Hi Barb! Thanks for stopping by my blog!
Tell us a little bit about your new book, Yogi.
Originally, I only knew Yogi Berra through his Yogi-isms, like “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.” I thought he was a funny guy. I didn’t realize that even into adulthood he was bullied for his looks; picked on for his playing style. This is a book about a poor kid from an immigrant family who loved baseball, and who was so relentlessly himself, that baseball had no choice but to eventually love him back. It’s a story about resilience.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process.
Ha! I wish there was one. I do not keep a list of “famous” people I want to write about. Instead, I run across something, in this case it was a memorial article about Yogi which included the taunts he had endured. Whenever I think, “I didn’t know that,” it might become my next book.
Have you always been into writing?
I was a big reader, but writing? Not at all. I mean I could construct a sentence, but never thought I was creative enough to write. My grandfather was a wonderful storyteller, and most of the stories he told were about people he had met. He had rhythms and page turns in his voice. I’m just try to tell historical stories about people in that same way. Family stories about real people. I tell kids all the time that if they think writing is hard, they’re probably doing it right! It’s hard. It requires consistent practice. Like sports, dance, music, art, school or family life… anything worthwhile
What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Exciting? Day to day it seems quiet, but there’s two different days that are the most exciting. The day when a story that I created comes back to me in sketches, and I can tell one of these great illustrators I get to partner with “gets it.” That they love the story as much as I do, that we are now a TEAM. The second is talking to students in schools. I love taking groups of kids, most of whom don’t think they “like history” and many of whom don’t “like” writing, on a journey about the story behind a book. And it’s exciting to wind up with a long line of kids sharing ideas and asking questions about both history and writing after my presentations.
What inspires your creativity?
Since off and on I don’t think I’m particularly creative, I’m not sure how to answer. I read a lot. I daydream a lot. I go to new places when I can. I garden and walk the dog and talk to the neighbors and students and teachers and people who are smarter than me. More and more I try not to judge too early. And also, I work at it. Sometimes I think people think it’s not work…but being “creative” is work, it’s fun work, but still. In fact I would say it’s less than 5% inspiration, maybe less than 1%. We like to talk about inspiration with creative work; we don’t like to talk about the mistakes and the frustration and the dead ends. Kids need to know that ALL of that is part of a creative life. When they’re frustrated it’s not in error, it’s because they’re really TRYING!
What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?
I am so motion sick that I have to watch movies from the back row, take Dramamine to ride in a car even short distances and can’t watch a train when stopped at train tracks. Kids ask me if I could have explored the way many of my characters have and the answer is, “No! I would be puking!”
If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?
I had a long career as a creative director for a bunch of graphic design firms and corporations, so I might still be doing that. I always wanted to be Secretary of State, but I’m not that diplomatic. I’d be a talkative librarian, or an inconsistent teacher…it’s a good thing I tried writing for kids, it fits perfectly.
What can readers expect from you in the future?
Christopher Silas Neal and I have a book coming out this fall called PRAIRIE BOY, about the early life of architect Frank Lloyd Wright (Calkins Creek.) Then, in 2020 I have two books about strong women: FIGHT OF THE CENTURY, with illustrator Sarah Green, about Alice Paul’s fight to win the vote (Calkins Creek) and LEAVE IT TO ABIGAIL about the astonishing life of Abigail Adams (Little Brown) which is being illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?
We now have so many terrific children’s writers sharing their talents in the picture book biography format. I’m so passionate about expanding the genre and exploring the role that biographies could play in the classroom beyond “biography month” or a biography project. They can be great intros to complex topics, help bring diverse points of view into classrooms, as well as perfectly scaled models for student writing. If any teachers want to reach out, I’d love to know the creative ways they use picture book biography in their classrooms. They can reach me at www.barbrosenstock.com or on Twitter @barbrosenstock
Thanks Dylan, nice to talk with you!