Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Interview with YA Author Evelyn Krieger

Evelyn Krieger, the oldest of six children, grew up in Detroit, Michigan. As a child, she entertained her friends with imaginative stories and dance performances. In fact, she says, the inspiration for her first poem came in the middle of the night when she was just eight years old. Evelyn has been writing ever since, and her essays and stories have won numerous awards. After studying ballet seriously, and earning her master's degree from Harvard, Evelyn worked as a reading teacher and private tutor. Today, she is a writer, learning specialist, and a homeschooling mom. Evelyn lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children. She was kind enough to drop by the blog today to answer some questions about her new novel from YM Publishing, One is Not a Lonely Number, which recently won a Sydney Taylor Honor Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries. Congrats, Evelyn!

What was your inspiration for One Is Not A Lonely Number?

I've worked as a teacher for many years, both in the classroom and privately. I watched so many kids struggle with math that it got me wondering about the best way to help kids not only get it but like it. I wanted my main character to have a friendly and interesting relationship to numbers. I am also the eldest of six kids, so I sometimes wondered what it would be like to be an only child, like Talia, the book's narrator. The story really unfolded from my imagination, though I did draw things from my life such as dance, Jewish culture, and an adopted Chinese girl (my beautiful niece.)

How did you first get started writing?

As a young child, I had a lot of trouble falling asleep. So I'd lay there making up stories and poems. Eventually I started writing them down and sharing them with my parents and friends. My mother is a natural storyteller and I think I inherited that gene. I told the best ghost stories at sleepover parties. My mother wrote poetry and articles for newspapers. That was my introduction to writing as a business. Today, I still have trouble sleeping and often get my best ideas in the middle of the night.

How do you balance everything in your life?

I am a juggler. I always have about five balls in the air and this makes life both interesting and a bit chaotic. For example, I homeschool my seventh-grade daughter, work part-time as a reading specialist, teach a weekly adult ballet class, help my teen daughter manage her magazine business, in addition to writing. Whew! I always have been a person who does too much, but I never know what I can cut out. Writing is my passion, though, and I hope to bring that in the forefront of my life.

What is your writing process like? Do you write on a computer? In a spiral notebook? Do you draw illustrations?

I can no longer write in a notebook, although I love to buy pretty ones for brainstorming and list making. My hands can't keep up with my thoughts, so a computer is a must. (I type very fast.) I love my laptop. Once I have an idea, I let it roam around in my mind. I begin to hear snippets of dialogue. I can actually write parts of the story in my head. Sometimes, it even feels like I'm in a trance! (This probably explains why I often miss exits while driving on highways.) Once I start writing, I have to force myself to let the story unfold. Since I get frustrated when something doesn't sound right and I start rewriting. I think it's really essential to allow yourself to create a messy, imperfect first draft, even though I don't always practice that. I like to let my first draft sit for a few days and then I come back to it with fresh eyes. I do several rewrites, even many months later on stories or essays I thought were finished.

I used to need a lot of quiet to write, but more recently I find I work better sitting in Barnes & Nobles or a coffee shop. I write Sunday afternoons, some evenings, and during my daughter Audrey's ballet lessons.

I read that you have had years of serious ballet study. How have other art forms, such as dance, influenced your writing?

I used to be a very shy child. That's why my mother first enrolled me in ballet. Turns out, I had a natural talent and I grew to love it. Ballet study develops discipline which is essential to being a writer. It isn't enough to just want to be a writer, you have to put the time in. You have to show up at your writing space and get to work. My mother was a singer and gifted pianist. I grew up with all types of music playing in the house -- gypsy songs, Broadway, classical. I also studied piano, which like dance and writing, takes regular practice for you to get good at it. I am very affected by music. I sometimes use it to evoke a certain mood in my writing. When I was working on One Is Not A Lonely Number, I had a particular song that I listened to during a pivotal scene. Dance and music are woven into the book's plot.

What did you learn from writing One Is Not A Lonely Number?

I learned that I had the ability to actually finish a novel! When you have three unfinished novels on your computer, you get discouraged. For some reason, I found writing for young people more freeing. I took it chapter by chapter, without letting myself get overwhelmed by the idea of writing a WHOLE book.

What are you working on now?

I'm a big contest fan. I like entering writing competitions because they give me a specific goal to work towards... and a deadline! I also love a challenge. When I am not busy promoting One Is Not A Lonely Number, I am working on essays and short story contests, and pitching article ideas to magazines. However, I will reveal, and your blog will be the first to know, that I have a new novel growing in my head -- a contemporary story for adults. I'm very excited by the idea, but also frustrated because I really don't have the time to pursue it right now. I'm sure looking forward to the summer when I can let the characters out to play.

Thank you so much for sharing the news about your next novel -- how exciting! What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams?

Write them down. Something powerful happens when you commit your dreams to paper. Then, list steps that you need to take to make them come true. Review your dreams on your birthday each year.

Is there anything else you'd like us to know?

I'd love to hear from readers! Are you an Only? A dancer? A "mathlete"? Write to me. Please check out the publisher's website for an excerpt, reviews, and more. My very talented teen daughter created it. www.oneisnotalonelynumber.com

Below is the book trailer for One is Not a Lonely Number:

1 comment:

Donna W. Guthrie said...

I think your readers will enjoy this interview.

Interview with Children's Author Carolyn Marsden

Take a trip to the beaches of San Diego to meet children's author, Carolyn Marsden.

The award- winning author talks about her books and the art of collaboration and how she learned to write with others. She offers good writing tips for writers both young and old.

MEET ME AT THE CORNER, Virtual FIeld Trips for Kids is a series of free kid-friendly educational video podcasts for children ages 5-13. Each episode comes with a list of recommended books, a list of fun websites and a Learning Corner of questions and extended activities.