Interview with Author Brynne Barnes
Brynne Barnes knows a secret–that the whole world is a giant coloring book and the most beautifully potent crayons are words, laughter, and song. Since earning her B.S. from the University of Michigan and M.A. in Creative Writing from Eastern Michigan University, she has been coloring the world with her pen from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she writes books like these, poetry, and music. She also teaches writing atAdrianCollegeand theUniversityofPhoenix. This is her first picture book.
Brynne thoroughly enjoys visiting schools, libraries, and bookstores. For more information, please email her.
Interview with Brynne Barnes author of Colors of Me
I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog
What is the last book you read?
The last children’s book I read was Press Here by Herve Tullet and the last adult book I read was Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.
What were your earliest memories of writing?
I have very early memories of words before I knew what words were. I was always drawn to their magic, I suppose. I would walk around the house with a book tucked underneath my arm, even before I could read. Some kids had teddy bears; I had books. As far as writing goes, the earliest memory I have of writing — I mean, really crafting a piece of writing — was in the 4th grade. We had to write a paper about our summer vacation and I spent so much time creating something really descriptive. It was the first time that I realized I was writing something — and enjoying the process of writing it.
Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?
It was something that came naturally to me. By the time I was 12 or 13, I was writing a lot of poetry and that was when I really knew that I loved to write. Writing is a funny thing because your experience has to catch up with your writing ability. I think it was Fran Lebowitz who said, “There are no prodigies in writing. You have to know something to write it down.” I remember really Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou and Judy Bloom and having the desire to write.
Are you working on a new book?
This question made me smile because I’m always working on a new book. There are two books right now that I’m shopping to publishers, but I am working on a new one aside from those. I don’t want to say too much, but what I’m working on now is very different from anything else that I’ve ever done. It’s a really fun story and I’m very excited about it.
What was your favorite children’s book?
This is such a difficult question. I loved so many books as a child and I was reading all the time, but I can list a few of my all-time favorites:
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Miss Nelson Is Missing!
The Madeline series
The Berenstain Bears series
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Anything Dr. Seuss
What inspired you to write Colors of Me?
Many things. But it’s largely due to how I grew up. Unlike most children, race wasn’t something that I acquired at home. In fact, I didn’t even know that it existed. My parents never made mention of race; they never discerned between people that way. So it was a foreign concept to me. And I didn’t understand it (and to be honest, I’m pretty sure I still don’t).
I was 6 or 7 years old and a group of kids in my class kept asking me “whether I was black or white.” I had no clue what that meant. But I didn’t want them to know that. So I just shook my head or shrugged or said “Does it matter?” and that worked for a while. But they were persistent. And one day, I asked them to answer their own question: What are you? They said, “Black,” as if I should’ve somehow known that. So I replied, “Then I’m Black, too.” They gave each other a look. And then they informed me that I was white. I reasoned, “We’re in the same class; we play together at recess; we like the same things; we’re alike. So if you’re Black, then I must be Black, too.” They shook their heads and informed me that I wasn’t like them because I didn’t look like them. After school, I went home and asked my parents about it. After giving each other knowing looks, they explained it to me. And for several weeks afterwards, I wondered why it mattered. I don’t think I ever stopped wondering; but eventually, I did start writing. I knew that I wasn’t the only one who needed a book like this as a child.
What is the most difficult part of writing?
Hmm. That’s a good question. A really good question. I think the most difficult part is figuring out what it is that you’re really trying to say. It’s really a wonderful form of self-discovery, but it’s not easy. And once you’ve figured that out, then you need to figure out how to say it so that other people can understand it. These two tasks alone can take years.
What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?
I’m teaching writing at Adrian College and at the University of Phoenix, cooking, making jewelry, reading, making music, spending time with my friends and family (in no particular order).
How do you react to a bad review and have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
My reaction is usually a sense of relief that at least someone felt strongly enough about something I wrote to write it down — whether it’s good or bad. The purpose of Colors of Me is to inspire children’s (and adults’) thinking about how we view the world and one another. So, I suppose, if someone has thoughts about the book, or a strong response to the book, then the book has done its job.
Writer’s block is not territory that I’m familiar with. However, I will say that when I feel the urge to express something in writing, if it doesn’t come to me in one form (words) then I’ll translate it into another (such as music or food, for example). I think by engaging in other creative pursuits, it prevents writer’s block for me. By the time I’m done making a song or cooking a meal, it’s dislodged whatever “block” I had.
What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?
I’m hoping that they take away a new perspective on how we view the world and each other. I’m hoping that children will ask the questions that adults have forgotten to ask. I want children to realize that the color of the thing isn’t the essence of the thing. And I hope that adults will realize that maybe if we change the way we see the world, it’ll change the way we see each other.
Who are some of your favorite authors you would love to dine with?
Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Barack Obama, Tracy K. Smith, Hill Harper, Judy Blume, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith.
What author inspires you the most and why?
This changes daily. I would have to say that today, it’s Lane Smith. I love the innovation, humor and postmodernism in his work. It’s simply wonderful. I recently read “It’s a Book” and I’m still in love with it. And I do miss the dynamic duo of him and Jon Scieszka.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I’m not really on a writing schedule per say. In fact, I just write as much as I can, whenever I can. I approach writing with an enthusiastic urgency. There is always the desire to “get something out.” So that’s exactly what I do — on napkins, on scraps of paper, on my Blackberry, wherever. If I can write for at least an hour everyday, then I’m on schedule. (This still proves to be challenging, by the way.) However, I will say that much of the writing process happens during the “incubation period.” This is before I’ve birthed words or a clear vision. I do much of my writing in my head. And then, when it’s clear enough to me, I then begin the process of making it clear to other people. By that time, I’m Not a day goes by that I don’t do some writing.
What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?
I think that sometimes parents tend to select many of one kind of book — educational, etc.. I think they need to expose their children to as many different types of books and writing styles as they possibly can. Let them read about people different from themselves, about families and places and countries different from theirs. Show them the possibilities, the limitlessness and the similarities of the world through books.
What advice you would give to new writers?
Write with no abandon. Write ferociously and fearlessly, like you’ve never written before. Write what you love. Believe what you write. Rewrite until it almost hurts. And then rewrite until it actually hurts. Don’t just fall in love with the pen — with the first time / first draft. Fall in love with the process. Rewrite as if it’s your last day on earth and this manuscript is the only thing from your life that will remain. Oh yeah, and have fun.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Sure! If parents, teachers, librarians and kids would like to keep tabs on me or Colors of Me, then they should visit me at brynnebarnes.com where they can stay updated about readings, signings, contests, book give-aways, etc. Also, readers can sign up for my newsletter (sent 2-4 times per year) which will keep them abreast of cool events and such.
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