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Little Willow
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Interview: Jacqui Robbins

Before she became a full-time writer, Jacqui Robbins was a first and second grade teacher, a drama teacher and director, an SAT tutor, and a bookseller, among other things. Is it any wonder that we get along so well? I met Jacqui earlier this year, when she hired me to design her website. We had fun painting her virtual walls with stars and stripes. I was glad that she was willing to take part in the Winter Blog Blast Tour, so I could help spread the word of her delightful picture books and forthcoming works.

All of your previous and current professions incorporate reading, writing, and education. For you, what's the most magical part of reading? Of writing? Of teaching?

For me, teaching and theater and writing are very similar. They're all about bringing your audience into your story and making sense of the world. And they all are about letting people know they're not alone. That's the magical part of all three for me.

I agree. Now, for my readers who may not be familiar with the publishing protocol for picture books, would you mind taking us through the process? Did you write and submit The New Girl...and Me as text only, or did you have pictures in place?

I submitted The New Girl...and Me as a completed, text-only manuscript, which is usually how it's done. Unless you are a professional illustrator, the art department at the publishing house will match your story with an artist. This makes some people nervous, handing over their work for someone else to interpret, but it makes me excited. I am a terrible artist and so I'm happy to have someone else make the story complete. Also, I like the challenge of making sure the story stands alone.

Prior to your collaboration on The New Girl...and Me, were you familiar with Matt Phelan's work?

Not at all. The New Girl...and Me was Matt's first book. Our editor, Richard Jackson, sent some sketches Matt did to ask what I thought and I was thrilled. Then, when I saw the final artwork I was amazed; even though there were no art directions in the manuscript, somehow Matt drew the exact pictures I had in my head.

You teamed up with Matt again for Two of a Kind. Did you approach that story or project differently than you had for The New Girl?

What was different for me was that I had the validation of being published. This made it easier to write, because I felt like I "deserved" to call myself a writer. It also made it much harder, because I kept thinking, "What if they find out I'm a phony?!"

The collaboration with Matt was much the same. I still submitted text only for him and he still drew pictures even better than what was in my head. The only difference is that we consulted on what the science project in Two of a Kind looks like. Also, in between the two books, I met Matt face to face and Anna, the main character in Two of a Kind, looks a little bit like me.

Have you ever staged something based on your own writings?

No, but now I want to! Maybe next year, you'll see The New Girl...and Me: The Musical.

If you do, please let me know. I'd be happy to help! What are you presently working on?

I have three different projects going right now: two new picture books and a chapter book that I'm calling a "mystery/adventure story with a hint of romance but not too much." I'd love to write for other ages, but I think maybe my own development got stuck in elementary school.
Hmm. It just occurred to me that all three of my current projects deal with the war between girls and boys. Don't tell my husband.

My lips are sealed. What are your ten favorite books of all time?

Aak! What a question! I'm going to have to answer off the top of my head. These are subject to change, depending on my mood.

Jacqui's Ten Favorite Books This Week, arranged by age:

1. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck (the only novel I have ever read, finished, and then started over again immediately)
2. My collected works of Shakespeare (is that cheating?)
3. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (possibly the best novel ever written)
4. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
5. Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
6. Harry Potter & the Sorceror's Stone (I just re-read these because my daughter is obsessed. I know they're everywhere and it's cliché to have them as my favorite, and blah blah blah, but wow, they're really good.)
7. Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen (the perfect marriage of poetry and art)
8. My Fierce Tiger, by James Hepburn (which has been my favorite picture book since I was very young)
9. Goodnight, Gorilla! by Peggy Rathmann
10. Untitled. I am saving this spot for the next book I read, because my favorite book is always partly the one I am holding in my lap, unread and full of possibility.


Visit Jacqui's website and blog.

Visit all of today's tour stops:
Sy Montgomery (Part 1) at Chasing Ray
Jacqui Robbins at Bildungsroman
Sarwat Chadda at Finding Wonderland
Cynthia Leitich Smith at HipWriterMama
Beth Kephart at Shelf Elf
Annie Barrows at Great Kid Books

Here's the Bildungsroman schedule for WBBT 2009:
Monday, November 16th: Courtney Sheinmel
Tuesday, November 17th: Laurie Faria Stolarz
Wednesday, November 18th: Jacqui Robbins
Thursday, November 19th: Thomas Randall
Friday, November 20th: Joan Holub

View the full schedule for WBBT 2009.
Tags: blog tour, books, interviews, wbbt
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