Nonfiction Monday: An Interview with Barbara Kerley, 2010 CYBILS NFPB Winner

In a little over three weeks the 2011 CYBILS will be announced.  Today I have an interview with Barbara Kerley.  Her book, The Extraordinary Mark Twain (according to Susy) won the CYBILS Award for Nonfiction Picture Books.

Your Reading Life

 MsMac: What books are on your night stand?

 BK: I’m currently reading The Penderwicks at Point Mouette and just finished Okay For Now and A Monster Calls.  Next up is an adult title, The Things They Carried

 MsMac: What was your favorite book as a child? As a teen?  As an adult? Any particular genre stand out?

BK: My favorite book as a child, for years and years, was Harriet the Spy.  As a teen, anything by Jane Austen.  As an adult, The Voyage of the Narwhal and The March.

 I guess the genre I read most often now would probably be described as “literary fiction”—but lest I sound too snobby, I will readily admit to a great fondness for the magazine, Entertainment Weekly.

 MsMac: Where’s your favorite reading spot?

BK: This is going to sound dorky but we have this big old Laz-y-boy recliner in the living room…

MsMac: Which do you prefer a real book or ebook?

BK:  I prefer real books.  I do own an e-reading device (though I have yet to purchase any books for it—my library (shout out to Multnomah County Library, Oregon) has a system to check ebooks out.)  I like the e-reader because I can increase the font size of any book, and my eyeballs are getting old. BUT I also find that I read less deeply on my e-reader, esp. in the way that I am used to reading, which is to flip back and reread something if I can’t remember (like, wait who is this character again?  wait, when did they meet?) but on the e-reader it is too much of a hassle to scroll back and find the spot to reread, so I just skip that part. There is room in my life for both kinds of books.

Your Writing Life

 MsMac: What does a day of work look like for you? Favorite time of day?

BK:  Typically, I get to my desk right after breakfast, work til lunch, and then try to put in an hour or two after.  If I have a lot of reading to plow through (which is common for me as my books take a lot of research) I might read more in the late afternoon.  But I also believe in getting out of the house, so I fit in gym time and walking time and bike-riding time.

MsMac: Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?

 BK:  Revising, once I’ve gotten to the line-edit stage—because then it is all   about language.  Love that part.  Love figuring out just the right word.

 MsMac: What does your writing space look like?

BK:  I’m big on horizontal space, so I have lots of stacks of sort-of-neat notes.  You could fit all my material for a book into one box (and I have stacks of boxes in the closet—the Waterhouse Hawkins box, the Alice  Roosevelt box…) but when I’m in the middle of something, that one box of  material seems to fill up a whole office.

 MsMac: What are you currently working on?

 BK:  I just finished up a new picture book biography, Those Rebels, John   and Tom.  It’s about John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and the partnership  they created to move the Colonies toward independence.  Edwin  Fotheringham did the illustrations. They are fantastic!

 About Your Book

 MsMac: Where did you find  the inspiration for The Extraordinary Mark  Twain (according to Susy)?

 BK:  I stumbled across an article in a magazine about Susy writing a   biography of her dad, when she was only 13.  I thought, Wow!

 MsMac: Where there any challenges during the writing of the book?

BK:  It was a little tricky figure out how to structure the story, as I wanted it  to be a book about someone writing a book about someone, but I also  wanted to broaden the scope and include information about Twain that Susy did not herself note in her biography.  So part of the Twain portrait is carried  by Susy’s words and part is carried by the narrative. 

 MsMac: How did you find out that you had won the CYBILS award for Nonfiction Picture Books?

 BK:  I got an email from one of the CYBILS judges.  I was so excited as I just love the energy bloggers bring to their work, and I know they are passionate about kids’ books.  And Scholastic was so excited that they put the announcement up in the display cases in all of the building’s elevators,  which is where they post all the happiest news.

 Just for Fun

 MsMac: Chocolate:  white, dark, or milk?

 BK: Super dark, like 85% dark.

 MsMac: Coffee or tea?

 BK: Tea with milk.

 MsMac: Dance: funky chicken or the tango?

 BK: Ha ha, well I’m not sure I fit either category.  But I do take Zumba classes at the gym and look very cool while dancing to Pittbull.

 MsMac: Favorite Quote:

 BK: Here’s one of my favorites, of course by Mark Twain:

 “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Thank you for the interview, Barbara.

Happy Reading.

Nonfiction Monday is at Shelf-Employed.

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