Interview with Author Susanna Leonard Hill.
From the time I was born, I wanted three things: a dog, a horse, and to be a writer. I grew up in an apartment on the upper east side of Manhattanwith my parents, two brothers, one sister, and an assortment of cats. My dad felt (quite rightly) that it was no place for a large dog, and I didn’t want a small one (neither did the cats!) so, no dog. Given his stance on the dog issue, you can imagine how he felt about a horse in a New York Cityapartment, so no horse either. Is it any surprise that one of my favorite books growing up was The Horse On The Roof?
At age three, in all my worldly wisdom, I decided on a career driving a steam roller. Later, I considered careers in fire fighting, baby-sitting, horse training, and veterinary medicine. After college and graduate school I actually did have a career teaching children with learning disabilities. But through it all, I wanted to write.
As a child, I lay on the kitchen floor with paper and crayons and asked my mom how to spell things. She was very patient! I wrote my first book in 2nd Grade. It was called The Girl and The Witch (can you guess what it was about?). I still have it, and read it frequently on school visits. I wrote innumerable horse stories, and many additions to the Nancy Drew series which, fortunately for my writing career, were never published! I tried my hand at poetry in 6th grade with an epic poem called The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus which, much to my embarrassment, my dad sent to every known living relative. I’m not sure if I still have that one–I’m kind of hoping it’s lost!
At long last, in January of 2001, I got the phone call every aspiring writer dreams of. Little Simon wanted to publish one of my stories. The House That Mack Built (Little Simon 2002) was my first published book. It is a rhyming story with pop-up construction vehicles that I wrote for my son, whose interest in heavy equipment is clearly genetic.
Today I live inNew York’s beautifulMid-HudsonValleywith my husband, children, and TWO beloved family dogs. I mention, because it’s something I feel strongly about, that they are both rescue dogs of the Heinz-57 variety and in spite of (or perhaps because of) their indeterminate breeding, they are the best dogs ever!
Interview with Susanna Leonard Hill author of April Fool, Phyllis!
I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog
What is the last book you read? The last book I finished was Ophelia in Pieces by Clare Jacob. I am currently reading Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.
What were your earliest memories of writing? Lying on the kitchen floor with a piece of scrap paper and a crayon, asking my mom how to spell things while she made dinner.
Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural? I’ve always loved to write, but my parents encouraged me as well.
Are you working on a new book? Yes. Actually, I’ve got several in the works 🙂
What inspired you to write April Fool, Phyllis! and how did you come up with each character? April Fool, Phyllis came to me from several different places. One of them was Phyllis. She does not have the shy, retiring characteristics usually associated with her species and she informed me, loudly, that she wanted another story. So, I wondered, what should her next story be about? I grew up in a family that enjoyed treasure hunts. We had them at Easter for jelly beans, hidden around the living room. And we had them at birthdays. My dad devised elaborate clues with riddles, ciphers, and codes of all kinds – a challenge to solve before school! – and the clues led us to our birthday presents. So that’s where the treasure hunt part came from. The maple syrup part came from my mom who, in a very Little House In The Big Woods way, took us out to tap trees, gather sap, and boil it down to syrup on our electric kitchen stove, even though we grew up in the ’70s and could just have gone to the supermarket. We even tried making maple candy. Both treasure hunts and syrup making were delightful, memorable parts of my childhood, so I wanted to share them with Phyllis and my young readers. The characters were purely made up – not based on anyone I know.
Did you ever play an ‘April Fool’ joke on anyone, and what was it? Actually, it may surprise you to know that I’ve never been much of an April Fool jokester!
What was your favorite children’s book? Oh, this question is practically impossible! There are so many great ones! But as a child I think my favorites were Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, The Camel Who Took A Walk by Jack Tworkov, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, the Little House in the Big Woods series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene, any horse book of any kind 🙂 but especially the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley and The Horse On The Roof (possibly by Robert Wells but I’m not sure)…. Can you tell I loved to read and was greatly encouraged to do so?
What is the most difficult part of writing? Although I would write no matter what, the real hope of every writer is to be read. So for me, the most difficult part of writing is when I’ve got nothing in the pipeline for publication, which makes me worry that I might never get another story out into the world.
What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books? I have a husband, five children, a home, and 2 dogs, so you can probably guess the basics 🙂 I also do a lot of school and library visits to share my stories with kids. I also love to walk and run and ride horses (when I get the chance) and read and knit (which I do spectacularly badly :))
How do you react to a bad review and have you ever suffered from writer’s block? No lie – bad reviews hurt. Writing is hard work, and it’s very personal. When someone attacks it (and they have) I feel bad that I failed to get my story across in the best possible way. I strive to do better in the future, but it’s still painful. I guess you can never please everyone, so the best you can do is the best you can do, but it’s hard when it falls short. As far as writer’s block, I don’t know that I suffer from that exactly. I certainly have moments when I’m not sure where my story is going or how to get there, and I certainly have plenty to learn about craft, especially for longer works (I’m trying to write a novel :)) but a lot of writing is just showing up for work each day and getting something down on paper, and I can usually do that.
What do you hope that readers will take away from your book? From April Fool, Phyllis, I hope readers will take something of the same message as from Punxsutawney Phyllis – that you should believe in yourself even if others don’t always believe in you, and take care of people who depend on you. I also hope that readers will enjoy the riddles and treasure hunt, and learn a little something about traditions of April Fools Day and making maple syrup 🙂
Who are some of your favorite authors you would love to dine with? Oh, gosh! Another hard question! How to narrow it down? I would have loved to meet Laura Ingalls Wilder – she lived such a different kind of life than I do, and was really the beginning of children’s books as we know them. I would like to dine with J.K. Rowling – I’m so impressed by her imagination and ability to spin a plot! And I’d like to dine with Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth whose ability to tell an original, imaginative story and completely catch you up in their world is amazing. Also, Libba Bray. And Sarah Dessen, who tells such wonderful contemporary coming-of-age stories. I’d also like to dine with Mo Willems and Jane Yolen and Jane O’Connor and Kevin Henkes who could all teach me a thing or two about writing fabulous picture books. This is going to be quite a dinner party! When is it happening? 🙂
What author inspires you the most and why? I don’t think there is just one. All of the authors I listed above would be among them, for the reasons I mentioned. There is so much to learn about writing, and each author has things that they’re particularly good at, so you try to learn those things from them.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.? Sometimes I have deadlines. An editor will say such-and-such has to be done by a certain time. Other than that, the main discipline I impose on myself is to write something every day. Some writers have word or page counts they try to reach each day. I find my schedule is too unpredictable for that and I stress out if I’m not reaching the goal I set. So I just try to write every day. Some days it’s less, and some days it’s more. Some days I can keep everything I write and other days I end up deleting it all. But as long as I’m writing, I feel good.
What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read? Every child is different. Some love picture books. Some love non-fiction. Some love fantasy or adventure or science fiction or stories about magic. Some will read anything you give them, and some never want to sit still and read at all. The most important thing is to let children see the magic in reading. Let them choose what they love, even if it’s not necessarily what you would want to read. Comic books, magazines, books about sports, graphic novels – if they’re interested they’re much more likely to enjoy reading. And really, everyone enjoys a good story. So I guess my advice would be to encourage children to try all kinds of books until they find what they like – there are so many great authors today, and so many wonderful books of every kind on every subject. Also, and this is very important, read to them. It’s amazing how much sitting in your lap, or snuggling beside you on the couch, listening to your beloved voice reading them a wonderful book where nothing is required of them but to get lost in the enjoyment of the story will enhance their love of reading.
What advice you would give to new writers? Read A LOT. Write every day. And never give up 🙂
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? Only thank you so much, Ella, for giving me the opportunity to talk with everyone, and thank you to all the readers for taking the time to read the interview! If you’re interested, you can find me online at my website http://www.susannahill.com, my blog http://susannahill.blogspot.com, and on Face Book http://www.facebook.com/pages/Susanna-Leonard-Hill/246146107330 and youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/SLHill1
There are free downloadable coloring pages and activities on my website that go with many of my books 🙂
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My name is Ella Johnson. I started Mymcbooks to promote reading. As a former teacher, I know that making basic education fundamentals interesting to children can be challenging. Education can be fun, exciting and captivating for children with the right learning tools. So my goal is to “make learning interesting and fun” for the children while they learn, by introducing them to fun books with colorful and captivating illustrations.
In 2009, I start the giveaway program giving away free school supplies at random to 2 winners each year. I also started a monthly free giveaways for books and gifts.
August 2010, I extended the free school supplies from 2 to 5 winners at random on my blog and also give away 20 bags full of school supplies to familes in need at Chick-fil-A in Brandon, Florida during their family nights. And in 2012, I beat my that number and gave away a lot of school supplies to needy families. Hopefully, I can continue to do this each year.
In 2011, I started writing reviews on children’s books then giving these books away free on Mymcbooks Blog. I increase the number of books we giveaway free to help support parent. My goal is to give away as many as I can each year. This is also a great way to introduce parents to new books.
Mymcbooks blog is always looking for other ways to give kids free books. So I started Mymcbooks Birthday Library http://mymcbooksbirthdaylibrary.wordpress.com/
My goal is to giveaway at least 300 books to children each year.
Books Given in 2011: 315
Books Given in 2012: 380
Books Given in 2013: 330
Books Given in 2014: 257
Books Given in 2015: – 127
Read Interview about Ella Johnson, http://melangeofcultures.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/interview-with-ella-johnson-founder-of-memorable-children-books-gifts/ Interviewer: Nicole Weaver
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