After I finished up the readergirlz website, I sat down with the authors - albeit virtually - and picked their brains. Feel free to link to and/or post this interview at your own blog or website and help us spread both the word of readergirlz and the love of reading!
If readergirlz were The Baby-Sitters Club, the first book would be called Justina's Great Idea. Tell us about that light bulb going off in your brain, then how the project got its wings - and its name.
Justina: If that were the title, then the subtitle would be: And How She Got Dia, Janet, and Lorie Ann to Lose Sleep for 4 Months!
When I was out on my book tour last spring, I tried to visit urban areas that couldn't afford to host an author. I can't tell you how upset I was by the experience - all these incredibly insightful kids with dismal libraries and schools who'd never met an author before.
So I approached the three aforementioned now sleep-deprived YA authors - Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, and Lorie Ann Grover - to start readergirlz as a way to connect books to teen girls.
The name? Well, I've always thought of myself as a readergirl. That was my first choice for a group name. But to make sure it was the best name possible, we brainstormed 100 other candidates. Somehow, YAK - It just didn't have the same ring.
What role do each of you play in the group?
Dia: Janet Lee Carey juggles our busy appearance schedule. Lorie Ann Grover is our technical internet wizard and also does illustration. Justina Chen Headley shines as our marketing and community relations manager. And I tackle graphic design and copy-editing. Some tasks we all share - such as MySpace tending and working with the authors we'll be showcasing at readergirlz (like Holly Black!).
What do you hope to achieve with readergirlz?
Lorie Ann: I truly hope girls are inspired to claim their own voices, believe in their own abilities, and reach out to others with support and compassion. And then I'd love to hear from them about their growth so that other readergirlz, including me, might be encouraged and inspired.
The project has been generating a lot of buzz already. What has been one of the best or most moving responses to the project so far?
Justina: We've heard from girls, mothers, children's lit experts, and girl power champions. All of their encouragement and enthusiasm has made our long hours prepping readergirlz worthwhile But I must say, the most thoughtful and considered response has been Jen Robinson's; she wrote what amounts to her personal manifesta on what teen girls ought to be reading and thinking about.
Who is your target audience?
Dia: We want to reach teen girls who are passionate about books and discussing books.
When did you become a bookworm?
Dia: Books called to me even before I could read them. I spent hours pouring over picture books, turning pages, and dragging around a dog-eared copy of Peter Rabbit that I insisted my parents read to me every night.
When did you become a writer?
Lorie Ann: I'd say that was in first grade. I learned that one mustn't plagiarize when I tried to pass off to Mrs. Reynolds that I myself created the poem "Polly Put the Kettle On." The minute I was busted, I began to write my own words. And swore off plagiarizing!
Dia: I became a writer over and over again . . . there were many moments. I had to keep convincing myself! But I think the first moment was in second grade when I wrote a poem about a girl name Moonbeam, and my teacher posted it on the bulletin board!
Janet: I always had a running narrative in my head about whatever I was doing: “the baseball is zooming towards her. She swings!” But I started jotting down tales and poems in junior high and never looked back. I still have most of those smudged booklets.
Justina: I wrote my first fifty-page novel when I was in second grade. It's embarrassing to admit that it was a young adult novel, featuring two teen girls, Kitty and Dot. Where I got those names, I have no idea, having never met a Kitty or a Dot ever in my life.
Describe yourself as a teen in ten words or less.
Janet: Independent, mystical, chubby, romantic in hiking boots, musical, self-critical, poetic, boy-crazy.
Dia: Longed to devour the world in ten seconds or less.
Lorie Ann: I was tall, shy, a ballet dancer, and pretty angry.
Justina: Geeky, giggly, driven dreamer, shy leader, resilient readergirl.
Did any of you have Senior Superlatives or Hall of Fame in your high school yearbook?
(Everyone said no.)
Okay then, what should have been written under your picture in your high school yearbook?
Dia: I think it should have said, "Seize the fire!"
Janet: "Most likely to write magical stories."
Lorie Ann: It could have said, "Most Melodramatic."
Justina: Oh, gosh. I don't know, maybe it would have said, "Most likely to be tongue-tied," which would explain why I write.
Would it say the same thing now?
Dia: Now it would say: "Have cats, will write."
Lorie Ann: Hmm. Depends on whom you ask . . .
Justina: Most definitely.
Name a book or character that exemplifies the spirit of readergirlz.
Lorie Ann: There are so many characters who qualify, and you'll be able to read about them in the booklists that we'll be posting periodically (thanks to Little Willow for that idea)! But Hattie, from Hattie Big Sky, really embodies the readergirlz spirit. We love her!
Do you consider any authors to be honorary readergirlz or readerboyz?
Lorie Ann: We'll be tipping our hat to an honorary readergirlz every month! This month it is Josie Watanabe, the librarian who inspired Justina to create readergirlz. Of course all our guest authors each month will be readergirlz or readerboyz. But our number one honorary readergirlz notable is our webdiva, Little Willow! She is amazing!
You are too kind, Lorie Ann. Thank you!
Along the same lines, has anyone asked after the possibility of a similar project to encourage teenage boys to read?
Janet: I'm so glad you asked that! Boys need a supportive place to find and discuss books, too. Author Jon Scieszka who wrote "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales" and "Math Curse" started a terrific site called guysread.com Boys can find recommended titles for all ages and interests.
Justina: We would love to see a group of middle grade authors step up and create something like readergirlz for kids ages 8-12. That would make us happy.
How can readers share their book group experiences with you and with other readers?
Dia: Readergirlz book groups can share their experiences on our MySpace group page: simply go to http://groups.myspace.com/readergirlz There each individual book group can post their ideas about the books. And groups can chat back and forth with each other about all the fun they've had with their readergirlz book parties!
How may people invite you to appear at their school, library, conference, or related event?
Janet: We've had such a great response to our March Kick-off Tour entitled TODAY'S GIRLS, TOMORROW'S HISTORY that we're extending it through May and are starting to schedule events for the fall. For readergirlz bookings, contact Janet Carey at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please complete the following sentences:
Readergirlz are: smart, gutsy, friendly, resilient, resourceful, our future.
Literacy is: Creating connectivity between books and the broader world.
Tolerance is: stepping in rhythm with our common humanity and joyously dancing our differences.
Again, feel free to link to and/or post this Q&A and the press release at your own blog or website!
See all posts related to readergirlz at Bildungsroman.