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FIVE ON FRIDAY with Sandy Asher

This week FIVE ON FRIDAY features author and playwright Sandy Asher. Having been drafted into a role in one of Sandy’s plays at a recent Lit Festival I can state with all alacrity that Sandy is a stern taskmaster as a director and insists on making her actors use the method approach to their roles. I made everyone call me Lance for weeks!

Visit Sandy’s website

When did you know that you first wanted to be a writer?

I can remember standing in the children’s reading room of the Philadelphia Public Library in Logan Square, surrounded by shelves of books, ALL of which were my favorites, and thinking, “There can’t be anything more wonderful than writing a book that someone will love as much as I love these.” I was in elementary school at the time, and I don’t know if I even understood that writing could be a career. I was always making up songs, stories, and plays. It was just something I did for the fun of it. I didn’t realize I could get paid for it until I read about Jo selling her first story in Little Women.

What book or writer/artist do you feel influenced you the most?

The very first was Louisa May Alcott. But I didn’t grow up thinking I’d write for children. In college, a friend read a batch of poems I’d written and said, “Do you realize there’s a child or a reference to childhood in every one of these poems?” I’d never thought about that, and I still didn’t get it. Every adult novel I tried to write happened to have a teenaged main character, but the light never went on. It wasn’t until after college, when I enrolled in a course in Methods of Teaching Children’s Literature and read Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret and Jean Craighead George’s Julie of the Wolves that I understood my calling.

What book or books are you currently reading or have recently read that you’d recommend to others?

I will probably never get over Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief. I’ve just finished reading his earlier novel, I Am The Messenger, and it’s wonderful, but if you haven’t done so already, read The Book Thief first.

If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring writers (or illustrators), what would it be?

Read, read, read, write, write, write, and revise, revise, revise.

Can you share with us your next project or any information about the next book you’re working on?

I’m finishing up an anthology on revision for the Institute of Children’s Literature, and I’m very excited about it. Twenty children’s authors offer their published work — picture book, short story, beginning reader, or novel excerpt — alongside early drafts of that work. I interview each author about his or her revision process, and I provide commentary to lead the reader through that process. Four editors and an agent also give their thoughts about revision. It’s a treasure trove of normally “invisible writing” — the missteps and backfires and take-overs we authors usually keep hidden from public view. Still debating about the title (talk about revision!), but the book is due out in either spring or summer of 2009.

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