Author Spotlight: Jennifer Maschari
Welcome to Teachers Who Read - we are students of Mrs. Thomas's class who have a love of reading and want others to know about our favorite authors!
Let's start things off with introductions, what is your name and where are you from?
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Cassie. I am so exited to answer your students' questions! My name is Jen Maschari, and I am an author and teacher. I live in Columbus, Ohio with my husband and two English bulldogs, Oliver and Hank.
Tell us about your most recent book.
I'd love to! THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU is about a twelve-year-old girl named Emily Murphy who tries to solve her friend and family problems by following the advice from self-help CDs she orders off an infomercial. Emily's parents have recently divorced, and her sister is returning home from a residential facility where she was receiving treatment for her eating disorder. On top of that, her friendship with her very best friend Hazel isn't the same. Emily is trying to figure out how to navigate all of the changes in her life!
When did you decide you wanted to be an author?
Great question. I've always loved to write. When I was younger, I would write funny poems in the style of Shel Silverstein. But I always thought that authors were these famous people who lived in castles, and that it wasn't a job for normal people like me! It wasn't till I got a letter back from a favorite author when I was in 6th grade that I thought maybe I could be one, too! Fast forward to 2010, I decided I wanted to try to write a book. I kept writing and practicing and getting better, and in 2016, my first book, THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE, was published!
What were your middle grade years like? 4th, 5th grade? Did you enjoy reading or writing?
Oh goodness, I LOVED to read when I was that age (I still do!). I would sit in the aisles of the library and collect this huge stack of books to check out. I was an active participant in the summer library program and couldn't wait to write down all of the books I read. I enjoyed writing, too! I wrote all kinds of things - poems, short stories, research reports, speeches.
What was your favorite book as a child? What's your favorite middle grade book currently (aside from your own)?
As a child, I could not get enough of the Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins and all of the subsequent super specials that went along with them. I read a lot of Nancy Drew, too! Reading a series was like getting to visit old friends in every single book. I also enjoyed THE GIVER (I think I've read it 10 times!) and GOODNIGHT MR. TOM. It's very hard to pick a favorite. Books I've loved more recently would be Caela Carter's FOREVER, OR A LONG, LONG TIME and Esther Ehrlich's NEST.
What connections can students make with your book/books? Why should our teacher put your books in our library?
Whether a kid needs a book as an escape or as a hand on their shoulder that says, "Me too! I know just how you feel," I hope that my book can be that for that reader. I hope that readers will be able to make connections to their own lives. Middle school can be a tough time (it was for me)! I think there are some cool connections to other things, too - whether you like dogs or science or are obsessed with a favorite book series - I think there is something for you in my books!
If you could recommend any books to us as 4/5th graders, what would it be?
Oooh! I just finished Danielle Davis' ZINNIA AND THE BEES which was so fun! It's about a girl named Zinnia who is a yarn-bomber (cool, right?) and gets a hive of honeybees stuck in her hair. It was such a quirky and charming read, and I am certain that Zinnia and my main character, Emily, would be fast friends and commiserate about their problems together. I also loved Linda Williams Jackson's incredibly powerful book, WITHOUT A MOON. I am counting down the days till the sequel, A SKY FULL OF STARS, comes out. VILONIA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE by Kristin L. Gray is another one I'd suggest! It's so full of heart and the main character is incredibly memorable (just take a look at that book cover!)
Last question, any advice as young readers and writers?
Read, read, read! Write, write, write! Observe the world. Try new things. Know your work doesn't have to be perfect the first time (or the third time or the fiftieth time!) Know that your writing voice and story is powerful because it is unique to you.
Jennifer Maschari is a classroom teacher who writes books for young readers. She is the author of The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price and Things That Surprise You. She has another stand-alone middle grade novel coming out in 2018 from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins. Jennifer lives in Ohio with her husband and her two stinky (yet noble) English bulldogs, Oliver and Hank.