Today's guest is Alma Fullerton, a writer who's not afraid to tackle tough topics for any age group. Her middle-grade novel Libertad was a finalist for both the Governor General's Award and the TD Canadian Children's Literature award. Her most recent release, Burn, brought me to tears.
LEC: Please describe your typical working day.
AF: I don't have a typical working day. I work different shifts in my day job so when and where I write or illustrate varies. The only thing that's typical for me is getting up around 6 am and going to bed around 1am (Until I went part-time at my day job last Sept. That 1am was 2am or 3am).
LEC: I can't imagine functioning on so little sleep, never mind trying to be creative! You've written for teens and middle graders both. What's unique about, or attracts you to the middle reader age group?
LEC: All of your books are written in verse, rather than prose. What are some of the challenges of this format? What are the rewards?
AF: In the Garage has both verse and prose but the challenges with verse is that you have to choose your words very carefully. You can't use filler words because the story needs to be told in full with the least amount of words. I can easily throw down 10,000 prose words in a day - and have where I might only be able to write 500 - 1000 good verse words. Verse tends to be very powerful and often grabs the reluctant reader because of all the white space. Being dyslexic myself it's important for me to try to target those kids.
LEC: There's a quote on your website: "Children live through situations every day that adults won't let them read about." The topics in your books definitely qualify. What draws you to this "edgy" subject matter, and why do you think challenging books matter?
AF: I carry a marble with me at all times to remind me of why I write for children. If roll it across the room, in the few minutes it takes to get to the other end, I'll know approximately 24 children will die of malnutrition, 6 from the lack of clean water, 50 as a result of war, 8 from abuse, neglect or murder, 500 children will be raped or sexually abused, and over 800 children will be bullied (these are only the ones coming forward) either on or off the school yard. My marble represents the one child in this world that will finish a book, learn about some kind of injustice in the world and eventually do something (even small) to change it or themselves for the better. If I can reach that one child, then I have done my job as an author.
LEC: Describe your best moment as a writer - a memory or experience that keeps you going on days you feel like giving it all up.
AF: This connects directly to the question above for me because my best moment as a writer was when a teen from a remedial class in a high school emailed me and asked me to come talk to her class about writing and my book In the Garage. I was told it was the first book she'd ever read - either for school or for herself (and it was on her own). The teacher told me before reading it the girl acted out frequently with violence but after finishing it she did a total flip. I don't know if it was that she connected with something in the characters, saw something in her world a different way, or was just the fact that she was able to read a full book but whatever it was it changed her for the better. She's now a college graduate. Stuff like that makes it all worth while.
LEC: Wow. I am officially humbled and inspired. What question have you always wanted to be asked about your work, but no one ever has? What is the answer?
AF: I don't know that there is a question I haven't been asked :)
For more information on Alma and her books, visit her website.