Monday, February 11, 2008

Virtual Book Tour: Day 11

Today’s stop on the tour is dedicated to Mrs. Riddle’s 4th Grade computer class at New Braunfels Christian Academy. Welcome to the tour—you’re joining us all the way from Texas! And thank you for sending such wonderful questions. They were challenging and fun to answer.

The Interview:
Q: Did you think history was fun when you were a kid?
A: History was the hardest thing for me in school! It was hard for me to remember all those dates and names. But now, history is one of my favorite things to study! I’ve learned that history is about people and their stories, not just a bunch of dates and names. Now I study history and try to get to know people from the past. I love it!

Q: Have you ever gone to Africa?
A: No. But I have a dear friend who is from Africa. She grew up in Ghana, a country in Africa. This past summer, she took her children back to visit her home in Ghana. When she returned, she brought me a beautiful box made of ebony. Ebony is a dark black wood from Africa that has been valued for centuries! My friend also brought me back a DVD of a slave fort in Ghana called Elmina Castle. It is near where she grew up. During the slave trade, Africans were captured and put inside the fort. They had to walk through a little doorway called “the door of no return” and then were put onto a slave ship. My friend and her children walked through that door this summer. She said it was a very sad experience to remember the pain so many people felt. My friend also showed me many photos of her trip and of her beautiful family, many of whom still live in Ghana today!

Q: Do you know anything about Africa?
A: I love learning about Africa! Just recently, I discovered a brand new thing about it that I had never known. I learned about an ancient city called Kano that is now in northern Nigeria. Long, long ago it was one of the most important cities in the world! Starting around 1000 AD, there were seven ancient walled cities, or birane, built in northern Nigeria by the Hausa-speaking people. Some of its wall is still standing, as you can see in the photograph just above. Kano was one of the most important of these cities. Caravans arrived here from across the great Sahara desert. These caravans came looking for the many important and valuable items the people in Kano had to trade. People in Kano knew how to work with metal. They produced blue cotton cloth that was famous for its beauty and craftsmanship. They had spices and leather and pottery to trade. During the Middle Ages, Kano was an important city famous for its scholarship, religion, and trade.

Q: How much do you know about Martin Luther King, Jr.?
A: I have read a lot about Dr. King. I have a lot of respect for him. He truly tried to make a difference in our world and help people learn to love and respect each other. I have not written much about him yet, but I am already collecting books about his life. I plan to read them and learn more about this great man in our nation’s history. Then I want to tell his story in a fresh, new way to children.

Q: Did you meet up with anyone special that gave you the influence to write this book?
A: I have a friend Leilani who I used to spend time with before she moved to Seattle to be closer to her family. Leilani is African American. Leilani once told me to write books about African American history for young children that would inspire them and give them hope. I always tried to keep that advice in mind as I wrote D is for Drinking Gourd.

Q: Have you ever thought about quitting your job as an author?
A: No. Writing is something I like to do, even as a hobby. I plan on writing even when I’m old. I have so many book ideas that I don’t know if I’ll ever have enough time to write them all!

Q: Have you ever met an author?
A: Yes! Everywhere I go, I meet people who have written a story for their children or about their memories of when they were a child. Many of them don’t have their story published yet, but they hope to! I also have many friends who are authors. We hang out together and e-mail each other and encourage each other. Also, when I go to events to learn more about being a writer, I meet famous authors like Tomie de Paola. I met him in the elevator at a writer’s conference, which was a fun moment for me. He was one of my family’s favorite authors when our kids were little. We love his Strega Nona books.

Q: What age do you have to be to be an author?
A: Any age will do! The U.S. Copyright Office says that when someone writes a story on a piece of paper, that work is automatically under copyright protection. That means anyone at any age can be an author! All you have to do is write. Write a funny story about your cat. Write a story about a vacation you took. Make copies of it and share it with your friends and family. There! You’re an author, too!

Q: Have you written a funny book?
A: Yes. I co-wrote a series of books called Parables in Action. One of the titles in the series was “Moon Rocks and Dinosaur Bones.” In the stories, there is a boy named Larry, the Spy. He always talks in secret code. “Iggle, iggle, snoogle, snoogle” is his secret code for “Yes.” There is a girl named Bubbles. She wants to be an actress and is always practicing for auditions. In the book, Comet Campout, Bubbles wears a pink tutu on the camping trip because she is practicing to be a ballerina in a TV ad. It was fun writing about the hilarious adventures of this group of friends.

Q: Have you ever doubted one of your books?
A: Yes, every single time I write a book, I go through a period of doubting it. This usually happens somewhere in the middle of writing it. I wonder if people will be interested in reading it. I doubt my ability to write it. I worry about making mistakes. I doubt if I’ll be able to finish the book in time for my deadline. I have learned that these kinds of doubts are healthy to have. They make me be more careful when I write. They make me be more determined to finish the book. They are a challenge to me as an author, and they help me do my best in the end.

Q: How did the Internet help you research for your books?
A: I use the Internet all the time. I look up books to see if I want to buy them for my own personal research library. I find current information that is so brand new, there hasn’t been time to put it in a book yet. I visit Web sites of historical sites and American history collections where I find photographs and information that might not be in a book. It is an important tool for me as a writer.

Q: When were you born? Where were you born? What did you do before you became a writer? How old were you when you got married? How many kids do you have? What animals do you have? How old were you when you wrote your first book? How long have you been writing books?
A: I was born on May 17, 1960. A special surprise was that it was on my mother’s birthday! So we share a birthday together. My hometown is Everett, Pennsylvania. I grew up there on a dairy farm. After I grew up, I got a job as a nurses’ aide. First I worked in nursing homes where I helped take care of elderly people. Then I moved to California and got a job working in Loma Linda Hospital. I met my husband Jeff, here in California. We were married in 1982 when I was 22 years old. This year we are celebrating our 25th anniversary! We have two adult sons, Dan and Ben. We also have a funny cat named Humphrey and a dog that is a dachshund mix named Lucy. Humphrey and Lucy are friends. I was about 25 years old when I got my first book published. It was a book called “Bible Crafts on a Shoestring Budget.” The last time I checked, it was still selling well today! I have been writing books now for 22 years. I have had over 70 books published.

Thanks for asking so many great questions! It’s been joy to have you be part of my Virtual Book Tour!

Saturday’s Trivia Q and A:
Saturday’s question was:
Which pilots in World War II flew the famous airplanes known “Red Tails”?
a. The Tuskegee Airmen
b. The Golden Thirteen
c. The Buffalo Soldiers
The answer is: a. The Tuskegee Airmen. During World War II, the Air Force was suffering heavy losses until they assigned the Tuskegee Airmen to escort bombers and protect them from enemy fire. The tail of their planes was painted a bright red. The Tuskegee Airmen became famous for their record of never losing a single bomber to enemy planes.

Today’s Trivia Question:
Which state was the first to officially abolish slavery within its borders?
a. Virginia
b. New York
c. Vermont
Submit your answer by posting it as a comment to today’s blog. It won’t be published on the blog, but your name will be put in a hat to be drawn for 5 prizes to give away at the end of the tour. Check back in tomorrow for the answer!

Coming tomorrow:
On Day 11 of my Virtual Book Tour, we’ll be making a stop to visit the wonderful online bookseller again, Brown Sugar & Spice. Brown Sugar & Spice specializes in black history books for children and families. A video is posted there where I share about life as an author and writing my new book.

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