Monday, May 15, 2017

5 with Laurel Snyder--Author of Orphan Island

"Nine on an island, orphans all, any more, the sky might fall."

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder pulled me in from the very first page. It begins with the ringing of a bell, and we learn that Jinny's life on the perfect island with the other 8 orphans is a about to change. The small green boat with a new orphan has arrived again. Every arrival on the island also means a departure--the Elder orphan, Jinny's best friend Deen, must leave. Now Jinny is the Elder with the newest, youngest arrival "her Care."

Orphan Island has a beauty in the language that begs you to linger paired with a story that compels you to race ahead. Since finishing I find my mind wandering back to the magic of the island. This is a book to treasure and share with many readers.

Today Author Laurel Snyder stopped by to answer my 5 questions.

On Sale: May 30, 2017

Welcome, Laurel, thank you so much for visiting LibLaura5!

1. Orphan Island is a very special book for readers. I understand it was a special book for you to write as well. What made writing Orphan Island unique?

Oh, thank you!

When I started writing poems and stories, I was 8 years old, and I wrote because I wanted to get the words and ideas. It was an entirely creative project. As I got older, and writing became my job, something in the process changed for me. It was still creative, but writing also began to feel like producing. Wordcounts and deadlines.

I knew that I wanted to get back to my 8 year old writer-self, and when I started Orphan Island, that was the goal. I sat down with a pencil and a yellow legal pad, and promised myself I wouldn’t think about writing a book I could sell, or pleasing an editor, or getting good reviews. It had to be personal. A book I needed to get OUT.

So it felt important to go back to the tools of childhood. To step away from my laptop.  I was actually talking about this with Emily Hughes (who is illustrating another book of mine) yesterday, and she said something about how important the sound of a pencil scratching on the page can be.  That feels true to me. That I wanted to call back the ghost of what it felt like to write when I was a kid. And that tactile sensations like sound or smell are probably helpful in that.

2. The Island… is not a place you can ever revisit.

3. Do you believe in magic?

I do!  

Well, I mean that I believe in the potential for magic. I believe in the potential for anything to happen. I have never seen a unicorn, but I refuse to rule out the possibility of unicorns. It seems to me that science is what we call magic when we figure out a way to explain it.

4. What question have you been asked the most by Orphan Island readers so far?

Oh, everyone keeps asking me what happens next. The book leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It’s interesting how people respond to that ambiguity in different ways.

The book that was really the initial inspiration for Orphan Island was The Little Prince. I remember talking with my kids about it after we finished reading, and they spent hours discussing the ending. Did the prince die? Did he go home? How could he have gotten there? How far was his home?  Was the snake evil? That book drove them nuts, but it also inspired so many great conversations.

5. Sharing the books we love is a way we share about ourselves and connect with each other. What is one book that has been important in your life?

One of my favorite all-time books is Dicey’s Song, by Cynthia Voigt. I think about it more and more, as the years go by. It’s so sophisticated, emotionally. And yet the book feels simple.

It’s really just about this girl living her daily life. The sophistication comes from allowing all aspects of that life into the book. It isn’t ABOUT boys, but there’s a boy. It isn’t ABOUT responsibility or family loyalty or anger or poverty or abandonment or social unease, but all that stuff is in there. The book trembles and bristles, the way I remember trembling and bristling in those years.

I’m very focused right now on the need for more good upper middle grade. I could spend an hour talking about it, but I feel like it’s a gap we need to fill. Dicey’s Song is one of my models for what upper middle grade can be.

Thanks again for visiting LibLaura5!
Thanks for having me!

Orphan Island Teaching Guide

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May 20: Book Monsters