Author of Never Fall Down and Sold, Patricia McCormick joins us on Tuesday, May 1, at 1:00 p.m. for the International Authors Panel at the International Reading Association 57th Annual Convention in Chicago. Reading Today Online asked this passionate writer about her books, her style, and what she’ll present to teachers and librarians at the convention.
Reading Today Online:
What got you interested in writing books for children and/or young adults?
Patricia McCormick: I often feel like I’m emotionally still a teenager. I can walk into a room and be seized by crippling insecurity – or fall utterly in love with a new friend, a new song, a new cause. So I think I can relate to the exhilarating highs and excruciating lows that young adults experience – often within an hour.
Young adults are often under-rated but they are some of the smartest, most honest, most passionate readers in the world. When they buy into your book, they totally buy in – entering heart and soul into a story. They bring so much of themselves and their own imagination; it’s almost like having collaborators. Adult readers, on the other hand, can be a bit standoffish, using intellect or skepticism to keep from diving in too deeply.
Moreover, young adults are too often seen as self-centered, and I think the exact opposite is true. They are deeply curious about their peers on the other side of the world – and thanks to their sense of connectedness – feel empowered to actually do something to change the world. It’s inspiring to write for people who care so deeply and I think it makes me a better writer because YA readers – with their shorter attention spans and raw honesty - keep you on your toes.
RT: Which of your books do you consider your best and why?
PM: That’s like asking which of my children I like best. (Today, it’s my daughter!)
I’m very proud of Sold because I challenged myself to take risks – both in the research and the writing. I wanted the words to have economy and beauty and show my passion on the issue of trafficking. I’m also proud of it because students often tell me one of two things: that it’s the first book they ever finished or that it mobilized them to take action.
But I’m also really excited about my new book, Never Fall Down, because I think it captures the voice of a truly amazing, real-life hero: Arn Chorn Pond, a boy who survived the brutality of the Khmer Rouge, by playing music in what became known as the Killing Fields of Cambodia. He was canny and resourceful, but he also had a gentleness and even humor that allowed him to retain his humanity under unimaginable cruelty.
When the war was over, Arn found the few musicians who weren’t killed by Pol Pot and he revived the traditional music that would have otherwise been lost. Next year, the musicians he fostered will perform at Lincoln Center!
The scariest thing about Never Fall Down wasn’t traveling to a part of the country still controlled by the Khmer Rouge. It was trying to do justice to this real-life story.
RT: What can attendees at IRA Chicago expect to hear from you?
PM: I am deeply grateful to the teachers and librarians who introduce kids to books like mine. It takes the dedication and commitment of people like IRA members to draw readers beyond books full of vampires and smart phones. Those books can help create and energize a new generation of readers. But it takes the guidance, creativity and persistence of educators to make lifetime readers – by gently nudging their horizons outward.
Without you, people like me – and more importantly, the people in my books – wouldn’t stand a chance.
Visit http://patriciamccormick.com for more information about the author. The IRA 57th Annual Convention will be held in Chicago from April 29 to May 2, 2012. Visit www.iraconvention.org for more information.
Patricia McCormick Will Be There…Will You?