I met Kirby Larson at this year's SCBWI National conference. She gave an inspiring speech about the journey of her Newbery honor book, HATTIE BIG SKY.
I had read and thoroughly enjoyed the book months ago, but it was fascinating to hear about the research, love and determination that went into its writing. I am thrilled that Kirby answered a few questions for the blog.
When and why did you start writing for children?
When my kids were small, I began writing short stories for adults but there was always a key kid character involved. Then one day, I read MING LO MOVES THE MOUNTAIN (Arnold Lobel) to my children and it was as if a switch went off inside me
I decided then and there I wanted to write books for children, to write books that touched others the way that book had touched me.
What is the most valuable advice you can give to a newly published writer?
I have three bits of advice: Read voraciously, finish manuscripts (too many people work on the same book year after year) and make your work a priority.
What is one of your favorite children’s books that you'd like to recommend?
Impossible for me to recommend just one. But an all-time favorite picture book in the Larson household is HOW TOM BEAT CAPTAIN NAJORK AND HIS HIRED SPORTSMEN, by Russell Hoban, ill. by Quentin Blake.
What are you working on now?
I've just finished the final revisions on a non-fiction picture book, triggered by my experiences helping with Hurricane Katrina clean-up. It's called THE TALE OF TWO BOBBIES: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival (Walker, August 2008). It's the first non-fiction book
I've done and the first thing I've written with someone else. I was fortunate that my long-time friend and fabulous writer, Mary Nethery, was my writing partner on this book. We had such a great time working together, we're hoping to find another project to work on jointly. I have several other manuscripts I'm working on but they're such a huge mess that I don't even want to talk about them!
What is your favorite dessert and why?
Anything berry and homemade -- need I say more?
Kirby Larson went from history-phobe to history fanatic thanks to a snippet of a story about her great-grandmother homesteading in eastern Montana. That bit of family lore inspired her to write HATTIE BIG SKY, a young adult historical novel, which is a 2007 Newbery Honor Award and Montana Book Award winner, as well as a Junior Library Guild selection, a Borders Original Voices title, a Barnes & Noble Teen Discover title, a School Library Journal Best Book and a Book Links Lasting Connections, in addition to being nominated for several state reading/Children’s Choice awards. Her other titles include THE MAGIC KERCHIEF, an award-winning picture book, and several chapter books. She is recently retired from the faculty of the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program and is a frequent presenter at writing conferences