberg machines ever since I saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

I am a big believer in PLAY! It’s the way! I think there is room for all stories! All we have to do is listen.

You can find me…

In the living room. (My office is too messy right now).

At the Brothers K coffee shop.

Eating ramen.

At hot yoga.

In a bookstore.

By email: sarah.n.aronson@gmail.com

On Twitter: @sarah_aronson

On Insta: @sarahnaronson

 

 

 

Get to Know… Rebecca Donnelly!

My name is… Rebecca Donnelly. I go by Rebecca even though my Twitter username says Becca because the other Rebecca Donnellys got there first.

I am a… librarian in my heart of hearts. I’m one at a library and in the files of the New York State Ed Department, too, but in my heart is where it counts. I remember answering basic reference and reader’s advisory questions at my first library job, on an Air Force base in the Florida panhandle, and thinking, This! This is what I’m supposed to be doing with all that useless information in my head and my undefined need to make people happy. So far, it’s worked out pretty well.

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Rebecca’s first novel, HOW TO STAGE A CATASTROPHE.

As a kid, I was… great. And I’m not saying that to be conceited. All kids are great, no matter what, because they’re kids and they’re figuring out how to negotiate this weird world we’ve created. That’s the thing we have to remember if we’re invested in their future. Every kid has needs and wants, quirks and foibles, moments of genius and moments they’d rather forget. We write for kids to reflect the reality of their lives, but we start with the premise that every kid is important and completely amazing.

Writing is… a gift. I don’t know how better to put it. Ever since I discovered that I could write words, I’ve wanted to write books. It took a while before I figured out how to do it decently, but most things worth doing take practice.

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Rebecca’s upcoming novel, THE FRIENDSHIP LIE (publishes August 1, 2019).

Reading is… also a gift. One of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read is Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading. He goes into the development of silent reading. Can you imagine that silent reading, where all the comprehension happens between your eyes and your brain, had to develop from a culture of reading aloud, to others or to yourself? When we began to write, we didn’t immediately begin to read silently. We murmured as we read aloud to ourselves. Reading silently was seen as a mark of untrustworthiness–how could someone possibly be reading and understanding a text if there was no visible proof? And what might you be reading, that you didn’t want to read it aloud? Silent readers are rebels and even potential heretics in the historical view–a proud tradition.

Books are… good friends, terrible pillows, decent coasters, and some of my favorite objects on Earth.

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Rebecca’s picture book debut, CATS ARE A LIQUID, illustrated by Misa Saburi (publishes October 8, 2019).

Did you know… that your public library probably offers a service you don’t know about? I used to run a teeny little rural library, and we lent out wifi hotspots and canning supplies. Go strike up a conversation with the desk staff at your library and ask what they lend besides books and DVDs.

You can find me… on Twitter @_becca_donnelly, or for more formal communication, through my website, rebeccadonnellywrites.com. And I hope you do!

Get to Know… Andrea Wang!

My name is… Andrea Wang. I was named after the doctor who helped my mom deliver me, Dr. Andreas. He was Greek and pronounced his last name An-DRAY-us, but my parents took off the “s” and pronounced my name AN-dree-uh. I usually say my last name to rhyme with “sang” because then folks know to spell it with an “a” and not an “o.” In Mandarin, though, it’s pronounced “wong” to rhyme with “song.” Since people say my name a bunch of different ways depending on where they’re from and what they’re used to, I answer to pretty much everything, including all cries of “Mom!”

I am an… excellent procrastinator. But I’m not just sitting around binge-watching TV. Well, not usually. I’m procrasti-baking, or procrasti-cleaning, or procrasti-gardening. And even while I’m doing those things instead of writing, I’m mulling over the story I’m writing. I’ve come to realize that this is part of my writing process — letting my thoughts and ideas marinate while my hands are busy doing something else. Then, when I return to my desk, the words flow more freely.

As a kid, I was… always reading. And I mean, always. I read during meals, at the park, and in the bathtub. I got scolded a lot for it, so kids — if you’re reading this, know that books and water don’t play well together, that you should get more exercise than I did, and mealtimes are a good time to talk to your parents and ask them for an increase in your allowance (so you can buy more books).

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Writing is… how I explore the world around me, how I work through my feelings about things, how I entertain myself. That I can also entertain and inform others with my writing is one of the great joys of my life.

Reading is… everything to me. I was a super curious kid but also super, super shy. Reading is how I learned about other kids and our world, about how to solve problems, and about how to be a good friend.

Books are… friends and lifelines. They connect us to other people, other worlds, other ideas. Books can surround and comfort us with stories about people experiencing what we’re going through, or push us to stretch our imaginations and develop empathy for people who may be very different from us. Books are magic and wonder in a tidy little package.

Did you know… that Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen, wasn’t a scientist by training? When he emigrated from Taiwan to Japan, it wasn’t to do research in food science. He moved there to start a business making and selling socks!

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In my new book, MAGIC RAMEN: THE STORY OF MOMOFUKU ANDO, you’ll find out what inspired Ando to create instant ramen, and see how thinking like a scientist helped him succeed.

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Art by Kana Urbanowicz.

You can find me… physically curled up on the sofa with a book and a hot cup of tea, or virtually at www.andreaywang.com, @AndreaWhyWang on Instagram, and @AndreaYWang on Twitter. I am also a member of 19PBbios (19PBbios.com, #19PBbios), a group of 19 authors and/or illustrators of diverse picture book biographies that are releasing in 2019.

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MAGIC RAMEN comes out tomorrow, Tuesday, March 5th!!!
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Andrea’s first picture book, THE NIAN MONSTER, with pictures by Alina Chau, published in 2016. Her next picture book, out in 2020, is titled WATERCRESS, and will be illustrated by Jason Chin.

Get to Know… Diane Magras!

My name is… Diane Magras (and one of the cool things about having this surname is that you can pronounce it the correct way—”MAY-gris”—or what I like to pretend is the Scottish way—”M’grass”—and I’ll nod in recognition at the first and probably beam at the second).

I am… the author of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter and its companion novel The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter (which will be out on March 5, 2019). I write middle grade fiction. While I may one day write something other than middle grade, it’s going to take me a while to get there since I’m 12 years old inside and that’s just who I am. (So maybe when I’m 100 I’ll write young adult or new adult fiction or something like that.) I’m also obsessed with Scotland and the medieval world, and castles. Pretty much everyone who knows me is aware of this.

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As a kid, I was… always telling stories. I had a box filled with tiny rubber animals and I made up stories about them as I played, adventures that went on for days. I had so many of these little animals that I kept a sheet of paper on which I’d written their names and one characteristic each (“brave,” “shy,” “nasty”). I’d refer to this page when I was playing to make sure I got my characters straight. My dad also likes to tell the story of his attempts to read me The Hobbit. I never let him get very far before I interrupted him and started to rewrite the story. (In one of my versions, Gollum was the loyal and slightly weird sidekick.)

Writing is… an outlet, utterly necessary for me. I need to tell stories. I need to create characters and worlds and set conflicts into play. It’s my way of making sense of the world, and also indulging in my passions. (Such as Scotland and medieval worlds and swords and castles…) Most of all, though, it’s a place where I can address issues that bother me in the present by creating a reflection of those issues, and solving them, in the past.

Reading is… a passion, an adventure, an escape. It’s a way of learning, an experience of another world. I’m devoted to the books I love and tell everyone about them. Reading broadens perspectives and makes us all better people. Reading also taught me how to write.

Books are… essential and should be in every house and in every kid’s hands. The right book for every child is out there. This book will be a comfort during tough times, cheer its reader on during good times, and be a friend when its reader needs one. Books are powerful: They can enrich, inspire, and delight. They can make people think and act. They’re like magic.

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Did you know… that medieval castle defenders in Britain (and most of the world!) didn’t really dump boiling oil on the people attacking them? Oil was too expensive. Boiling water worked just as well, and so did hot sand. Think of how hard it is to get sand out of your clothes when you’ve been to the beach. Now think of how hard it would be to get burning hot sand out of your chain mail armor… (A fun fact of medieval research.)

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This is a yett at Stirling Castle in Scotland. Defenders would dump boiling water and burning sand on attackers if they got past one of these.

You can find me… at a Scottish castle, wandering in the woods or by the sea, or at www.dianemagras.com, or on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Goodreads.

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Revenge of the EngiNerds!!!

Today’s the day!

Revenge of the EngiNerds has officially launched!

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If you preordered the book — which, by the way, THANKS! — it should be arriving at your home or independent bookstore today. Otherwise, you can go and get yourself a copy wherever books are sold. The book should also, of course, be available at your local library. And if you can’t find it on the shelves at any of these places, just ASK!

Anyway, I’m celebrating the big day over at the MG Book Village, where I’m talking to two  of my favorite people — Kathie MacIsaac and Corrina Allen — about one of my favorite things: humor!

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Don’t worry — no frogs were harmed in the creation of this blog post. Check it out here! And thank you — again and again and again — for all of your awesome support.

STAY NERDY!

Robots, Clouds, Stars… and Farts

Good morning! Revenge of the EngiNerds comes out in a little more than a week, and I’d like to share with you a few things about it…

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Because yes, the book IS about a rogue farting robot and the hunt to find it before it does some SERIOUS damage.

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But the book tackles some other, “bigger” issues and ideas, as well. It tackles several questions about friendship. Such as:

If you care for someone, do their problems become your own? What do you do when a friend is set on doing something wrong? How do you navigate a disagreement that splits a group of friends? Can two people grow up without also growing apart?

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There are also a lot of clouds in the book, as well as a relatively extended discussion of the vastness of the universe, and what the contemplation of that vastness does to the contemplator.

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Why?

Because clouds and the universe are things I often think about. And by including them in these books, I hope to encourage kids to think about them too—to appreciate the beauty and wonder available to them every day, free of charge.

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I viscerally remember the first time, as a kid, that I actually attempted to mentally grasp the inconceivable hugeness of the universe. It made me giddy, and filled me with equal parts fear and awe.

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It also fundamentally changed the way I thought about myself and my life—this itsy-bitsy blip of time I get to spend on our cosmic speck of a planet. For some, these thoughts lead to nihilistic conclusions. For me, they inspire the opposite.

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They make the miracle of life all the more miraculous, our uniqueness all the more precious. They can also inspire a hefty dose of humility, and empathy for the billions of miraculous, precious lives we get to spend our time here with.

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And so, I hope Revenge of the EngiNerds inspires readers to take a second every now and again to ponder the clouds drifting overhead, and that they sometimes try to do the impossible, and fit the universe in their heads.

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And I hope they enjoy all the fart jokes, too.

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. . .

The images above are either stock photos, available for free use, or taken from NASA’s archive. The cover of Revenge of the EngiNerds was illustrated by Serge Seidlitz, and the black-and-white interior illustration is from the Dutch edition of EngiNerds, titled RoboNerds, illustrated by Kees de Boer.

Happy World Read Aloud Day!

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Today — February 1st, 2019 — is the 10th Annual World Read Aloud Day! But because reading aloud is worth celebrating for more than just one day, I’ve been celebrating all week, and will continue to celebrate next week, too! How? By virtually visiting classrooms and libraries all across the country (and also up in Canada!) and reading aloud to kids. All told, I’ll be visiting more than 60 schools!

You can — and SHOULD! — celebrate World Read Aloud Day, too. Just grab a friend, family member (pets included!), coworker, neighbor — or, hey, even a total stranger — and read them something. A picture book. A poem. Whatever! Why? Because reading aloud is fun, and it makes us smarter, stronger, kinder, and about a hundred other awesome things besides.

Happy reading!

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