What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.
My most recent book is The Lucky Baseball, My Story in a Japanese-American Internment Camp. It’s a middle grade historical novel written for Enslow Publishers Historical Fiction Adventures series. It tells the story of Harry Yakamoto, a little boy who grew up during WWII and was sent, along with his family, to an internment camp – called a relocation center – in the California desert. The book tells of the struggles Harry and his family went through – facing discrimination even before they entered the camp – and how they survived there for over three years and then went on to rebuild their lives after they were released.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m a full time freelance writer, children’s author, and writing coach living and working in Kansas City, Missouri. I was a classroom teacher for many years, but about 10 years ago I decided to quit teaching and write full time. Now I write mostly children’s books and coach other people who want to become full time freelance writers, too.
What inspired you to write this book?
Many people don’t even realize that so many Japanese-Americans living in California during WWII were rounded up and sent to live in internment camps. Yet, what these people made of their lives in these harsh environments is simply amazing. I wanted to learn more about that and then help readers learn more about it, too.
Actually, I had written an earlier book for this same series from Enslow Publishers, Inc. It was about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. That book is called The Locket: Surviving the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. After I wrote that book, the publisher asked me if I’d like to write another book in the series. I thought it would be interesting to fictionalize an account of life in the Japanese-American Internment Camps of WWII, so I chose that topic.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was in the 5th grade and my teacher, Mrs. Smith, let us perform plays for the class every Friday as long as we WROTE the scripts for those plays ourselves. I found I LOVED writing the scripts, even more than acting out the stories.
What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?
For me, developing the initial storyline is the most difficult part of writing. Once I have a basic plot created, I LOVE writing and rewriting to get things “just right.” But it can also be difficult to stay focused if you don’t set a regular writing schedule and then stick to it. I still struggle with that sometimes.
How do you do research for your books?
Whether I’m writing a book for children or a book for grown-ups, I usually start researching the topic by going to the library and finding all the children’s books about that topic that I can. I read those books and they give me a good idea of what kinds of additional information I need to before I can start writing. Then I look for books for adults about these topics. I also do a lot of research online, where I usually look for official websites, like government sites, etc. so I know the information is accurate at least MOST of the time. I also like to find primary sources, so I try to find people I can interview, or get old diaries or journals that give me personal accounts of the times or the incidents I’ll be writing about.
Did you learn anything from writing this book?
I learn all sorts of information from every book I write. From this book, I learned a lot about WWII, as well as how the Japanese-Americans were treated, and how well they survived in these internment camps. It was amazing!
What are you reading now?
Every weekday afternoon I host a talk show about children’s books called Book Bites for Kids on blogtalkradio, so I’m always reading the books I will be talking about on the show that week. This week I’ve been reading 3 a.m., a collection of short stories by Dallas Woodburn, and Lorenzo and the Pirate by Lila Guzman.
I also just finished reading a novel by Marcia Willett called A Week in Winter, and Anita Shreve’s latest novel, A Change of Altitude.
I love, love, love to read, and I’m usually reading at least 3 books at the same time, which drives my husband crazy. He just doesn’t see how I can keep up with the stories in 3 different books at once.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
I like to read anything and everything. I used to read mostly nonfiction. But since I’ve been writing more fiction, I seem to be reading more fiction, too.
My favorite authors are Anita Shreve, Elizabeth Berg, Rosemund Pilcher, Sophie Kinsella, and children’s authors like Suzanne Selfors, Keri Mikulski, etc., etc.., etc. There are SOOOO many authors whose books I love, it’s difficult to choose only a few favorites!
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
Right now, I’m revising several picture book manuscripts. I’m also working on a cozy culinary mystery for adults. That’s all I can tell you at the moment.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Take your time. Just focus on the writing itself and publication will naturally follow.
What are you doing to promote your latest book?
Doing interviews, like this one, and on the radio, etc. Speaking at writers’ conferences and making author visits to schools, book fairs, etc. I also network with other children’s authors a great deal and I’m the coaching coordinator for The Children’s Writers’ Coaching Club.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
They can visit any of my websites:
They can also find out about The Morning Nudge, which is something I offer to help other writers – it’s at www.morningnudge.com