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Keepsake that Educates!

Interview with Award-Winning Author Lesléa Newman

Lesléa Newman was born in Brooklyn, NY, and grew up there and on Long Island. She started writing poems and stories when she was eight years old, and never stopped! Her very first publications were several poems that appeared in Seventeen Magazine when she was a teenager. She graduated fromJerichoHigh School and was very proud to be voted the Class Wit of 1973. In 1999, she was inducted into her high school’s hall of fame. Her creative writing teacher, who had saved all the poems she wrote in her class, had nominated her.

Before moving toWestern Massachusettsin 1983, Lesléa lived inBoston,Colorado, andNew York, and had a variety of jobs including preschool teacher, secretary, waitress, freelance reporter, and sales clerk. She now lives inNorthampton,Massachusettsand makes her living as a full-time writer.

One of Lesléa’s favorite subject to write about is animals. Some of her picture books include The Best Cat in the World, Dogs, Dogs, Dogs!, Where is Bear? and Skunk’s Spring Surprise. Her middle grade novel, Hachiko Waits tells the true story of the famousAkita dog who waited at Shibuya Train Station inJapan for ten years, hoping for his master’s return. That book has won many awards, including the Maxwell Medal from the Dog Writers Association of America.

She says this to anyone who wants to be a writer: “Writing is hard work. It is also lots of fun and very rewarding. If you want to be a writer, you must practice your art. Try to do it every day. Everyone has interesting and important stories to tell. Allow your writing to take you on a journey and lead you to new and exciting places. The wonderful thing about writing is, everyone can do it. All you need is a pen, a piece of paper, and your own imagination.”

Interview with award-winning author of Mommy, Mama and Me and Heather Has Two Mommies and author of Donovan’s Big Day, Leslea Newman.

I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog

What is the last book you read?

THE CALL by Yannick Murphy, a wonderful novel about a veterinarian and his family.

What were your earliest memories of writing?

Scribbling poems of teenage angst in a black and white composition notebook with a blue Bic pen.

Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?

Writing came naturally to me, and my high school creative writing teacher, Miss Stern was very encouraging. When I visited my high school 26 years after graduation, she showed me a folder of my poems she had kept after all these years!

One of your favorite subject to write about is animals, why is that?

I absolutely love animals. Since I am a word person, there is something very soothing about having such deep communication with a living being that doesn’t involve language but is very, very real. And I think kids love animals and are fascinated by them.

Are you working on a new book?

I am always working on a new book! It’s too new to talk about, but I do have two books coming out next year that I am just putting the finishing touches on: A SWEET PASSOVER (picture book) and OCTOBER MOURNING: A SONG FOR MATTHEW SHEPARD (Young Adult poetry collection for older readers).

What inspired you to write Donovan’s Big Day and how did you come up with each character?

DONOVAN’S BIGDAYwas inspired by all the weddings I have been to lately, including my own! Donovan leapt into my mind when I was in the shower (where I get many of my ideas) and his moms followed shortly afterwards. And since I am such an animal lover, he had to have a dog!

If you were to chose a character from your book, which one would it be?

This is a very hard question. I think I would be someone in the crowd who gets to observe Donovan, his moms, and the rest of his family and witness their great joy.

What was your favorite children’s book?

I loved books about animals such as OLD YELLER and BLACK BEAUTY. And I loved LITTLE WOMEN, too. And I was very affected by Anne Frank’s THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL. Hard to pick just one!

You have won countless awards, which award are you most proud of?

Again, hard to pick just one, but I will say that I was most honored when my very own community ofNorthampton,MAchose me to serve a two-year term as its poet laureate.

What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?

Crossword puzzles, movies, going to the gym, doing the laundry. Oh, and reading of course!

How do you react to a bad review and have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

When I read a review that is less than complimentary, sometimes I get angry, sometimes I get sad, sometimes I get frustrated, sometimes, I think, Oh, the writer has a good point. I do get writer’s block sometimes, but I know the only cure is to write anyway, and so I do (with a lot of moaning and groaning). I think of writer’s block as a “building block”. Often I’m blocked right before a big breakthrough.

What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?

I hope that children, especially, will take away this message: “I’m all right just the way I am. In fact, I’m pretty spectacular!” Each child deserves to feel that way about himself or herself, and about his or her family.

Who are some of your favorite authors you would love to dine with?

In fact, I have dined with many of my favorite children’s book authors: Patricia MacLachlan, Jane Yolen, Barbara Diamond Goldin, Ann Turner, Ellen Wittlinger, Corinne Demas, Anna Kirwan (all of whom are in my writing group). I’ve also had the pleasure of dining with Norton Juster, Mordecai Gerstein, Lois Lowry, Anita Riggio, Jacqueline Woodson, Rich Michelson, Jerry Pinkney, Marcus Ewert and so many others. I wish I would have had the opportunity to share a meal with Dr. Seuss.

What author inspires you the most and why?

Again, very hard to pick just one. I think the author who inspired me most was my teacher, Allen Ginsberg, because he took my writing seriously, and showed me by example, how one person’s writing can have a huge effect on the world. And he also showed me how it was possible to put one’s writing first and live the life of a writer. He was very disciplined and devoted to his work. He also was extremely kind and generous to other writers, and I try to live by his example.

What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?

I try to write every day for at least one hour, first thing in the morning. If the writing is going well, I will keep writing for up to eight hours a day. My goal is to get something down on that page.

What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?

The “right” book is different for each child. Know your child, read plenty of books, and make the perfect match.

What advice you would give to new writers?

Read as much as possible. Like a sponge, soak up everything. Write every day. Find someone or a group of somebodys whom you trust and admire to share your work with. Listen to them. Never give up.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Don’t believe that the book is dead!Readingis still a very enriching experience, whether you read what they are now calling a “physical book”, an e-book, or whatever other types of reading devices will appear in the future. If you are lucky enough to have an independent bookstore in your area, please support it. And thank you for listening.

November 7, 2011 - Posted by | Meet the Author | , , , , ,


  1. Hi Leslea,
    It’s such a pleasure meeting you here. I enjoyed your interview. Just coming from your site I see so many wonderful books. Having many grand kids from 2-25 shows me there are books of yours for all ages. And you are so right that Love makes a family. Beautifully said.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    Comment by Carol L. | November 7, 2011 | Reply

  2. I especially like her advice to writers: read and write. This interview makes me want to read more of her work.

    Comment by domestic diva | November 7, 2011 | Reply

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