Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and eating far too much chocolate. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series, the Dirt Diary series, and the forthcoming Switched at First Kiss series, all published by Sourcebooks, as well as the picture book Power Down, Little Robot, released from Henry Holt in March. Visit her at www.annastan.com.
Five Robot-Inspiring Authors, by Anna Staniszewski
When I think about the authors who’ve helped shape my writing over the years, the list is endless! But I’ve decided to take on the challenge of whittling it down to five awesome authors. Without them, I’m pretty sure my first picture book, Power Down, Little Robot, would have never been born.
1. Jane Yolen
I first read Owl Moon when I was an adult, and I was struck by its mood, its non-traditional story arc, and its spare but impactful language. When I checked out Jane Yolen’s other picture books, I realized they were the kinds of stories I’d always been drawn to—emotional, often funny, and innovative but classic at the same time. Since I thought of myself as a children’s novelist for years before I dared to dip my toe in the picture book pond, it was also inspiring to see an author have such success writing for a wide range of age groups.
2. Chris Barton
Shark vs. Train, with its clever humor and non-traditional storyline, was an instant keeper when I first picked it up. It’s rare to find an illustration-heavy book with a different author and illustrator, but that was one of the things that most impressed me about the book. The words and pictures perfectly blended together and played off of each other, and the story’s tension built at a steady pace even though the narrative didn’t have a traditional beginning, middle, and end. I was inspired to think of ways to make a non-traditional storyline work, even if I wasn’t able to illustrate my own ideas.
3. Ammi-Joan Paquette
Not only is Joan my wonderful agent, but she’s also a prolific author who writes stories for all ages, from picture books to young adult novels. Joan’s work, especially for younger audiences, is always energetic and full of heart. When I set out to write a picture book, I knew that was the kind of story I wanted to write, and it was immensely helpful to have Joan’s feedback on the manuscript as well as her example to help guide me.
4. The Writers’ Loft
This is cheating a little bit because it’s not so much one author as it is a whole group of them. This non-profit in Sherborn, Mass—founded by my awesome friend Heather Kelly—is not only a supportive writing community, but it’s also a great creative resource. When I first had the idea for Power Down, Little Robot, I asked the Lofters for help thinking of things that kids do to delay going to bed. The result was a whole list of possibilities that I could translate into robo-speak. I’m not sure the story would have ever taken shape without the Lofters’ help.
5. Jules Feiffer
If I had to choose a favorite picture book, it might have to be Bark, George by Jules Feiffer. Besides the book’s off-beat humor and unexpected ending, what I find fascinating about it is the fact that some people really don’t get it. The story takes chances and pushes the envelope, and if you read it too literally, it might not work for you. I tend to be drawn to books like this, probably because they’re so wacky, and they also remind me not to worry about people “getting my work.” If you write a whole story in robot-speak, not everyone will love it, but hopefully there will be some like-minded robot enthusiasts out there who will enjoy it. Bark, George and other similarly dark/slightly bizarre picture books out there remind me to be brave!
And we certainly admire your bravery!
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