Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Q&A with Jon Scieszka

Q: You are slated to give a two hour talk about inspiring guys to read on Monday, April 4 at St. Christopher's, here in Richmond. What are one or two of the most important points you hope to get across?

A: I'm only going to talk for one hour, sign for another. And most of the talking hour will be jokes, so tell people to not be afraid. But my most basic advice to folks is to 1. expand their definition of what they call "reading' to include non-fiction, graphic novels, sci-fi, magazines, audio books . . ., and 2. to let guys be a part of choosing what they want to read. Reading is a very personal activity.

Q: What do you wish you had in the way of reading and writing when you were a kid?

A: I think I had plenty of great reading and writing when I was a kid. I didn't find much reading I enjoyed in elementary school. But outside of school I read the Hardy Boys, Landmark non-fiction books, Dr. Seuss, comic books, MAD magazine, and all sorts of random literature and not-literature around the house.

Q: What event or person made the difference in your life, allowing or encouraging you to become such a prolific and beloved writer?

A: My mom made all of the difference in the world. I was reading Dick and Jane and other equally strange and uninspiring stories in school as I was learning to read. But at home, my mom was the one reading Caps for Sale, To Think What I Saw on Mulberry Street, The Carrot Seed, Go Dog Go and other stories to me that made we want to hear more stories . . . and to ultimately tell some of my own.

Q: What advice do you have for children’s writers whose primary readers are boys?

A: I tell all writers to please not "write for boys" or "write for girls." Write the best story you can. Write what thrills, excites, moves you. Your readers, boys and girls, will find it.

Q: What did you learn about young readers during your two year stint as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature?

A: I knew young readers are smart, but in my first year as Ambassador, I discovered that young readers and writers are even smarter than I had suspected. The crazy range of stories that kids are reading and writing is phenomenal.

Q: What has your work on the NYC Board of Valencia 826 taught you about writing with young people?

A: The work that 826 does connects perfectly with what I learned from kids when I was a teacher -- kids will produce amazing work if there is a good reason to. And the reason at 826 is that kids get to make real books. You use correct spelling so someone else can read your story. You edit the story as many times as you need to so it is the best it can be. You are writing for a reason, not for an abstract assignment. And that is how and why the real world of reading and writing works.

Q: Do you have anything new and exciting in the works right now?

A: I'm in the middle of the crazy 4-book / multi media storytelling extravaganza that is SPACEHEADZ . . . and really enjoying writing with the kids who become Spaceheadz. And I'm also still messing around with stories for the younger guys with TRUCKTOWN.
But my newest, and most unformed project is a YA novel I'm just starting. I don't even know what it's about yet. I'm writing to find out.

Q: Is there anything else you might like to add?

A: With all of the crazy tech developments happening right now, this is a fun time to be a writer/storyteller. I think that kids becoming writers now will take us places we never imagined even 10 years ago. And I can't wait.

Jon Scieszka will speak and sign books at St. Christopher’s School on Monday, April 4 from 7-9 pm. Adults only, please. Tickets are free, but must be reserved at: Donations will benefit Read Aloud Virginia and Guys Read.

Visit him online at Jon Scieszka Worldwide.


  1. So Exciting! He's a favorite in my class!

  2. I love him too, Rebecca! I read excerpts from "Knucklehead" to my 3rd grade creative writers last year!