I love the way the family and Waggers create a new life together, one in which he can be himself but without destroying stuff. It’s a story for everybody, from Mom and Dad, to kids, to pet. And it’s a situation that kids face so often. Every time they enter a new classroom, a new team, a new birthday party, they wonder how they can fit in and still be themselves. The emotions are the same, even if the adventure changes.
We love picture books, and it’s clear you do, too! What inspired you to write picture books?
I started writing poetry when I went to college, but having a child inspired me to write for them. I love the way kids discover the world. They see adventure in the vein of a rock, or a ladybug’s journey across a soccer field (which is why so many little bodies are bent over the playing field, instead of running!). That’s the world I want to live in, and writing for children helps me rediscover it every day.
When did you know that you wanted to be an author?
When I was little, say, from the time I could hold a pencil, until I graduated high school, I didn’t much like writing. I spent my free time drawing. But when I got to college, I discovered poetry. It was so hard for me to decipher. There was more there than just words strung together oddly. I was hooked. That was my entry into writing. I knew I couldn’t ask my parents to let me major in poetry, though. That’s like asking if I could live in their basement forever. So, I decided to become a professor because there is lots of writing involved in that job. However, once I reached that goal, I spent all of my free time writing poetry, and, after I had my first daughter, that segued into writing for kids. It was a long, twisty path with lots of adventures for me.
Balancing work and a family is tricky. How do you make it work and how does motherhood impact your job as an author?
Balancing, no matter what it is, is the hardest act. And I think about it so much, I wrote an article on it, “Balancing Rocks”, for Highlights (November 2014). Finding the sweet spot where everything gets is in balance is a daily adventure. I don’t have a set method for making it work every day. Things are too dynamic. It’s more like, take a deep breath, ready, get set, go. And keep going. I’d like to think I like to think I pull off balancing my life and profession more often than I drop stuff, but I drop stuff. Thank God for the 3 second rule.
You also offer school visits. What is your favorite thing about interacting with students?
I love teaching kids. I love talking to them. I love hearing their input, what they like, what they don’t like, what they think. And I love seeing what they produce. There are so many bright, creative minds out there. When I get to do a writing workshop with a group of students, there are always so many good ideas, and inevitably, that child who surprises everyone with his/her story. I never know when it’s going to happen, or who the child will be. Often, the teachers are surprised, too. I love that. I love the unpredictability of what will happen and who will make it happen. And I love being able to help guide children to that threshold.
Why should schools host author visits?
Hosting an author has so many advantages. An author is an expert in words – storytelling, narrative nonfiction, communication. Students get the chance to learn tricks of the trade from masters. They also get a chance to play with writing – via writing workshops – in a setting that is both in and outside of school. The unique setting gives students a certain sort of freedom to try new things, maybe even make a few mistakes and learn something they never anticipated. An author visit is also a chance for teachers to pick up a few new ideas for teaching writing. It’s a learning, growing, discovering experience for everyone.
Thanks again to Stacy Nyikos for appearing. For other stops on the Waggers blog tour please check http://www.stacyanyikos.com/blog.html.