2020 was your debut year. How was it?
My debut year started off strong, with From the Desk of Zoe Washington releasing on January 14. I had a couple of in-person launch events at local bookstores, and was able to attend Winter Institute, ALA Midwinter, and the North Texas Teen Book Festival. And then the pandemic shut everything down. Despite that, it’s still been a mostly positive debut year for me. Readers are discovering and enjoying Zoe’s story. Now, From the Desk of Zoe Washington is appearing on several “Best of 2020” book lists. I’m so grateful!
With the pandemic many authors were unable to do the school and in-person bookstore visits they had planned. How did you navigate that?
One disappointing moment this year was when the book tour my publisher had planned was canceled due to the pandemic. I had been looking forward to visiting those bookstores and meeting readers in person! I had no choice but to pivot. Fortunately, I’ve been able to do a lot of virtual panels and school visits. Also, three of my middle grade debut friends (Shannon Doleski, Lorien Lawrence, and Tanya Guerrero) and I planned an online book festival called Middle Ground Book Fest. It was a great opportunity to connect with other middle grade authors and help them reach teachers, librarians and readers during a difficult year. We had a lot of fun with it! The video recordings are still available on our YouTube channel.
What does your writing schedule look like?
Before the pandemic, I had a schedule. I woke up early a few times a week to write. (I could never quite make it to #5amWritersClub, but I’d write from 6 - 7:30 am). My day job is three days a week, so on the other two days, I’d write while my daughter was in school. I also wrote a lot on the weekends. But now that my daughter is doing remote learning, I don’t have those quiet days to write anymore! Now, I have to try to squeeze in writing whenever I can.
What are you currently working on?
I recently completed copy edits for my second book, A Soft Place to Land, which comes out on September 14. Now, I’m getting to work on what I hope will be my next published book - another standalone contemporary middle grade.
Do you plan on venturing into YA? (I know your debut initially started out as YA if I’m not mistaken?)
I did start out writing young adult books! The three (unpublished) manuscripts I wrote before From the Desk of Zoe Washington were YA, and I even thought Zoe’s story would be at first. I started out with her as sixteen years old instead of twelve. But a critique partner who read pages early on helped me realize that the book would be stronger as a middle grade. It was an adjustment to make the shift from writing YA to MG, but I’m so happy writing MG now! I do want to venture back to YA at some point, if I find the right idea.
What are some free or inexpensive resources you use that help you as a writer?
One free website that I like to use to track my progress when I’m drafting or revising is www.pacemaker.press. I like all the ways it lets you customize your plan, and it adjusts if you miss a day. Also, some authors and publishing professionals share fantastic writing tips for free on their website and newsletters: Susan Dennard, Patrice Caldwell, and Erin Bowman, to name a few. Finally, I love listening to writing podcasts like First Draft with Sarah Enni, 88 Cups of Tea, and Deadline City.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
What is your favorite quote?
One of my favorites is, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” - Maya Angelou. I even incorporated it into From the Desk of Zoe Washington!
What are you hoping for in 2021?
I really hope that the COVID-19 vaccine will allow life to return to “normal” sooner rather than later!
Last but certainly not least, how is Zoe doing?
I don’t want to spoil the book by saying too much, but if Zoe were in this pandemic, she’d absolutely use all her extra time at home to bake. In addition to cupcakes and other sweet treats, she’d join in on the bread-baking trend!
Janae Marks is the author of the critically acclaimed novel From the Desk of Zoe Washington and A Soft Place to Land (9/14/21). She grew up in the New York City suburbs, and now lives in Connecticut with her husband and daughter. She has an MFA in Writing for Children from The New School.
Visit Janae online at http://janaemarks.com.
The first time I’d ever heard of the praline ladies was in reading your book. What inspired you to write this story? Do you have a personal connection to it?
I was inspired by the actual praline ladies who sold pralines in New Orleans once upon a time. When I look at the black and white photos of them, I feel a connection that I can’t explain. Sadly, they’re often overlooked in the telling of NOLA praline history. My maternal grandmother was also an inspiration. She owned a shotgun house like the Praline Lady and she also made pralines for me when I was a child.
How long did it take you to write Praline Lady? (Btw, is it PRAY-leen or PRAH-leen?)
In New Orleans we say prah-leen, but in other regions they say pray-leen. I have a friend that calls it pecan candy.
I wrote Praline Lady over a decade ago, but life got in the way and I put it to the side. I would occasionally revisit it and do some edits, but it wasn’t until 2016 I was determined to finish it once and for all.
How difficult was it to distill all your research down into such spare text? What was your process for doing so?
I certainly collected more research than I would ever be able to use, but most importantly, the research helped me to gain a better understanding of what life was like in New Orleans during the 19th century. Once I was able to comfortably inhabit that place, I was confident in telling the story.
You employ literary devices like onomatopoeia masterfully and your text engages all five of the senses throughout the entire story. Would you say this is a hallmark of your writing style?
I do aim to engage all of the senses when writing especially for children so yes, you could say it is a hallmark of my writing style. When the Praline Lady plop, plop, plops the mixture onto the pan, I vividly remember seeing and hearing my Grandmother doing the same, except hers was on wax paper laid out on the counter. That was the best way for me to convey that memory and those sounds. By the way, I still stumble saying “onomatopoeia” sometimes, whereas my fifteen year-old says it effortlessly.
What’s the most surprising thing you learned in your research?
The most surprising thing I learned was that some of these women were able to self-purchase their own freedom or that of their loved ones. That was profound to me. Pralines meant liberty for some of them.
Was there something you had to cut from the text that you really wish you could’ve been able to keep?
I wish we could have included a recipe or some of the black and white photos of the Praline Ladies.
What do you hope readers gain from reading your book?
I hope readers understand that these Black women were entrepreneurs at a time when the odds were stacked against them. They weren’t educated and they didn’t have much, but they’re the reason pralines are interwoven in the fabric of New Orleans food history. This is their legacy and they deserve recognition.
What are you working on next?
I’m revising a middle grade novel and researching a biography picture book topic.
Do you have advice for aspiring authors?
Your talent will make room for you so don’t give up!
Finally—the most important question of the interview: Who makes the best Pralines in New Orleans and how far do they ship?
Well that is a tough question. I always like when friends or colleagues make pralines and share at holiday parties, but for those who aren’t as fortunate I’d recommend Loretta’s Authentic Pralines. Her pralines and especially her beignet pralines are DELICIOUS.
Kirstie resides in the rich cultural city of New Orleans with her family. She enjoys foreign films, visits to the beach, and playing board games. Her debut picture book, PRALINE LADY, was published in November 2020 by Pelican Publishing. Her work has also been featured in Country Roads Magazine.
If you’d like to learn more about Kirstie Myvett please visit her website at kirstiemyvett.com
With the holidays upon us, there are sure to be many opportunities to share wonderful foods with the little ones in our lives. A playful and engaging activity to explore together can be a pause for Mindful Eating. When we are mindful, we are paying attention to experiences with all of our senses, on purpose, with curious interest and care. Here is a 5-minute practice you can try with some favorite festive treats.
There are so many ways to explore! Have fun with this, and notice what you uncover together. We can’t wait to hear all about it!
by Rashmi Bismark, MD, MPH, Mindfulness educator and author of Finding Om
This is such a fun story that required me to actually pause and think because Math isn’t my strength. What inspired you to write this story?
My family has always been a fan of math puzzles, both when I was a kid and later when I became a parent. My son, in particular, loved music and math from when he was very little. So he was my inspiration for writing a picture book involving a math puzzle and featuring a main character who loves music and math.
The Author’s Note is really informative. What type of research did you do for this book?
I researched the history of binary numbers, but the math was already something I knew. The biggest challenge was to break down the concept of binary numbers in a way that made it understandable to those who aren’t familiar with this concept.
Was math your favorite subject?
I would say it was tied with science...and English...and history...and French. I liked school a LOT.
I liked how Bhagat set out to be a musician for the rajah, but something totally unexpected happened instead just when you think all is lost. It’s a great reminder, especially for children, that they possess more than one strength or gift. Tell us how that idea came about and if there were many revisions.
When I first drafted this book, I had Bhagat succeed at becoming a singer for the rajah. But I put this story away for nearly a year, and when I went back to it and revised, I changed the ending. I think this ending occurred to me because I’ve always felt like I had a foot in different worlds...especially as a doctor who writes books for kids. Am I good at science, or at writing? As it turns out, for me the answer is that I’m good at both—and the same is true for everyone, especially kids. Sometimes we can surprise ourselves with our varied talents, and all the different ways in which we can succeed and be happy.
Since the pandemic authors haven’t been able to have normal launch parties. What did you do to celebrate the release of Seven Golden Rings?
I had a virtual launch party with a wonderful local bookstore, the Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton, MA!
What are you working on next?
I have five books publishing in 2021! My next book is a middle grade novel in verse, RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE, with Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins in February 2021. It’s set in 1983 and tells the story of 13-year-old Reha, the daughter of Indian immigrants in a small Midwestern city, who feels torn between the world of her parents and community and her school and 1980's pop culture. Then her mother falls ill, and she’s torn in a different way. It’s a story that involves immigration and assimilation, Hindu mythology and 80's pop music, holding on and letting go.
What's the one piece of advice that has helped you as a writer?
Learn how to find the heart of your story. Then, when other people—your critique partners, your agent, or editor—give you feedback, see how this holds up to your intentions for the story. You are the author, and you get to decide what to change in order to serve your story.
Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area with her wonderful family and impossibly cute dog. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, she spends her time writing novels and picture books when she’s not practicing medicine. Her middle grade debut, Midsummer’s Mayhem (Yellow Jacket/Little Bee Books), an Indian-American mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and competitive baking, was an Indies Introduce selection, an Indie Next pick, a Kirkus Best Middle Grade Book of 2019, and a 2020 Massachusetts Book Award Honor title. Her debut picture book, Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math (Lee & Low Books, October 2020) is set in ancient India and involves a math puzzle and an explanation of binary numbers.
If you’d like to learn more about Rajani LaRocca please visit her social media links below!
What inspired you to write Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!
Much of my writing is an exploration of my identity. For this story, I wanted to highlight some of my most cherished Colombian holiday traditions, but I wasn’t sure who or what the story was about. Then, during one New Year’s Eve, our friends’ daughter kept hiding behind Mom, and she reminded me so much of me as a kid. When the fireworks started, though, she completely transformed—and suddenly, I knew what the plot of the story would be.
Did Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! go through a lot of revisions?
It went through several rounds, but fewer than previous stories. In fact, it came out fully formed in one sitting. Most of my revision involved trimming word count and details, and re-envisioning how Ava “searched for” her voice.
Since the pandemic authors haven’t been able to have normal launch parties. What did you do to celebrate the release of your book?
I didn’t have a more traditional virtual launch party, but I was able to read from the book on Book & Books’ Instagram Live Storytime. I was also able to visit the bookstore and sign copies of my book, which was unbelievably exciting. Aside from that, I celebrated with both my immediate family (in person) and extended family (virtually). Despite the limitations, it was a wonderful release!
What was your route to publication like?
Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! wasn’t the first picture book I wrote or sold, but it became my debut years after I’d started pursuing publication! I signed with my agent in 2013, and we went on submission with a young adult novel and picture book manuscript. Those didn’t sell. In fact, there was a lot of rejection in my path, and there were times when I wondered if I’d ever sell a book. I kept writing, though, and eventually, I sold not one but two picture books within a year of each other.
When is the Colombian New Year and how do you celebrate?
We celebrate the same day as the U.S., on December 31st! During my childhood, the aunt with the biggest space held the NYE celebration, and we’d gather until way past midnight with food, music, and dancing, along with other traditions like Ava’s family. These days, we’re not always able to get together for New Year’s Eve. Sometimes, I can’t even stay awake until midnight! Still, when it happens, we’ll spend the evening welcoming the new year as we did in my childhood.
How do you juggle writing and working full-time?
I’ve learned to offer myself grace and this has been critical when trying to juggle writing, teaching, health stuff, and family. During the semester, I’ll work on shorter projects. I don’t generally get to write every day, and I’ve learned to be okay with that. Once I’m out for the summer, though, I write a couple hours every weekday and work on longer projects. This, with prioritizing deadlines as they come—both teaching and writing related—has allowed me to juggle both.
What's the one piece of advice that has helped you as a writer?
“Avoid comparing yourself to other writers.” I’m still learning this.
What are you working on next?
My next picture book, Isabel and Her Colores Go to School, releases from Sleeping Bear Press next year. It’s also OwnVoices, inspired by my experience of starting school in New York, while only speaking Spanish. It’s also expected to be a bilingual book, which I’m really excited about!
Alexandra Alessandri is a Colombian American poet, children’s author, and Associate Professor of English at Broward College. Her poetry has appeared in The Acentos Review, Rio Grande Review, Atlanta Review, and YARN. Her debut Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! released October 1, 2020 from Albert Whitman & Company, followed by Isabel and Her Colores Go to School in 2021 from Sleeping Bear Press. Alexandra lives in Florida with her husband and son.
If you’d like to learn more about Alexandra Alessandri please visit her social media links below!
We are so excited about our new website that we are offering ONE lucky winner an awesome giveaway prize package.
The rules are simple.
That's it. Good luck!
Giveaway ends Friday, October 16th at 11:59 PM. CDT.
Winner announced Monday, October 19th.
The Prize package includes (6) books and (2) gifts!!!!
A copy of Brown Baby Lullaby by Tameka Fryer Brown
A copy of The Arabic Quilt by Aya Khalil
A copy of Let's Dance! by Valerie Bolling
A copy of Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story by Zeena M. Pliska
A copy of Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
A copy of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! by Alexandra Alessandri
Praline candy in honor of Praline Lady by Kirstie Myvett
An orange sea glass necklace in honor of Dark Tide by Lisa Stringfellow
What inspired you to write this story?
When I close my eyes, I am right back in that moment when the story of Hello Little One jumped into my heart.
I am a public school kindergarten teacher in Los Angeles. My school is located in the Mar Vista/Venice Beach area. We are a way station for monarchs, so it’s not unusual to see these beautiful creatures grace our playground.
One day at recess time, I was walking on my way to the main office. In between the classrooms, a majestic monarch butterfly fluttered about, landing on the flowers in the garden boxes. I was mesmerized by the moment. I wondered, “ What must that butterfly see and experience?” As I wondered, I was struck by the sad, bittersweet thought that the life cycle of this monarch was almost done. It had only about two weeks to live. I was struck by both the strength of this creature and the fragility of life. In that moment, the character of Orange was born.
How long did it take you to write Hello Little One and what was the research involved in writing it?
I wrote the story 7 years ago. The scientific concepts emerged in the story authentically and organically. While I researched specific facts and details for the back matter, I did not do any research for the initial story. Because the science concepts were just there, it was the emotional story that really drove my process.
Did Hello Little One go through a lot of revisions?
Like many novice picture book writers, I did not yet understand the concept of word count and the process of precise word choice. It went through many revisions. Then, it went through many rejections. Rejections inform revisions. Revisions made me a stronger writer. They helped me develop my craft.
Did you have critique partners? If so, how instrumental were they in writing your story?
Without critique partners, writing is done in a vacuum. I am a very social person and yet, writing is a very solitary experience. Discourse with other artists helps me contextualize my work and find its relevance.
What's the one piece of advice that has helped you as a writer?
“Writing is rewriting,” says my good friend Georgia McCreery, longtime television writer.
What are you working on next?
It is always my hope that my work creates discourse, though I am never trying to “teach” a lesson. I have several manuscripts on submission. Themes that emerge for me presently in my picture books are stories of resistance and resilience. I like to challenge the status quo, giving children the opportunity to rethink possibilities not yet imagined as they navigate their world.
I am also working on a graphic novel and a contemporary YA novel. My picture book, Egyptian Lullaby, published by Roaring Brook Press comes out in 2021.
Zeena M. Pliska spends her days immersed in the joy of 5-year-olds. She is a kindergarten teacher by day and a children’s book author by night in Los Angeles, California. A progressive public school educator, she believes that the most important aspect of teaching is listening to children. A social justice activist and organizer for over 30 years, she brings race, class, and gender analysis to everything she does. A lifetime storyteller, she has facilitated stories as a theater director, visual artist, photographer and journalist.
Her debut picture book, Hello Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story from Page Street Kids came out May 12, 2020. Her second picture book Egyptian Lullaby from Roaring Brook Press is due out in 2021.
Tell us about your upcoming picture book, A Gift for Amma: Market Day in India, and what inspired you to write this story?
A GIFT FOR AMMA: Market Day in India is a celebration of colors as well as a child’s love for her mother. It is suitable for children 3-8 years. The story is set at a vibrant outdoor market in India where readers follow a little girl through the hustle and bustle trying to pick a special gift for her mother. I grew up in India, often visiting these markets with my mother, and I wanted to capture the wonderfully engaging experience for children everywhere.
What role does culture and traditions play in your stories?
Culture and tradition tells us why we do things a certain way, like what we eat and how we talk, or how we dress and what and how we celebrate. They help express what we value as important. Together they largely define our lives and identities.
Understanding culture also means understanding each other better. I hope my stories offer a glimpse into the culture of the Indian subcontinent, way of life of immigrants in the U.S, experiences of children of color, and into some of the traditions that families living across cultures have come to embrace.
Through these stories, I hope children understand that while there are many differences across cultures, there’s no hierarchy. And this diversity only makes our world richer and more interesting. We are also more alike than different. I hope that my stories help build this realization among children.
How long did it take you to write A Gift for Amma?
The basic idea was in my drawer for a long time. I had tried a certain direction at one point and given up. When I started exploring this particular narrative, it started shaping up and growing better with every revision. It probably took me over a year to get it to a polished state. Additionally, I continued to revise and polish as we received a few insightful rejections, until we finally sold it.
What was your editing process like?
I’m very grateful that my editor at Barefoot, Lisa Rosinsky, shared the exact same vision for this story. She always tried to find out my reasoning first before suggesting an edit. Because of this, she knew how to elevate the manuscript, art, and backmatter, while preserving the story’s intentions. We made several word/line edits. Some of them were also to tailor details to reflect the setting. We also had many discussions around the cultural nuances in the illustrations. The editing process was wonderful because communication was easy and I thoroughly enjoyed all our conversations.
Do you work with critique partners?
Yes! From seed to submission. Fortunately, I found the right people to work with, particularly when it comes to passion and commitment. We work hard and support each other every step of the way.
Do you have a launch event planned?
Again, yes! It’s a free virtual book launch event on Sunday, August 23rd at 11 am Pacific. I will be reading aloud A Gift for Amma for the first time to children! I will also be sharing the creative process behind this project and answering questions about me and my work.
What are you working on next?
My next picture book is Between Two Worlds, it comes out in Spring 2021. I’m also in the thick of editing another picture book (yet to be announced). Meanwhile, we’re out on submission with a story I recently wrote. And I’m polishing a couple of projects that I hope to see published one day.
Do you have advice for aspiring picture book authors?
I’m happy to share what I remind myself – you have to believe in the need of your story, whatever it may be, to write with heart, to listen and make it better, to stick with it and fight for it until the world gets to read it.
Where can readers find you online?
Meera Sriram grew up in India and moved to the U.S in 1999. An electrical engineer in the past, she now enjoys writing for children, leading early literacy initiatives, and advocating for diverse bookshelves. Meera believes in the transformative power of stories and likes to write about people, places, and experiences less visible in children's literature.
What inspired you to write The Only Black Girls in Town?
I wanted to write about a Black girl who lived in a predominantly white town until another Black girl moves in across the street. Alberta’s story isn’t my story, but I did grow up in a predominantly white town where I was usually one of the only Black kids or one of very few in my school or grade. I desperately wished for someone my age to live across the street, and I would have been ecstatic if I’d had a Black neighbor, like Edie, who moves in.
How long did it take you to write this book?
I’m pretty terrible with tracking how long it takes me to write a book, but from conception to final edits, it was probably a little over a year. I do a lot of research while I’m writing, especially since I don’t outline and don’t always know where the story will go ahead of time.
Did you go through a lot of revisions?
I typically go through a couple of rounds of revisions for each novel, and this was the same. One round is focused on fixing broader issues, such as plot problems or character development. Subsequent rounds help fine-tune the story, including through line edits.
Alberta is a surfer which is a first for me to read a story about a black girl that surfs. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that. What made you give her this talent and can you surf?
I don’t surf—I’ve taken years of swimming lessons and have lived in Los Angeles for nearly two decades, but as much as I love the beauty of the ocean, it still terrifies me! That said, I know that plenty of Black people who are avid swimmers and surfers, and I had never read about that in a novel, either. It fits with Alberta’s story because she lives in a small beach town, but I also wanted to highlight a space where Black people exist but aren’t typically shown.
I love this quote, “Racist?” She says it so plainly, it startles me. Sometimes that seems like a bad word. Like people are more afraid of being associated with it than actually not being it.” It’s such a profound sentence and even yet at this young age Alberta gets it and she’s finally found someone, Edie, that she’s comfortable talking about this with. We always get it but others not so much. Discuss.
As a young person growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I recognized when people said things to me that seemed “off” or were, indeed, just plain racist, but I didn’t always have the language to express my discomfort and hurt. More than that, I didn’t often have anyone to back me up. I was taught to stand up for myself, but it was also understood that keeping the peace could be useful, too. Alberta feels a true sense of relief when she begins talking to Edie, realizing she’s been holding in a lot of conversations and situations that have bothered her over the years because she didn’t have anyone around who could understand; her white friends have made her feel like she was overreacting or perhaps misunderstanding words and actions. It’s empowering to write about Black girls who speak their truth from a young age, calling out inappropriate and racist behavior when they see it.
You depicted a very healthy and loving relationship between Alberta’s two Dad’s and her biological mother. Of all the experiences she's going through in the book a lack of love is never one of them and I think that’s so important. What inspired you to build this somewhat unconventional family?
I grew up in a conservative area of the country that has very established rules of what a family or love should look like, and that never sat well with me. I wanted to show that love and family come in all forms and that this is true in the Black community as well.
Since the pandemic authors haven’t been able to have normal launch parties. What did you do to celebrate the release of The Only Black Girls in Town?
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to celebrate the book with an official launch! It was published in early March, right before shelter-in-place orders went into effect, so my bookstore launch was canceled in the midst of the lockdown, as was the school visit and bookstore tour I had planned. But I’ve been lucky enough to do some events here and there as we all figured out the virtual situation, and I’m happy I’ve been able to connect with readers through social media.
What is your advice to aspiring writers, especially MG writers?
Write a story that you want to read! You’ll be working on the book for at least a couple of years, so you need to write something that truly interests and inspires you. Also, it’s okay to write for yourself, first and foremost; I’m writing the stories I wanted to read when I was a kid, and I’ve been so pleased and surprised by how other people have connected to it, as well.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently working on a nonfiction YA book about the Tulsa race massacre of 1921. As of now, it’s due out in the fall of 2021.
Brandy Colbert is the award-winning author of several books for children and teens, including The Voting Booth, The Only Black Girls in Town, The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, and Stonewall Book Award Winner Little & Lion. She is co-writer of Misty Copeland's Life in Motion young readers edition, and her short fiction and essays have been published in a variety of critically acclaimed anthologies for young people. Her books have been chosen as Junior Library Guild selections, and have appeared on many best of lists, including the American Library Association's Best Fiction for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. She is on faculty at Hamline University's MFA program in writing for children and lives in Los Angeles.
To learn more about Brandy please connect with her on social media.
Instagram and Twitter: @brandycolbert
Happy Publication Day to author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow! Her latest picture book, Your Name is a Song, releases today.
This phenomenal picture book (illustrated by Luisa Uribe and published by Innovation Press) is the story of a young girl who doesn’t want to go back to school after the first day because no one is able pronounce her name…and of a mother who encourages her daughter to reframe and confront the situation in an empowering way.
I had the opportunity to read an ARC of Your Name is a Song and before I was even half-way through, I knew this was going to be one of the star releases of the year. I reached out to Jamilah to find out the story behind YNIAS.
Read the rest of Tameka Fryer Brown's interview on The Brown Bookshelf's blog.