Erin Entrada Kelly on Writing the Kind of Heroine Who Doesn’t Go Charging into the Forest
From the NewberyTart Podcast
NewberyTart is a podcast about kids’ books, for adults, and is recorded in Atlanta, Georgia, by two friends who approach the Newbery thing from very different, but surprisingly complementary, directions.
On today’s episode, Jennie and Marcy talk with Newbery author Erin Entrada Kelly about the Challenger disaster, her pet hedgehog, and the difficulty of writing a young protagonist who doesn’t get up to shenanigans. Kelly’s newest book is We Dream of Space, available now from Greenwillow Books.
From the episode:
Erin Entrada Kelly: One problem I had when I was growing up, whenever I picked up chapter books, and even now, you pick up a lot of chapter books and the girl characters are really spunky, or they’re quote unquote tomboys, or they’re always getting into shenanigans and all this other kind of stuff. But that was never me when I was a kid, so I never related to those chapter book characters, even though they’re so beloved and they’re wonderful. It just was not me.
So I wanted to write a chapter book series with a character who is quiet and very, very imaginative, very sensitive, sweet, and quiet. And so that is Marisol. The challenge is it’s more difficult than one might think to build a story around the character who does not get into shenanigans, because the shenanigans is the part of the story that is the story. So the struggle has been, how am I going to write a story about a kid who is afraid of things and doesn’t get into any anything?
But my hope is that little girls who are like that, who were like me—I was a little bookworm, and I was pretty quiet, and I was always unsure of myself. I had a rich interior life, but I wasn’t, you know, charging out into the dark forest to battle dragons or what have you. I was very cautious. And there’s kids like that out there, obviously.
Marcy Cornell: Oh, you’re preaching to the choir here, believe me.
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New York Times–bestselling author Erin Entrada Kelly was awarded the Newbery Medal for Hello, Universe. Her debut novel, Blackbird Fly, was a Kirkus Best Book, a School Library Journal Best Book, an ALSC Notable Book, and an Asian/Pacific American Literature Honor Book. She is also the author of The Land of Forgotten Girls, winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and You Go First, a New York Times bestseller, Spring 2018 Indie Next Pick, Kirkus Reviews Best Book, and School Library Journal Best Book. She grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and now lives in Delaware.