Author Interview: Bobbie Pyron

I had the privilege of receiving a copy of her newest book, Stay, and review for Teachers Who Read - I then developed some questions for Bobbie to help get in her mind as the author a little more. First I want to give some praise to Stay.

My Review: 
What a great heart print story. I loved the different characters point of view throughout the story, and I especially liked that Baby's point of view was told in verse. The resilience of the characters provides such a brave insight to what homelessness entails and how positive those experiencing have to be. Piper is inspirational as a young girl and one that I know boys and girls alike will look up to.

Piper’s life is turned upside down when her family moves into a shelter in a whole new city. She misses her house, her friends, and her privacy—and she hates being labeled the homeless girl at her new school.

But while Hope House offers her new challenges, it also brings new friendships, like the girls in Firefly Girls Troop 423 and a sweet street dog named Baby. So when Baby’s person goes missing, Piper knows she has to help. But helping means finding the courage to trust herself and her new friends, no matter what anyone says about them—before Baby gets taken away for good.

Author Barbara OConnor reviewed Stay and said: 
"What's not to love about this book? A heart-tugging story that kids will love."

And she's right. This was a story that was told in a way that I loved and devoured. It opened your eyes to experiences that I know a lot of my students don't and won't experience, but Bobbie wrote it in a way that allowed you to develop empathy so easily. I was so excited to share with my students after I read because I truly felt at peace after finishing. 

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself as an author and everyday person?
What are your likes/dislikes? 
A: I am an author who finds it very difficult to sit down and write because
I LOVE to be outside! I’m a passionate hiker and forest wanderer. I’d
rather do just about anything than sit at my computer. Fortunately, I have
many ways of encouraging myself to write. Once I get started, I love it. I
also love dogs and most all animals, popcorn, peanuts, reading, going to
movies, and making things from clay. I don’t like ticks, mosquitoes,
and beets.
Q: When did you know you had a gift for writing?
A: Ha! There are many days I question whether I have that particular
gift or not. But I passionately wanted to be a writer from the time I was
about nine years old. It was my love of reading and books that led to me
wanting to write. I do see how readers connect with my books, though,
and hold them to their heart. That makes me very happy!
Q: Where did the inspiration come for Stay?
A: One cold spring day, my husband and I were running errands
around the city (Salt Lake City, UT). We stopped at an intersection.
There I saw an older woman in a thin flowered dress holding up a
cardboard sign asking for help. Then I noticed a little dog sitting next to
her. The woman looked so desperate and distraught, but the little dog?
He looked calm as toast. The light changed. We drove on. But I couldn’t
stop thinking about that woman and her dog. I kept wondering what their
story was.
Q: How do you think being a librarian impacted your career as an author? 
A: I think being a librarian for so many years really helped me
understand how powerful books can be, especially to kids. They can
help us make sense of the world, or escape the world, or make us feel
less lonely. Talking with kids about why they kept reading the same
book over and over, why they loved it so much, helped me strive for that
kind of connection with readers in my own books. I have no doubt being
a librarian made me a much better author than I would have been
Q; What was the hardest scene to write? 
A: Wow, that’s a good question! I think writing the scene when Jewel
gets taken away from Baby was hard emotionally to write. I knew
deep in my soul how connected those two were and how shattering
it would be for them to be separated. And I felt terrible for how
very confusing I’d just made Baby’s world!
Q: What are you currently reading? 
A: I just finished reading a new middle grade book called
STREET SHADOWS by Claire Gilchrist. It’s about two young
coyotes living near a city. It’s very good! I’m also reading a nonfiction
book called THE SOUL OF AN OCTOPUS, by Sy Montgomery.
Octopus are amazing!
Q: How do you get started on your writing, and what advice would
you give to middle grade students who are writing?
A: When I have an idea for a story, I think about it for a long time
before I start writing. If it stays interesting to me after thinking
about it for a few weeks, then I figure it’s got possibilities. When
I write the first draft, I try not to think too much about what I’m writing,
and I try not to edit as I go along. I just try to get that first draft written
as fast as I can so I have something to work with, so I can see how the
story and the characters go along. The best advice I can give to
anyone--middle grade or otherwise--who are writing is don’t try and
write like anybody else. Only YOU can tell a story your way! And
read, read, read. To be a great writer, you need to be a great reader.
You need to read all kinds of things, not just the kinds of books you
normally like to read. That way, you can see all the different ways there
are to tell a story.
Q: Can you describe your revision/editing process for students?
Also, do you start writing on paper/computer/etc? 
A: As I said, I try not to edit as I’m writing the first draft. But then,
once I start work on the second draft, I pay close attention to the
characters and scenes. Every character and scene has a job to do:
1) move the story forward or 2) increase tension/conflict or
3) help us understand the main character better. If your scenes/characters
aren’t doing this, you have to get rid of them. I also read my first draft
OUT LOUD (usually to my very patient dog). This really helps me see
where I use a particular word too often, hear the awkwardness of a
sentence, or when something doesn’t make sense. I can’t recommend
doing this strongly enough! When I’m  thinking about a story (once I
know I want to pursue it), I make a lot of notes on paper. Then, before
I actually sit down at my computer to write the first draft, I write on paper
all the things I know about the setting, the main character
(what does he/she want more than anything and why does
he/she think they can’t have it?), and conflict.
Conflict, whether internal or external, is crucial to story!
Q: Future projects that you are currently working on?  
A: Always! I have a new middle grade book I’m writing completely in
free verse. I also have a couple of nonfiction ideas.
Q: What else would you like teachers and young readers to know? 
A: Whatever you are passionate about, whether it’s writing, playing
soccer, being an artist or musician, don’t be afraid to take risks and
possibly “fail.” I truly believe we learn more from our so-called failures
than we do from our successes. That’s when we learn perseverance,
belief in ourselves, and to improve. J.K Rowling, the author of the Harry
Potter books, had her first HP book rejected over THIRTY TIMES!!! She
didn’t see those rejections as failures, she saw them as opportunities to
improve her work. Through that, she learned to believe in herself and to
not give up on her dream. I’d say it worked out pretty well for her,
wouldn’t you?

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