Thursday, March 4, 2010

Guest Blogger, Kirby Larson

Kirby Larson writes award-winning books, no matter what the genre. I first was captivated by her writing when friends and I read and discussed the Newbery winner, Hattie Big Sky, the story of a 16-year-old orphan who takes over a deceased uncle's homestead in Montana. Here is Kirby now, to discuss her writing:

Q: You have said that Hattie's story was inspired by your great-grandmother's life. Since her family didn't really know much about her early life, much of the story in the book was made up, based on research. The book Hattie feels so believable and real. Who did you draw on for her personality and character?
A: Great question! I would say I drew on all of the journals and diaries I read to create Hattie, but my daughter says Hattie is me. I'll let you be the judge.
Q: You have mentioned in an interview that it took you about three years to write Hattie Big Sky. In the same interview, you said it took about ten years to get The Magic Kerchief right. Why do you think a picture book was harder to write than a historical novel?
A: Oh, a picture book is so much more difficult because every single word has to earn its way into a picture book. With a novel, you have a bit of space to linger on this thought or that notion. Not so in a picture book.
Q: Do you have a special approach to writing a new book, or does each one come to you differently?
A: I wish I did have a special approach; then I would know what to do each time. So far, for me, each book has come to me differently and with its own unique and challenging set of challenges and gifts.
Q: Of all the books you've written -- and so many of them win awards! -- do you have a favorite? If so, which one, and why?
A: Ah, this is like asking Mom who her favorite child is. Easy to answer if she only has one! But honestly, Hattie is probably dearest to my heart because writing it allowed me to keep my connections to my beloved grandmother (Hattie's step-daughter) alive.
Q: You co-wrote Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival, and Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle with Mary Nethery (and in the latter case, with Marine Major Brian Dennis). Both have won acclaim. Are future "true story" collaborations in the works?
A: Mary and I are eager to write a third (and fourth and fifth. . .) book together. So far, however, we have not come up with just the right story. We're open to suggestions!
Q: You have written award-winning books, taught writing courses, spoken at conferences, and presented at schools. Do you find that the latter activities have affected your writing approach in any way?
A: Everything I do that's not writing enriches my writing. . . and takes away from it at the same time. I am reminded every day of Katherine Paterson's powerful words: "The very persons who take away my time and space to write give me something to say." The very activities that take away my time and space to write, do indeed give me something to say.
Q: You have always been an avid reader. But some books affect a reader more than others. When you look back, what books that you that you read in elementary school, middle school, and high school left their “imprint” on you? Which books have changed your life?
A: I would be hard pressed to pick one or two titles. I will always treasure Alice in Wonderland, not so much for the story but for the fact that it was the first book I ever owned -- thanks to my aunt. Our family read and re-read Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen so many times, we wore it out. If only I'd bought the book when it was brand new and $4.99! When I finally went to find a copy about 6 or 7 years ago, I had to pay over $100 for it. But still, it's well worth it. There have been so many books that have left their imprints on me, it would be impossible to name them all. However, it was Arnold Lobel's Ming Lo Moves The Mountain that struck the chord in me to lead me to write children's books.
Q: Who is your first reader for a new work? Your family? Friends? Another writer?
A: My first reader is generally my good friend, Mary Nethery, or my local critique group -- Bonny Becker, Kathryn Galbraith, Sylvie Hossack and Dave Patneaude-- depending on the type of book it is and any deadlines associated with it. My family and friends read the books when they come out!

Thank you, Kirby, for sharing your thoughts. I know readers will be looking forward to your next books, as I will. I'm sure, too, they will enjoy following your blog (as I do) at:


G.O.D said...

Good questions and interesting answers. Another view from someone who's been successful in a field that appears to be difficult to break into. Would have liked to know a bit about how she went about it and what the time frame was.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I wholeheartedly agreed with the comment that every word in a picture book has to earn its way, while in a novel there is more space to explore and linger.

Rachel Dillon said...

I have hope when I read about an author like Kirby Larsen, breaking into so many genres. I especially like to hear how much time all of her projects took, we aren't all like Stephanie Meyer creating a phenomenon in 3 months.

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