I’ve been planning quite a few interviews for the next couple weeks, and Leslie Connor, fabulous author of Waiting for Normal, is first! She has some intriguing answers, so read on.

You’ve written a children’s book, a young adult book, and now a middle grade. How did you make the transition?

I seem to be a pigeon that doesn’t fit in any hole. The story comes, I hear it, it ripens over time, and that’s the one I write. Honestly, it’d be harder for me to stick to one niche.

What are some of your favorite books?

Here are the ones I am thinking of today:

All the Little House Books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumor Godden.
Pushcart Wars by Jean Merrill
Cider House Rules by John Irving
Jim The Boy by Tony Earley
Peace Like a River by Lief Enger?
A Kiss For Little Bear by Else Minarik and Maurice Sendak

What are you currently reading?

I read a lot of nonfiction these days because that’s what ignites my own fiction writing.

Right now, I’m reading Your Child’s Strengths by Jenifer Fox. That probably sounds really boring to your readers, Felicity, but I’m reading it because I am increasingly disturbed by No Child Left Behind legislation-not in theory, perhaps-but in the ways it’s being implemented. For me, this type of standardizing fails to recognize that we are individuals and basically tortures kids. I hope with all my heart that the ideas such as Jennifer puts forth in this book will become elements of the backlash to, and reformation of, NCLB. There is a better way. (Phew! Sorry for the Soap Box Moment, there.)

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a novel (realistic fiction) for readers 10 and up. It’s about an unassuming, self-sufficient family of five kids who suddenly find themselves “home alone” during a national crisis. The rub: They have something that everyone else wants.

Addie is constantly hopeful. Why did you choose to semi-unaware of her family problems? How did you not stray away from her voice?

Well, it’s a good question. Since I was writing in her point of view, it was important not to use a lot of adult filters and identifiers in the telling of the story. I needed to let Addie tell it like it was for her. She could only know what she knew or what she was told, if that makes any sense, so I had to keep the reins on the writer in that regard. It occurs to me that Addie probably didn’t get to observe other families very closely in her life. (Can you picture Mommers making it to play group?) Yet, she sensed that there was a different kind of normal out there somewhere.

How are you similar and different to Addie?

Oh, I like to think that I can make something out of nothing and that I can survive on very little, but I’ve never been tested to the extent that Addie was. I’m not as strong as Addie, I fear. I felt that I struggled as a student in certain areas and was never sure why, and I can’t for the life of me read music!

What was the hardest chapter to write?

Probably the first one because there’s a lot of background in there and I feared losing readers before I could hook them.

Where did you get the inspiration to write Waiting for Normal?

Place. The idea began the day I saw that trailer on that corner in Schenectady, NY. I wondered who was going to walk out that door.

How long did it take you to write it?

The first draft took about a year. I wasn’t asked to make a lot of changes to the story. It was a smooth edit.

What’s your favorite part of being an author?

I love emptying my very-full head onto the page. It helps me sleep at night.

If you could have written one book that’s currently published (not by you!) what would it be?

Hmm. Today’s answer to that question is:
The Oxcart Man by Donald Hall (and you can add that one to my list of favorites).

What’s a question that you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never have been asked?

Hmm.

Ha-ha! You ready?

The question: Would you like fries and a root beer with your Newbery?
The answer: Oh, yes please!

Any advice to aspiring writers?

Write about the thing you can’t ignore; that’s the hot idea in you.

Make sure you like doing the writing as much as you like the idea of having done it; that’s all about joy!

Thank you so much, Leslie. I hope you get fries, root beer, and most importantly, your Newbery!

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