Friday, February 18, 2011

Interview with Jacqueline Woodson

When asked if I wanted to participate in a tour for Jacqueline Woodson and her awarding winning YA novel, After Tupac & D Foster, all I could say was yes. When I first started reading YA fiction Woodson is one of the first authors I discovered.

Hi Jacqueline and welcome. After Tupac & D Foster, your most recent YA novel was published in 2008 and was a Newbery Honor.

Did you have to reread it to get reacquainted with your characters in preparation for the upcoming questions?

I didn’t re-read it but I read it so many times during the writing and reading of it that I feel I know it by heart.

The novel spans just 2 years of three girls lives beginning when they are 11 yrs old. Best friends Neeka and a nameless narrator welcome, new girl D Foster into their group. They were known as Three the Hard Way

Why did you decide to go with a nameless narrator?

I worked hard to figure out what her name was and I even tried out a few names. None of them worked. I realized, after about the fourth rewrite, that there was a reason she remainednameless, that it was about what I was hoping to get to in the narrative – that sense that you could know someone deeply (D. Foster) and not really know them at all – Or not know someone personally (Tupac) and feel that you know them deeply. In the case of the narrator, she’s telling her story and as you’re reading, you feel like you really know her, like she’s a close friend speaking to you. Then you close the book and realize you didn’t even know her name.

The three friends are moved by and connect over Tupac's lyrics. After Tupac & D Foster, reminded me of Ann Patchett's Bel Canto. The people in that novel are brought together thanks to their love of opera. I thought you both did a great job of making the readers understand your characters passions even if they were indifferent or had no prior knowledge of Tupac or opera.

You could've choosen anyone or anything for the girls to bond over, why Tupac?

I love Tupac. He was/is an important piece of history. He was amazingly talented and a voice for a generation.

Nothing out of the ordinary happens After Tupac and D Foster and that's part of its beauty. It's an uncomplicated look at three girls growing up. There's a big difference between 11 and 13.

"I wanted to tell Jayjones that sisters were hunted too - boys be screaming behind you and whatnot. Trying to touch you when you walked past them like they had some kind of right to your body. It crazy. - narrator

What has the feedback been like from teen girls?

People are at first bummed that it’s not Tupac telling the story and then they keep reading and realize that it’s a deeper story – and they’ve said some really nice things to me about it. I’m always so surprised at how strongly young people respond to the story.

Last year, you released a picture book called Pecan Pie Baby illus. by Sophie Blackall. Its a great story about a young girl that isn't too happy about becoming a big sister.

I bring this up so I have an excuse to show the beautiful cover and ask if Fuse#8 was right about her Tit for Tat ?

I may be wrong, but I believe that Mo Willem’s daughter Trixie is in Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson, just as Jacqueline’s daughter was in Knuffle Bunny 2

She’s completely right – That’s Trixie in Pecan Pie and Toshi does appear in KB2 as one of the people Trixie plans to show Knuffle Bunny to. Toshi and Trixie are great friends so it’s only right that they get to play together on the page!

Jacqueline, thanks so much for your time.

Thanks for having me

I recently did a guest post at Diversity YA, one of the 10 books I recommended was Hush by Woodson. As much as I love Woodson's work, I must confess I haven't read If You Come Softly or Behind You yet,

Now I think I was just waiting for this new repackaged edition to come out. (only $8.99)


Vasilly said...

Great interview! After reading Locomotion, Woodson easily became one of my favorite writers ever. Thanks for the reminder about the repackaged edition of her two books. I can't wait to pick it up.

Anonymous said...

Doret, you know how much I hold you in high esteem, girl! With this interview you're even more my she-ro, if that's at all possible. I love Jacqueline Woodson, I'm a big fan of her work, and this interview is a treat! It's one of the news that made my week. A BIG thank you for this. :D