Monday, December 19, 2011

Scieszka gives us a THRILLING conclusion

Do I really need to introduce the creator of The Stinky Cheese Man or the wizard behind the Guys Read series? Should I even bother to mention he was recently the ambassador of children's literature? IF none of those things mean anything to you, well, maybe you can go read a blog about pickles or chicken farming then. OR you can stay here and enjoy the treat we have in store for you. Thanks to my cohort and friend Kellie Celia over at Walden Pond Press we are bringing the GUYS READ: THRILLER celebration to an end with a bang. Don't be sad, you can still reread the interviews, the book, and practice scaring yourself and others throughout the year. AND you can check out the winning entry from our thrilling contest in the Winter issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree here.

I'll just stop myself now from rambling on for a millenia and give a huge Wayne's World welcome to Mr. Jon Scieszka.

Can you tell me how the GR: Thriller project evolved and why you chose the writers you did?

Jon Scieszka: THRILLER is Volume 2 of a bigger Guys Read project called the GUYS READ LIBRARY OF GREAT READING. (Volume 1 was FUNNY BUSINESS.) And the big idea is to produce an entire 5 or 6 volume library of original short story collections, grouped by genre. For each volume we ask a combination of great writers already proven in that genre, an up and coming writer or two, and the fun curve ball of someone you might not expect in the genre. The purpose of the library is, just like the purpose of the GUYS READ initiative, to motivate boys to be readers by giving them stories that inspire them to want to read. I wanted to give every teacher, librarian and parent a perfect answer to that question, "What can I do to get my guy interested in reading?" And the answer is, "Check out this GUYS READ LIBRARY set. Ten funny short stories, ten thriller stories, ten sports stories... You will be able to find something to like in here."

You were an editor on the book. Can you talk to us about wearing the "editor pants" and how was it collaborating with some of the biggest names in children's lit? 

JS: Wearing the editor pants is weird. They don't fit me very well. I'm much more comfortable in the writer pants. But I am fortunate to be working with an incredibly smart and passionate and razor-sharp editor at Harper/Walden Pond Press named Jordan Brown. It has been a wonderful eye-opener for me to watch and learn from Jordan how to find the best part of a story and how to help the writer bring it out. Working with the amazing writers who have contributed has confirmed my belief that the children's book world has a mind-boggling range of all different kinds of great writers. Working as an editor has also given me a whole new respect for that tough job. And helped me realize that my deadline-dodging excuses are woefully obvious.

Why do you think young readers are attracted to dark stories? Was this something you liked or read growing up? 

JS: Thrillers and mysteries are the ultimate compelling narratives. There is a problem to solve. You have to keep reading to solve the mystery. And if there is something scary, creepy, or dangerous... all the better. Growing up, I liked the classic old spooky campfire tales, everything by Edgar Allan Poe, and the wonderfully creepy/disgusting Tales From the Crypt comics.

GR: Thriller screams out to boy readers. How has the reception to the book been so far? Are girl readers coming to the book?

JS: Readers are just loving both the Funny Business volume and the Thriller volume. I've heard from kids, teachers, parents, booksellers . . . and everyone has found something they really like. And I think that is because our mission has been to reach our great boy readers as well as our more reluctant readers. Girls have likewise enjoyed both the humor and the mystery. We never exclude girls. And that's great. But we are focused on our goal to connect with guy readers. I can't wait to get even more of the Volumes out there. Because then the set will really start looking like a proper library. We are working on GUYS READ: SPORTS right now. And it is a beauty.

Can't wait! I'm looking forward to Guys Read: Facemelters (okay, that's not really one of the volumes. However, if Mr. Scieszka likes that we can talk later. Wink wink - something in my eye.) 

Outside of GR:Thriller, what is the best scary/thrilling book for young readers? Why? 

JS: One of my favorites from when I was teaching is still one of my favorites to recommend today -- the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. It's a great collection of spooky, gross, sometimes funny, sometimes shocking tales. The original editions with gorgeously weird illustrations by Stephen Gammel are the best.

I LOVE Scary Stories. These are perfect reading for anytime of the year, not just Halloween kids. As the year comes to an end, I can't think of a better interview to wrap it up with. Many many thank yous to all the GR:T authors who visited the Asylum and of course many ginormous thank yous to Kellie at Walden. They have truly become one of my favorite publishers out there because of the quality stories they constantly put out. It has been an extremely pleasure to work with her this year and I look forward to many more ahead.

AND of course, my Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" thank you to Mr. Jon Scieszka for taking time out of his crazy schedule to hang out here.

Happy Holidays everyone! Happy New Year! Keep reading, writing and most of all keep it THRILLING!!