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Interview: Lisa Graff

February 15th, 2007 (08:44 am)
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Georgie's been overlooked plenty in his life, mostly by strangers. He's nine and only 42 inches (3 and a half feet) tall. He has a medical condition called dwarfism that means he's a lot smaller than most kids his age and that he will never be as tall as his average-sized parents. Some people look over Georgie's head or turn the other way, or just think he's a lot younger than he really is. Sometimes, this is mean, but mostly, they're just uncomfortable and unsure of what to do or say.

Since kindergarten, Georgie's been buddies with Alex, and he knows that his musician parents are always there for him. But now he's feeling overlooked by his loved ones too. His mom's pregnant, his best friend's mad at him, and his partner in class is known as Jeanie the Meanie. What's a kid to do?

THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE is a brand-new juvenile novel written by Lisa Graff, who dropped by Bildungsroman as part of her week-long blog tour. To find out more about the author, dwarfism, kazoos, a cat who thinks he's a dog, and how to get a free copy of the book, please keep reading!

Congratulations on the release of your debut novel! How did it feel the first time you saw THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE on a store or library bookshelf?

I first saw the book in the Barnes & Noble by my house, and it was a pretty surreal experience. I kept thinking, "What on Earth is MY book doing on the shelf? They only put real authors up there!" It may take a while to sink in, I guess.

Prior to writing this story, how much did you know about dwarfism? Later, while doing research, what was the most surprising fact or story you came upon?

I didn't know too much about dwarfism, really, except that it is a recessive condition, which means that dwarfs are frequently born to parents of average height. One of the most surprising things I learned while researching was how many different types of dwarfism there are (about 200 diagnosable kinds), and that each type manifests itself in a completely different way.

Georgie's parents are musicians. Sadly, they did not pass their musical genes along to their son. What instruments, if any, do you play?

I play a mean kazoo. Other than that, not much. I took cello lessons in high school but sadly never practiced, so I royally stink at it. I do think cellos are awfully pretty, though, so I made Georgie's dad play one. That way I could live vicariously through him.

After being an only child for ten years, Georgie learns that his mother is expecting a baby. He really doesn't want an addition to his family. My sister and I are eleven years apart without any siblings between us, but we were remarkably close growing up. How many years are between you and your siblings?

My brother Ryan is three years older than me. We got along pretty well growing up, but we were never very close until high school. We were both in the Writing Club, actually, so I think we bonded over that.

I also have two half-brothers who are much younger than I am. Robert was born when I was fourteen and David two years later. Unlike Georgie, though, I was thrilled to have new siblings. And I think that in a lot of ways Robert and David inspired my writing. It's nice to have real live kids around to test out your kid's books on. I dedicated GEORGIE to them.

Georgie and his best friend Andy run a dog walking business. You have an insane cat named Henry who acts like a dog.

Henry is a purebred nutso, that's for sure. He's just started this new thing where he leaps straight up off the ground from a standing position and then spins 180 degrees in midair. I don't even understand how this is physically possible. He also once got his head stuck inside a Kleenex box. That was pretty funny. I didn't take it off right away because I was trying to find my camera. Henry was kinda mad at me after that.

What's the story behind your very first story?

One day when I was eight I was whining to my mother that I was bored and she told me to go do something, like write a book. So I did. The story was about a garden of flowers, and a new flower shows up that no one else likes, because it's weird looking and has thorns all over it. The supremely amazing surprise ending was that the weird-looking flower was really a rose, and when it bloomed everyone thought it was gorgeous. (Okay, yeah, it's basically THE UGLY DUCKLING with flowers.) Truly brilliant. Clearly, this will one day end up in a museum.

GEORGIE touches on a lot of topics. You have a wide variety of interests and talents. What are you working on now? Will you continue working in the publishing industry as you write new novels?

Right now I'm working on my second novel, called THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF BERNETTA WALLFLOWER, which I just got back from copyediting. It's about a twelve-year-old con artist, and it comes out early next year.

I hope I'll be working in the publishing biz for a long long time! It can be really tough having a day job that's so similar to my second, novel-writing job (I'm an editorial assistant at a children's book publisher). Some days I feel like my life is all kid's books all the time. But I really love what I do, so I have no plans to quit either job any time soon. And it's nice to get to see both sides of the industry.

How did The Longstockings come to be?

The eight of us met at the New School, in the Writing for Children MFA program. We all workshopped and had classes together, and we became friends. After we graduated we decided to start a blog to record our madcap thoughts about the world of children's and YA literature. We also continue to meet regularly and critique each other's work, which has been an enormous help to me and my writing.

What books similar to GEORGIE would you recommend to kids and teachers? FUNNY LITTLE MONKEY immediately comes to mind.

I don't know of many other children's books that deal with similar themes of dwarfism. The only ones that come readily to mind are LITTLE LITTLE by M.E. Kerr and FUNNY LITTLE MONKEY by Andrew Auseon, which are both fabulous. They're very different from GEORGIE because they're both YA (mine is middle grade) and go to much darker places than my book does, although there are certainly common elements, such as a main character who feels uncomfortable in his skin and who's trying to find his place in the world. But you could probably argue that this is a common thread in most kid's books. The only other children's novel I know of with a dwarf is Cecil Castellucci's THE QUEEN OF COOL, but I haven't read this yet. I've heard it's amazing, though.

Yes, you must read THE QUEEN OF COOL. It is superb! My favorite line from that novel is about Tina, who is also known as Tiny:

In the library, Tiny is like a secret princess. - Page 112

What are your ten favorite books of all time?

Oh, so hard to pick just ten! Let's see:

To Kill a Mockingbird / Harper Lee
Holes / Louis Sachar
The Great Gilly Hopkins / Katherine Paterson
The Human Comedy / William Saroyan
The Gun Seller / Hugh Laurie
Flowers for Algernon / Daniel Keyes
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle / Avi
The Witch of Blackbird Pond / Elizabeth George Speare
Pale Fire / Vladimir Nabokov
The Westing Game / Ellen Raskin
And absolutely anything by P.G. Wodehouse

Would you like a free copy of THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE? The first three people to send an email to thethingaboutgeorgie@harpercollins.com will get a free copy of the book. It's so easy!

Simply address an email to thethingaboutgeorgie@harpercollins.com
. . . with the subject line Georgie Giveaway
. . . and in the body of the email, please tate your name, your mailing address, and the fact that you read the interview at here at Bildungsroman

Follow Lisa's blog tour this week!
Monday: The Longstockings
Tuesday: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Wednesday: Big A little a
Thursday: Bildungsroman
Friday: A Fuse #8 Production
Saturday: MotherReader
Sunday: Gothamist

Don't forget to check out Lisa's official website!

Comments

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 15th, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)

Excellent interview, LW and Lisa! You asked a lot of questions I had wanted to too, LW!

My youngest sister is 12 years younger than I was, and I found my mother's pregnancy highly embarrassing in my first year of middle school :) Like the sister, though!

Kelly
Big A little a

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 15th, 2007 07:31 pm (UTC)

Great minds think alike - and are sometimes synchronized. I was just posting at YOUR blog! :)I love that you had both serious and funny questions.

My sister had to go to her first day at middle school while I was being delivered.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 15th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)

Thanks for a great interview, Little Willow!!!!

Lisa Graff
www.lisagraff.blogspot.com

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 15th, 2007 09:00 pm (UTC)

You are welcome. Thank you for thinking of me! I am touched that I was included in the lucky seven.

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