Skinny Dip with Sarah Aronson

Sarah AronsonSarah Aron­son’s most recent books, The Worst Fairy God­moth­er Ever (The Wish List #1, Beach Lane Books) and Keep Calm and Sparkle On! (The Wish List #2) are at once light­heart­ed and seri­ous — sto­ries that are fun to read and encour­age work­ing for caus­es that mat­ter to the world. Sarah is wide­ly known in the chil­dren’s book writ­ing com­mu­ni­ty as an enthu­si­as­tic and effec­tive writ­ing instruc­tor. Thanks, Sarah, for tak­ing a Skin­ny Dip with us in December!

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

This is an easy one! My favorite and most influential teacher during those first years of school was my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Dan Sigley.  

It was a year that began with mixed emo­tions. At that time, I didn’t real­ly feel pas­sion­ate about books. Oh, I liked books, but the­ater was my favorite sto­ry medi­um. I had also just returned from 8 months in York, Eng­land. I went to school there and was intro­duced to new set­tings (that you could vis­it) as well as writ­ers like Charles Dick­ens. I read Enid Bly­ton. More impor­tant, I watched my friends take the 11 plus exam, effec­tive­ly track­ing and divid­ing them for dif­fer­ent kinds of futures.

The PearlMr. Sigley awak­ened my cre­ative spir­it in many ways. He got me hooked on books in three dis­tinct ways. First, our class read and per­formed Romeo and Juli­et—unabridged! He showed me that even if I didn’t under­stand the indi­vid­ual words, I could infer mean­ing in a text! Sec­ond, he tire­less­ly hand­ed me books — he was deter­mined to make me a read­er. The book that did it was John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. That end­ing blew me away! It made me think! This was what I want­ed from books! A chance to think about injus­tice and rela­tion­ships and fam­i­ly … and how I could make it bet­ter. Last, he taught us how to make books — from writ­ing to illus­trat­ing to bind­ing. This first home-made book, The Adven­tures of Prince Charm­ing, con­nect­ed the dots. Books were like the­ater. Books were unique for each read­er. I loved get­ting into the heads of my char­ac­ters. I loved hold­ing a book, too.

About the time Head Case was released, Mr. Sigley moved to the house next to my par­ents, so I got to see him many times and thank him for every­thing he taught me. He was a gen­tle, cre­ative man. He was the first per­son who held me account­able and awak­ened my imagination.

All-time favorite book?

The word, favorite, is my least favorite word ever! Here are the books I keep on my desk—they are the books I love. They are the books I reach for when I’m stuck. These are the books that have taught me how to write.

  • The Story of Ferdinand, The Rag and Bone Shop, Sandy's Circus, What Jamie SawOliv­er Twist (Charles Dickens)
  • The Rag and Bone Shop (Robert Cormier)
  • Mon­ster (Wal­ter Dean Myers)
  • Clemen­tine (Sara Pennypacker)
  • Bun­nic­u­la (James Howe, Deb­o­rah Howe)
  • What Jamie Saw (Car­olyn Coman)
  • The Car­rot Seed (Ruth Krauss, Crock­ett Johnson)
  • The Sto­ry of Fer­di­nand (Munro Leaf, Robert Lawson)
  • Har­ri­et the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh)
  • Blub­ber (Judy Blume)
  • Offi­cer Buck­le and Glo­ria (Peg­gy Rathmann)
  • Charles and Emma (Deb­o­rah Heiligman)
  • Sandy’s Cir­cus (Tanya Lee Stone, Boris Kulikov)

What’s your favorite part of starting a new project?

When I am in pre-writing mode, nothing counts! (I am one of those weird writers that deletes her first discovery draft!!!) I love writing without expectations! It doesn’t feel like work. It is all disposable!

ShoesBarefoot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

You have to ask? I write books about fairy godmothers! I like shoes. Always shoes. I love shoes and boots and would even wear glass slippers if I didn’t think I’d trip and break them.

When are you your most creative?

First thing in the morning. Best advice I can offer: hide your phone. Be a word producer—not just a consumer. Get out of bed and create. Get someone to make you a coffee. Journal every morning. Or doodle. Get the pen to the paper. Find a way to transition from the real world to your imaginative state. The world and social media can wait!

Favorite flavor of ice cream?

In the winter: chocolate

In the sum­mer: peach

But the gela­to place around the cor­ner makes Greek Yoghurt gela­to. It’s sweet and sour and tangy! Yum.

(File under: this author has prob­lems with favorites.)

Book on your bedside table right now?

I’m crying over Matylda, Bright and Tender, by Holly McGhee, recommended by Olivia Van Ledtje, also known as @thelivbits

Sarah Aronson's elephantWhat’s your hidden talent?

I can turn anything into a writing lesson.

Also: I can draw an ele­phant from behind.

Why do you feel hopeful for humankind?

Young people give me hope. They value kindness. And the environment. They stick up for one another. They exhibit a strong sense of goodness and a willingness to speak out against injustices.

That is what I have seen and learned from read­ers — to kids and teens — even the shy ones who wait until they can email me to ask a ques­tion. Our young peo­ple are grow­ing up in a time where there are no bar­ri­ers to infor­ma­tion. Yes, there is a lot of mis­lead­ing stuff, but the good stuff is at our fin­ger­tips, too. I could com­plain a lot about phones and the inter­net, but tech­nol­o­gy is also equal­iz­ing. We live in a time when we can inter­act with just about any­one. There are so many ways to learn.

In young peo­ple, I see moti­vat­ed kids like Nora (from The Wish List). They want to make the world bet­ter. They believe in good­ness. They are not afraid to speak out. They sup­port each oth­er. That gives me hope.

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Cathy Lentes
4 years ago

Pure Sarah! Love this lady. And we find joy in the same ice cream flavors.

amygcoombs
4 years ago

Sarah’s always so full of enthu­si­asm and life. So are her books.

David LaRochelle
4 years ago

What an incred­i­ble sixth grade teacher! And your enthu­si­asm shines through this inter­view, Sarah!