In June, we featured the Children’s Writer in Residence Fellowship, which is run by the Associates of Boston Public Library– each year the Associates award an up-and-coming children’s author $20,000 and an office in the library to help him or her complete a book. We’re excited to share the other half of that incredible relationship on the site today by interviewing one of the lucky authors about her experience. Don’t forget to check out our interview with other past BPL Residents Hannah Barnaby and Hollis Shore. Enjoy! ~Erinn
Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): So you were a Writer-in-Residence at Boston Public Library. Tell us a little bit about that experience.
Anna Staniszewski (AS): Being the 2007-2008 BPL Writer-in-Residence was a fantastic experience. I loved going to my library office and locking myself away until I reached my daily word count goal. While I was there, I wrote and revised a young adult novel set on a fictional island that had been cut off from the rest of the world for generations. While the book hasn’t been published (yet) I learned so much about the process of writing and revising a novel, all of which helped me later on with projects that did sell to publishers.
I applied for the fellowship in the first place because it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, especially since I had just finished graduate school and I was determined to give being a writer a real shot. I never thought I would be chosen for the residency, so getting that phone call was pretty surreal.
LAIP: What are you working on now? Anything new in the hopper that you’re excited about?
AS: Right now I’m getting ready to promote my third book, My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending, the final installment in the My Very UnFairy Tale Life trilogy, coming from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky in November. I’m also working on revising The Prank List, the sequel to The Dirt Diary which will be published (also by Sourcebooks) this January. Having two books coming out in the span of two months is a little overwhelming, but I’d say it’s a pretty good problem to have.
LAIP: Have libraries always been a part of your artistic process, or was this a new phenomenon for you?
AS: When I was growing up, my parents would bring me to the Westborough Public Library in Westborough, Mass. every weekend so I could load up on books to get me through the week. I think this experience established my love of libraries very early on. Even now, I look forward to my “library dates” at my local library. I’ve always dreamed of having my novels available in libraries, so every time I see a copy of one of my books on the shelf, it’s a huge thrill.
LAIP: Not every library can support a fellowship like the Children’s Writer in Residence program. In your opinion, what are some things that any library could do to support authors in their communities?
AS: I’ve been blown away by the support of my local library in Easton, Mass. They’ve had me come in to do a few events, including speaking to the middle grade book club. The children’s librarian there has been great about making sure my books get into the hands of readers who’ll enjoy them.
I see libraries as bridges that can help create a connection between authors and readers. I think any time you have readers and
authors interacting (whether at an official event or something more informal), it’s the perfect opportunity to get everyone even more excited about books. I also really admire libraries that embrace technology. For example, a school librarian in Virginia had me do a Skype visit with an after-school book club, and it was such a fun experience.
I see libraries as bridges that can help create a connection between authors and readers.The children’s librarian [at my local library in Easton] has been great about making sure my books get into the hands of readers who’ll enjoy them.
LAIP: How do you stay creative as a writer? Do you dabble in other artforms?
AS: My life is very book-centric, and I kind of like it that way. When I’m lacking inspiration, I go read a great book which usually gets the creative juices flowing again. I also teach writing at Simmons College which means I’m always talking and thinking about craft; hearing my students’ perspectives on the creative process can help spark ideas. And when I’m feeling really stuck, I just have to go play with my dog for a little while.
LAIP: What 5 books do you wish you could find on the shelves of every library you walk into?
AS: That’s a hard one! But here are some books that I come back to over and over:
- Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
- Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
- The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
- Whales on Stilts by MT Anderson
- Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner
LAIP: What would your ideal library be like? What would it look like? What would you be able to find and do there?
AS: I love libraries that are bright and open because they’re so uplifting, but at the same time, it’s nice to have a little nook to hide in. I guess a combination of the two styles would be perfect: something sunny and airy but with some comfortable reading areas tucked away in the corners.
As for activities, I’m a big fan of libraries that have quiet sections but also sections where you can be a little more social and active. Maybe on one end of the library you could sit quietly and focus and read, but on the other end you’d have book and community programs for both children and adults. And cupcakes. Lots and lots of cupcakes.