(book trailer for Savvy by Ingrid Law)
I watched the live webcast of the 2009 ALA Youth Media Awards and I wasn't surprised when I heard Ingrid Law's Savvy (Dial Books for Young Readers/Walden Media 2008) announced as a Newbery Honor Book. Savvy is written in very imaginative language and is an authentic coming-of-age story, affirming family tale, super fun road trip story, AND exciting middle grade fantasy all in one book. (Be sure to watch the book trailer at the beginning of this post to know more about the story.) I had been expecting it to win a Newbery Honor, and now I have the amazing privilege of presenting an interview with Ingrid Law. :o)
Thank you so much Ingrid for taking the time to answer my questions!
1. What motivates you to write for young readers?
Young readers still possess enormous reserves of wonder. The age group I write for has one foot on the path toward growing up and the other foot still firmly planted on the playground. This makes them able to see both the real world and countless imaginary worlds vividly. It is this vision that gives young readers the ability to be some of the best and brightest story lovers.
2. Do you have a particular writing process or any writing rituals?
I have a funny pair of fingerless gloves with built-in wrist support that I cannot seem to write without these days. At first, I bought them for ergonomic reasons. But now, when I put them on, I feel like I’m ‘suiting up’ to write. They are comforting and empowering the way I imagine a sports jersey might be. I will also pick out and listen to the same piece of music on a loop when I begin a new story and am actively writing and excited about the work. This music quickly gains the power to bring my mind into a creative place by association. So that later, should I ever get blocked or find it difficult to feel creative, I can use that piece of music as a tool to help me move forward. It’s very Pavlovian, but it works—at least some of the time.
3. Does your thirteen-year-old daughter influence your writing in any way?
Of course! She was instrumental to some very important aspects of the process that went into writing Savvy. She and I took the trip that the kids follow in the book as I was writing it. She made observations along the way, or had experiences or reactions to the things we did and saw that directly influenced the book. She went swimming in the pool at every motel where we stayed. Once, she even had a temporary tattoo that didn’t exactly stay on too long in the water…
4. Where were you and what were you doing when you found out that Savvy was going to be published? What were your first thoughts and feelings after hearing the good news?
I was working as a government records clerk and I got the call at work. I had been sitting on the very edge of my chair and slipped right off it to sit on the floor, stunned. I hadn’t dreamed that this book would find such phenomenal support. I was, and still am, very grateful.
5. Savvy reads like a modern American tall tale. Is there a particular tall tale that inspired or influenced Savvy? What is your favorite tall tale?
I had been reading a lot of tall tales at the time I started writing Savvy. I can’t even remember why now. But my favorite is probably the story about Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett. I’ve always liked stories about strong and spunky girls and women, and Sally Ann could cut a man down to size with nothing but a toothpick.
6. What are some of your favorite experiences from book signings, school visits, interviews, and other promotional activities for Savvy?
I love asking kids to share with me what their own savvy would be. First I ask them to tell me what their dream savvy would be. Then I ask them to tell me what their everyday savvy is: what they are good at—or working to be good at—right now. Some of the responses are funny, others can be quite poignant. I learn a lot about people with those two questions.
7. Savvy is available in different countries like the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and the Philippines. It will soon be available in Italy, Finland, and Denmark. How do you feel about Savvy being read all over the world? Was having international readers one of your dreams when you started writing?
I never expected to have international readers. It wasn’t even on my radar. But I’m glad that the book continues to find readers both here in the U.S. and out in the wider world as well. I received an email from a reader in Switzerland not long ago. She had read the advanced copy of the German version of Savvy and loved it. It was rewarding to hear that the translation was loved as well. With so many unusual words and such a specific pattern to the voice, I wasn’t sure those things could translate. But the translators I’ve worked with so far have been very dedicated and enthusiastic. I’m thankful for their hard work.
8. Where were you and what were you doing when you found out that Savvy is a Newbery Honor Book? What were your first thoughts and feelings after learning about your award?
It was very early in the morning, not quite 7am, so I was at home. After getting the call, I was excited, amazed, and incredibly relieved that I could stop wondering what might happen… after months of buzz and buildup, controversy about the award, mock awards, and predictions galore, it was getting difficult to stay focused and keep my mind on the task of writing my next book. Finding out about receiving the honor cleared all that away. It was a very exciting day for me and for everyone who has worked so hard to get the book out into the world.
9. What is your strongest or favorite memory from when you were thirteen?
I had a teacher who was very important to me when I was thirteen and attending a small private school. This teacher, Mr. D, was a man who was looking for meaning in the world and in life, and who taught us, his class of seventh and eighth graders, to look into the deeper meanings of things as well: choices, conflicts, humanity, illusion, being. Mr. D was supposed to teach us algebra and be our homeroom teacher, but he asked us, at twelve and thirteen years old, to think and reflect deeply about other things. And he respected us enough to believe we could. He valued what we had to say. I didn’t learn a whole lot of algebra that year, but what I did learn helped shape the person who I am today.
10. What are your favorite children's and young adult books? What children's and young adult books are you reading now?
When I was growing up, I was a big fan of the books of Diana Wynne Jones. I also loved Anne of Green Gables and The Lord of the Rings. One of my recent favorites is A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban. I just finished Shakespeare’s Secret, by Elise Broach, which I enjoyed very much. It has a mystery and a treasure and secrets. Now I’ve started reading Red Glass, by Laura Resau, who also lives here in Colorado and is an absolutely fabulous, truly elegant writer and, having had the pleasure of meeting her, a lovely person as well.
11. What book would you like your work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, impact, popularity, sales, or awards)?
Sometimes I’ll read a book and be so knocked out by the beauty of the writing, the delicacy of its connections, or the flow of its narrative, and I’ll think… “Now, if only I could write like that!” Popularity and sales are wonderful to have if you can get them, but to be the kind of writer whose words can take someone’s breath away… that would be something really amazing. Whether I match or surpass anyone else is not important to me. I just want to find my own path and see where it takes me.
12. What are you working on now? Can you tell us about the sequel to Savvy?
I’m working on a follow up to Savvy—more of a companion really, as it switches main character and voice, and takes place nine years later. But, don’t worry! There will be some familiar faces along the way.
13. If you were to visit the Philippines, would you a) visit white sand beaches and underground caves, go sailing, go snorkeling and scuba diving, etc.; or b) check out the natural wonders above ground, like the Taal Volcano, the Banaue Rice Terraces, and the Chocolate Hills. Why? :o)
White sand beaches and natural wonders sound magnificent! I don’t scuba dive, so I would, unfortunately, have to pass on that. But the rest sounds irresistible. My aunt lived in the Philippines when I was a little girl and she once sent me a purse made from a coconut shell. Were I to visit, I would probably have to see if I could find another one of those, too. I could carry it with me to the top of the volcano and down into the depths of the underground caves, filled, I imagine, with as much wonder as I had when I was five years old.