Friday, September 17, 2010

Favorite Author Fridy: Jon Scieszka

I have been a fan of Jon Scieszka for a long time. My parents read The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales to my brother and I before we could read.  Last year I was "reintroduced" to Jon by  Maria Salvadore.  Maria was nice enough to let me interview her about being on the Newbery committee. During the interview it came up that my brother, Matthew, doesn't really like to read.  Maria asked what kind of things Matthew liked and recommend Knucklehead for him.  We bought the book and Matthew LOVED it, in fact its review is the first, and so far only, guest post on my blog!  Actually, my whole family LOVED it, Matthew laughed so hard while reading the story that we asked for him to read out loud to us, this was great except for the fact that he laughed so hard that we couldn't understand what he was saying.  We ended up taking turns reading it out loud!  It is no surprise that Matthew liked Jon's book because he is really good at writing books that guys read, but you don't have to be a boy to be a fan.  He is so good at connecting to kids that he was the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.   I was thrilled to get to meet Jon at ALA, and to tell you the truth every time I saw him there he seemed to be having a great time!  It was really nice of him to respond to my recent plea and agree to be interviewed, he also sent me Spaceheadz, which I LOVED and am loaning to Matthew.  I told my mom that I should just send Jon an email when ever I need a laugh.  She pointed out that he had other things to do than be my personal laugh guy.  Lucky for us he has written tons of great books for all of us whenever we need to laugh! 

Why do you write for kids?

Kids are the best possible audience for a writer. If you give them a good enough story, they will get lost in it completely. And they will read and reread and reread and reread your story. Adult readers hardly ever do that.
You are known for writing books that boys like, do you have any objection to girl fans???
My girl fans are just as important as my boy fans. I think a lot of boys relate to the stories I write because I take a lot of my ideas from my growing up with five brothers. So a lot of the stuff that happens in my books is stuff that happens between boys.
I started GUYS READ to help just boys because as a group, boys struggle with reading more than girls do.
But I know plenty of girl readers that love to laugh at a good crazy story. So please help me get the word out that I want all girls to enjoy Jon Scieszka books too!
You spent some time going to school in Indiana (where I live), do you have any favorite Hoosier memories?

I did go to Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana for my last three years of high school. I mostly remember how cold and dark it was in the middle of February when I had to actually MARCH (!) to breakfast with my whole company.

But the spring and the fall were beautiful. And the people in Indiana are some of the nicest people I have ever met.
Is it hard to be funny? Are you as funny in real life as you are in your writing?
It is very hard to be funny in writing. The stories that finally get published as books have usually been written and rewritten at least 10 times. I rewrote the stories in The Stinky Cheese Man over and over as I read them to groups of kids around the country. But I think it is the rewriting that makes good writing.

In real life I am usually joking around a lot, just like in my writing. I'm not sure why, but I'm always thinking of funny things.
I saw you MC the book cart drill team at ALA (SUPER fun!), do you have a favorite story of all time for that?
Now that contest is weird and funny all on its own. I don't even have to do much to make that more funny. Librarians from all over the country form teams of synchronized library cart dancers. And then they have a dance-off to see who is the best in the country. One of my favorites of all time was the group that did their moves to Michael Jackson's thriller. They had dry ice that made smoke and scientists that turned into zombies. (I think some of that is on YouTube.)

What advice do you have for kids who want to be writers?

Read, read, read. It's a great way to study how other people tell stories. And there are thousands of different ways.

Then comes the hard part – you have to make yourself sit down and write, write, write. That's the hardest thing for me. I would much rather just goof around.

And then the hardest part of all – you have to . . . rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
Do you have a favorite Newbery winner?
I have two. The Giver is one of favorite children's books of all children's books. It has such great drama and a great concept and it's not sappy. My other favorite Newbery winner is Holes. That is such a fun book because the story is so crazy and convoluted and funny. And I think Holes is the one and only funny book to ever win a Newbery.
What are you working on now or having coming out soon we can look forward to?
Right now I am writing (and rewriting and rewriting and . . .) Spaceheadz Book #3! This one is a lot of fun because everything gets changed by a dramatic revelation at the end of the book.

And on September 21, Volume 1 of the GUYS READ Library will be out in stores. It's called GUYS READ: FUNNY BUSINESS. And it's a collection of 10 short stories from 10 very funny writers. Jeff Kinney, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, Eoin Colfer, Christopher Paul Curtis, and more. I had the most fun writing a story with Kate DiCamillo. She is amazing. I learned a lot from her.

Our editor for FUNNY BUSINESS made a very fun video of all of the writers telling a joke that I wrote in the introduction. It's at:

How many bookcases do you have?
I have a whole mess of bookcases. The room where I work is almost all bookcases. Then I have another bunch in the basement. And then I just had a guy build four more in a hallway in my house.
The funny thing is that as soon as I get bookcases, they magically fill up completely. And I still have piles and piles of books all over the place.


  1. Laura, You are just getting better and better! What an awesome interview. I am so glad that you and Jon connected. I bet he just loves your blog. And congratulations on your 200 posts!

  2. Thanks, Judy! Jon was really nice to connect with me.