Friday, July 30, 2010

Favorite Author Friday: Kathi Appelt

I love talking to authors!  One things that is very cool is that they are often friends with other authors and can suggest great books that their friends have written.  Rita Williams-Garcia, author of One Crazy Summer, who I got to meet at ALA, told me about  Kathi Appelt and  Keeper.  And in a funny series of events Nora Baskin helped me get my hands on the book.  Once I got it I "consumed" it; that is what my moms says when I will not put a book down.  I wrote to  Kathi Appelt to tell her how much I liked it and it turned out she was having dinner with Rita and talking about me.  I guess that is what you call a small world.  Both Kathi and Rita teach at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, as part of the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Program.  I guess you would not be surprised to learn that I think that would be the best thing ever to go there!!!!!  If you follow Kathi's blog you can see that in addition to great teaching they really have tons of FUN!  I asked Kathi a few interview questions and she was great about sharing.  I know I can't wait for her next book! 

Why do you write for kids?

I started writing for kids when my sons were very young. They’re all grown up now, but when they were kids, my favorite part of the day was when we sat down together and read. It felt magical, to be together, sharing great books. It made me want to write stories that other moms and dads and kids would share. I wanted to be part of that magic.

What advice do you have for kids who want to be writers?
(1) Read everything you can get your paws on. (2) Write like your fingers are on fire!
What is you current favorite book (can be a kid or adult book) and what was your favorite as a kid?
Hmmm…my current favorite book? That’s hard because I like so many. I’m thinking it would be American Gods, by Neil Gaimann. But my all-time favorite book is Black Beauty.
Do you have a favorite Newbery winner?
Yes I do: Missing May, by Cynthia Rylant. Followed closely by Holes, by Louis Sachar. It’s hard to go wrong with a Newbery title, isn’t it?
When and where do you write?
I do my best work at my desk, which is upstairs in our house in College Station, TX. But I’ve also learned how to write pretty much anywhere. It’s one of the great things about being a writer—you can take your work with you.
What are you working on now or having coming out soon we can look forward to?
I just now starting a new book, and I don’t know too much about it yet. I’m in that discovery stage where everything is possible.
Have you ever gotten rejection letters?
Hah! I’ve gotten way more rejection letters than acceptance letters, that’s for sure.
Do you feel like a famous author?
I feel like an author who writes every day.
Has anything fun ever happened because you are famous?
I have gotten to travel like crazy, and also I’ve had the great fortune of meeting some terrific fellow authors.
How many bookcases do you have?
One on every wall in our house pretty much.
Have you ever gone to a book store and bought copies of your book just for the fun of it?
I’ve done this so that I could give one of my books as a gift. But I haven’t done it just for the fun of it. Nevertheless, I confess that I always check to see if my books are on the shelves. Recently, I was in Montreal, Canada, and I stopped in to Babar en Ville, a children’s bookstore there and voila’, Keeper was in the front window. That was a thrill, for sure.
Will Keeper be part of a series or have a sequel?
At this time, I’m not planning for Keeper to have any sequels.
What inspired you to name Keeper (the character) Keeper?
My grandmother always told me that I was a “keeper.” It made me feel so important and worthy.
Did you live by the sea as a child?
Yes, my grandmother lived in Galveston, so my sisters and I spent a lot of time there, especially during the summers. I still love the beach in Galveston. It feels very familiar and sweet to me.
What pets did you have as a child?
We always had pets—dogs and cats. And my younger sister Patti had two white mice, plus four chickens. The dog in The Underneath was based upon a dog my sisters and I had when we were girls. His name was Sam.
What pets do you have now?
I have four beautiful and smart cats: Hoss, Jazz, D’jango, and Peach.
What is your favorite book you have written? Other authors have said it is their most recent book, but for you would that be Keeper or Brand New Baby Blues?
Hmmm…for me, it’s always the book that I’m working on because that is where my focus and attention is. I don’t know much about this new book, only that I want there to be a horse in it. So, I’d have to say that that is my fave right now.
What are the stories behind Captain and BD and Too?
My grandmother had a misbegotten dog name BD. His name actually stood for Bird Dog, because he loved to chase birds along the beach. One night a storm blew in and a seagull slammed into my grandmother’s kitchen window. She nursed it back to health and the gull and BD became best friends. She also drove an old green Dodge station wagon, and she often took BD and the seagull with her. When my sister and I were with her, we had to sit in the back seat, whereas the dog and the bird sat in the front.

Do Keeper, Signe, Dogie and the other characters have any hidden stories?
No hidden stories that I know of. I loosely based Dogie on my oldest son who has dreadlocks down to his waist. And he also plays the ukulele. He mostly plays the double bass, but he’s been known to play the ukulele. Signe just reminds me of all those moms who would swim the seven seas for their babies, regardless of whether they were their real moms or not. And Keeper, she’s a girl who wants to make things right, just like most girls I know.


  1. Bird Dog? What a strange dog name, let me add it to my list:
    Dog names

  2. I'm really enjoying your interviews Laura :) Great questions and fun answers! I love hearing stories behind the stories.
    - AZ