Episode 43! Conversation with Linda Sue Park

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Welcome to episode 43 of our kidlitwomen* podcast! Usually, this podcast features an essay about an issue in the children's literature community (Monday) and a discussion about the essay (Wednesday). 

In this episode, author Linda Sue Park and Grace Lin discuss Linda’s essay, “The Choices We Make,”  (and more) which can be heard in episode 42.

Read all the kidlitwomen* essays shared in March

Subscribe to the kidlitwomen* podcast on ITunes

 

On today's podcast you will hear:

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Linda Sue Park is the author of more than two dozen books for young readers, including picture books, middle-grade and young-adult novels, short stories, and poetry. Among her titles are the 2002 Newbery Medal winner A Single Shard, and the New York Times-bestseller A Long Walk to Water.

Linda Sue is honored to serve on the advisory boards of We Need Diverse Books, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Rabbit hOle national children’s literature museum project. She has also served as a panelist for several literary awards, including the National Book Award, the Kirkus Prize, the PEN Naylor fellowship, and the SCBWI Golden Kite Awards.

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Grace Lin, a NY Times bestselling author/ illustrator, won the Newbery Honor for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and the Theodor Geisel Honor for Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same. Her most recent novel When the Sea Turned to Silver was a National Book Award Finalist. Grace is an occasional commentator for New England Public Radio and video essayist for PBS NewsHour (here & here), as well as the speaker of the popular TEDx talk, The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf.  Grace's new picture book,  A Big Mooncake for Little Star is now available.

Linda and Grace talk about the Gene Yang’s Reading Without Wall’s platform. Read more about that HERE.

 

TRANSCRIPT

 GRACE:                                     Hello, I'm Grace Lin and I'm here talking with Linda Sue Park about her essay, The Choices We Make. Hi Linda.

LINDA:                                        Hi Grace.

GRACE                                       So thanks so much for coming on the podcast with me. I think your essay was pretty important because it talks about something that often gets maybe overlooked in our kid lit women population, which is intersectionality. It's a really, really kind of hard thing to talk about and a hard thing to remember, honestly. I think even when we do remember or it does come to the forefront, it's hard to figure out how to make it fit with all the things that we're trying to do. Yet it's such ... It's actually probably more important than what what we do. Right?

LINDA:                                Well, thank you, Grace. As you pointed out from the very start, these things are so difficult and complicated. I'm, as Winnie the Pooh would say, of very little brain. And so therefore, I have to break things down quite a bit before I can kind of deal with them and deal with them one tiny piece at a time. So I suppose that in my experience, because children's literature is a heavily female field, it seems to me that oftentimes when we talk about gender injustice, the people in our field get it. Okay?

LINDA:                                        They understand that there have always been injustices against women and that any field that is heavily women. There's all these studies like if you look at university professors who have status and are well paid, they're mostly men and yet the same teaching profession, you go down to preschool where it's mostly women and the profession is not valued and they're paid terribly. So women get this, they get gender inequity.

LINDA:                                        What I have found is that our field, not only being mostly women, but being mostly white women, they have a lot more difficulty getting racial injustice. And so most of my efforts, in terms of time and energy, it's all the same source, right? It's all white male supremacy. That's what everything stems from, right? White, able bodied, male supremacy, white, able bodied, male, neuro typical, supremacy.

LINDA:                                        And that's also complicated that I have to pick out something where I'm going to dedicate my time and energy. And for the time being, it may change, and it is very intersectional. It overlaps in all kinds of ways, but for the time being, most of my efforts are going toward race.

GRACE:                                   Which I think is really, really important. Obviously I think it's really, really important but what I find so hard is how to kind of marry the two and how not to get distracted like when we start on one topic and then it kind of branches off into the other. And I also feel like I feel that the issues of race and issues of a white women co-opting black women's stories a very, very important issue, but how can we still ... How can we keep focus yet still make sure that one claim or one issue is not dismissed?

LINDA:                                    Yeah. I think it's a tough thing. As I said, to keep in mind that we're all fighting the same villain, kind of. We're all fighting for the same end in one way. And then to just be respectful of what other people have chosen to prioritize. But again, obviously even what I said just there is not, like I'm not completely being honest there because I do feel like, yeah, I get it that these gender issues are so, so vital.

LINDA:                                       And yet, when I talk to a lot of women in the field, I feel like they understand that, they're down with that, they're working on that, and what they're not working on his race. And so that's why I've chosen to make that my particular little Baileywick and I'm still learning. So much to learn, so much to learn, and making mistakes all the time. And just hopefully failing up, hopefully making better mistakes each time.

GRACE:                                      Yeah. I guess that's the biggest thing that I've always run into is that I feel like I'm constantly failing. But the idea, maybe the whole idea, is just that you realize that you're failing and you just keep trying to fail up. I like that word.

LINDA:                                        Right. In my career, I'll be ... How old? I'm 58. How old am I? I'm 58 and I broke into this field more than 20 years ago. And in that span of time, a generation, I have seen the conversation change in what to me are very hopeful ways, painful, difficult, but hopeful. This kind of, obviously podcasts didn't exist by then, but this kind of conversation was not happening nearly as often. It's a very difficult transition to have to make, and we're in the middle of it, and we can't even see the forest for the trees, that kind of thing. And yet, it gives me great hope that these kinds of conversations are happening, which I did not see at the beginning of my career.

GRACE:                                     That's true. I guess what I worry about, I don't know if worry is the right word, but I guess what concerns me when I talk to women about race is that I see them disengage almost immediately. And I worry that that is how we lose, I guess, the war, right? Because if people disengage, then we've already lost. I guess for me, I feel like, what can we do to make sure that people still engage and we can talk about these things? I guess why I'm kind of coming at it a different way with this kid lit women project with the hope that, if we can talk about these gender issues, that we can also take that next step down and also look at diversity issues too.

GRACE:                                     And I'm not sure. Like I said, I'm not sure if that's the right way, but that's the feeling that I have because I do think that it all comes from the same source. And I'm hoping that our listeners can see that and hopefully kind of make that one step down. We hear, we understand the problems with the gender issues, and then take that one step to see that we have these problems with race as well. And then you know, another step, another step, and another step, and another step. Because we have a lot. We have more issues than even race too.

LINDA:                                       Of course, yeah. If you want to feel really depressed about it, it's kind of never ending. But I think that when you ask how to keep people engaged, how to keep them from zoning out or tuning out of what you have to say, I find that there's often defensiveness. The last step there is denial. This isn't even a problem. What's the matter? You're only making it a problem, that sort of thing. I have found that in every aspect, whether it's craft or any aspect of my work as a writer of books for young people, is to try to offer people practical solutions, not theoretical, not sort of hazy pie in the sky stuff, but actually stuff they can do.

LINDA:                                        So with this particular issue of, I understand that a lot of dominant culture writers feel stuck. On the one hand, they're hearing, "Your books are not diverse enough. Your books are set with all white characters, and you're not giving people of color and other diversities windows. Your work isn't doing that." And then on the flip side they're saying, kind of own voices stuff, "No, you can't write about that character. That's not your world, that's not your expertise, that's not your community. What are you doing writing about that?"

LINDA:                                        So they're stuck between that and they're like, "Well, what do I do?" So as of now, and it's constantly shifting and changing, but I've been talking about three possible solutions, actual practical stuff that people writing for books for young people can do. The first is what you were alluding to earlier, is that there is all kinds of diversity, and it's not just race or gender. So pick a diversity. If you're looking to write a book about a diverse character, pick a diversity that's intimate to you that you're passionate about.

LINDA:                                        So maybe you live and grew up in a community with not much racial diversity. Well, I bet you know a kid with some kind of physical disability. You may know a kid who's neurodiverse. You may know a kid with a really weird hobby that gets left out or whatever. There's all sorts of possible ways that can be your path into diversity, and it doesn't have to be limited to race. So that's the first thing. Pick a different diversity, one that you're intimate with and that you feel passionate about.

LINDA:                                        Okay. The second solution, collaborate. Okay? You're not an expert in whatever diversity you've chosen? You're not intimately familiar with it? Find someone who is and write the story or the book with them. My book, A Long Walk To Water, is not double bylined, which I think is actually unfortunate, because my preference would have been for it to be called A Long Walk To Water by Salva Dut with Linda Sue Park because it's entirely based on interviews with Salva and my just shaping the narrative and correcting the grammar. Right? Inventing some dialogue, things like that, but it's entirely Salva's story and there are reasons which I won't go into here that he didn't want his name on the book.

LINDA:                                        But I think people sense that. I people think people sense that, I'll use the word genuineness, in the story because it was a true collaboration. I was not going to presume that I could write the story of a Sudanese lost boy refugee. That's just not something that I was going to pretend that I could empathize with in that sense. But being the stenographer for Salva's story, I could do that, and I knew how to shape a story, that sort of thing. So collaboration, and that requires a lot of thinking outside the box. How can I collaborate with other people? Right?

LINDA:                                        So that's number two, and number three is, if you have no or very little experience with that diversity that you want to write about, and for some reason you feel that you do have to write this story, put it away. And I mean probably for years, while you get the real life experience with that diversity. Okay? That is not an easy thing to do, right? But that is one possible solution.

LINDA:                                        Art, literature, any kind of art is a long game. You're thinking about your book hopefully being in print for generations. Right? And if that's what your hope is, then it may be that some stories take just that long to create. So those are the three solutions that I have right now. I hope to come up with more. None of them is easy, but all of them are actual practical things that you can do if you are a dominant culture writer or any culture writer wanting to right outside your own experience.

GRACE:                                       What I thought was really interesting about, especially number three, what you were saying like put the story away, and how that's so difficult for some authors to do. One of the things that I often say to writers who want to right outside the race, I'm like, why do you want to do this? And if you are doing this because you think that you are helping, like they want to be a part of the solution of-

GRACE:                                      Or helping, like they want to be a part of the solution of reading diverse books. I have to say, really, the thing is that by helping ... Helping might be putting that book away. It's what ... We say we want diverse books. We put the slogans on, we ut the pins on, but it's like what do we really morally feel deep inside. Right? And, why are we writing this and why do we really want to do this? And, it's like taking your moral ideals and really valuing them over your own desire to be published, you know? That is a huge sacrifice that takes bravery, that takes real dedication to your moral values and that would help the cause more in some ways.

GRACE:                                       So, it's interesting. It's like all these things we talked about, not just in we need diverse books, but all these political things or things like, it's what can we sacrifice? And, that's what the hard thing is, what do you sacrifice? Not what can you do, what can you sacrifice, and sacrificing-

LINDA:                                        That's really interesting. I love that.

GRACE:                                       Like, sacrificing your story is something that would really prove how much this means to you.

LINDA:                                        know, I'm really interested in that and I'm going to think about that sacrifice idea, because another way that I've put it is, this equation of good intentions, plus enthusiasm, plus research does not equal genuineness. And, this is what I see so much of, I see well intentioned, enthusiastic, hardworking people working on this story and not understanding that those three things are not going to get them to the level of genuineness that they need to write a story that is not going to hurt children of a particular diversity. That's got to be the goal, right?

LINDA:                                        I mean, Renee Watson says, "Do no harm," right? I just spoke recently to a group to say, "If you yourself have never been hurt by a book, please, please believe me that it happens, and it happens all the time." I gave them an example of how books have hurt me as an Asian American. And I say, "Nobody out there, none of us wants to be that guy, right? You don't want to be that guy who writes the book, that hurts the kid. And it may take, it may be a sacrifice for you to achieve that. But, good intentions, plus enthusiasm, plus research does not guarantee you a genuine story."

GRACE:                                       So, let's talk about that good intentions thing. I mean, that's one of the key points in your essay that it was like these good intentions, these good intentions of these women are trying to change the landscape of male dominated literature. And, that's basically [inaudible 00:18:21] women in to like, we have all these good intentions and that's where we run into problems. It's like we have these good intentions, but what can we do to make sure that our good intentions don't cause harm?

LINDA:                                        Yeah, it's really. Of course, you have to have good intentions. That's where it starts, right? But, it's not enough. It's not enough by itself. And, sometimes that good intentions plus enthusiasm creates a set of blinkers or blinders, right?

GRACE:                                       Yeah.

LINDA:                                        And that's where, that's where you get the problem. I think of what happened in this, as I said to me as a college student with this new women's studies courses. There was so much passion and enthusiasm there, and so ... And, another huge part of that is the seats at the table or however you want to put it. If there had been that, if that committee had included women of color, maybe that wouldn't have happened. I certainly hope it wouldn't have happened. Right? That is a necessity actually. Okay? So, if we, and I include myself in this, if we get those blinders on and don't know that we have them on, it sometimes takes listening to other people and other people in the room at the table, right? To say, "Hey, let me help you with those blinders. I'll just take them off for you." And so, I think that there's more awareness now that this is a necessity.

GRACE:                    Awareness for girl books vs boy books, too.

LINDA:                     I mean, I'm sure you and Shannon covered those. We're not just talking what the so called pejorative girly books, okay? I mean, we're talking things like, depending on the ages of your boys, were talking about Hunger Games, right? We're talking about Princess in Black. We're talking about, Where the Mountains Meet the Moon. We, are talking about books that boys will not just tolerate. They will love them, they will love them.

LINDA:                                        It's just breaking down that ridiculous and entrenched attitude that girls will read books about boys, but boys won't read books about girls. And, that is such a contributor to male toxicity that, it's incumbent on each one of us who work with young people to break that down in the same way that we're working to try to break those ideas about race down.

GRACE:                                      Yeah, and I think it's such an intrinsic thing, because so often we say things to avoid, I think you might like this book even though it's a girl. And, I've said that before and I'm just like, "Oh, I can't believe I did that." But, then the idea of taking that one step further after we've got this, and this is see, this is where I run into problems myself, because like okay, after we hit that, like now it's Asian girl, now it's a black girl, you know? And, I don't know ... And, to me that's my problem area, because I feel like okay, we'll do that step and then we'll do that step.

GRACE:                                       But really it should be all at once. It should be ... It shouldn't be like, okay, focus your boys on reading girl characters, and then now focus your boys and reading girl characters and ... It should be done at the same time.

LINDA:                                        Well, here's one way to think about it that I've really been encouraging, especially teachers, librarians, and parents. The people who book talk books, who tried to entice young readers into reading, right? So, whenever anyone of any age, color, diversity, whatever, whenever any reader picks up a book, there is one question that we all have, every single one of us have every single book and that question is, what's in this for me? What's in this book for me? Right? Whether you're studying for a test, will this help me pass the test or reading for pleasure? Will this book entertain me? What's in it for me? Right? All right. So, I give two examples of teachers or librarians book talking a single Shard. Here's Librarian A, "I have this wonderful book I can't wait to share with you. It is a thousand years ago on the other side of the world. The people there lived in a completely different way. It is fascinating. I just can't wait for you to read this book." Right? Okay. The enthusiasm is unmistakable there. This librarian loves this book, right? That's librarian A.

LINDA:                                       Now here's librarian B, "Did you ever want something really, really bad? Did you ever want something so bad that you thought you would do almost anything to get it? This is a book about a boy who wants something really bad in his life. You don't have to read it to find out what he does to get it and whether or not he gets it in the end." All right, so I call that second example centering. Okay? It's centering the book on the child's experience, right? What's in this for me? A boy who was one of the things really badly, just like you have.

LINDA:                                        The other example, librarian A is very enthusiastic, but it's othering. It's emphasizing the exoticness, the difference. How this book is not like your life at, all right. Now, librarians will say to me, but wait, I was the kind of kid who loved that other, that exotic experience, I wanted to read about stuff that wasn't me. That's fine and completely legit. That's the second sentence, or the second pit ...

LINDA:                                       ... Fine and completely legit. That's a second sentence or the second pitch, right? The first question always is, what's in this for me? This boy that is like you. Right? And then you can go on to identify your individual students who would say, "You'll really like this book because you like history." You know? Okay, but what's in this for me? To pick the kind of most universal emotional thing and sent her the book. Right? So you can convert any of your book talks, parents too. Well, let's read this book. This book is about a character who's really into martial arts.

GRACE:                                       Yeah.

LINDA:                                        It needs to be a girl, but you don't emphasize that. You emphasize the, what's in this for me?

GRACE:                                       Yeah. I remember when We Need Diverse Books came out, I talked about that a bit because I remember when [inaudible 00:30:51] books there's like, and this is the girl in China by Chinese folk tales. They would bring up China like seven times and the kid is not interested in China. All of a sudden, it's like woop.

LINDA:                                        There's nothing in there for me.

GRACE:                                       Yeah, there's nothing in it for me. But what do you say to people who say, "But by doing that, you are trying to hide the diversity of the book." In some ways ... So I completely agree with you.

LINDA:                                        Right. No, no.

GRACE:                                       I remember when I was telling people this. I said, "I think the idea is you emphasize different areas of the book." Instead of, this is a girl in China, this is a girl in China on a Chinese dragon. And instead, you say it's an adventure story, she rides a dragon.

LINDA:                                        Right, right.

GRACE:                                       What do you say when people say, "Well, aren't you kind of hiding the ethnicity? Isn't that just kind of, in a way, making it seem like you're ashamed of it? Which is a very interesting question.

LINDA:                                        Right. So the two examples I gave are very much a matter of first impression. Okay, the hook. How are you going to get the greatest number of kids in the room? Right? There's no one book for all 30 kids in a classroom. Right? I firmly believe that and I think part of the problem with our educational system is we keep trying to find one. There isn't one. Okay? Just accept that. Right? All right, so that's the initial pitch. What I just said took 12 seconds and you're going to go on to talk more.

LINDA:                                        But hopefully, you've got 27 of the faces in the room aimed at you now. Okay? Yeah, I've wanted something really bad in my life too. I wonder what that ... It's just the initial hook. So then you're gonna go on sentence number two or eight seconds later, you're going to go on to say, "This is also a great book if you love historical fiction, if you love learning about other cultures." You're still going to get that in there. I'm just talking about the initial first impression, which I don't think of as hiding or covering anything at all. I think of it as finding the universal in the stories.

GRACE:                                       See, and I guess the reason why I'm thinking about that is because I'm extrapolating into how we adults do things. And I'm thinking about even because talking ... Because I'm so self centered, I'm thinking about KIDLIT Women thing and how basically we're using it kind of as a hook to women or not just women, but the community, like we need to talk about these gender issues, and are we hiding the intersectionality when we do that? Is it, by talking about these gender issues first, and then bringing in the intersectionality, is that kind of a ... Is that justified? Is that a bait and switch? Is that fair? Or is that the way we should do things? Does that make sense?

LINDA:                                        Yeah, it does, but I think that there again, there's no ... Okay. I think one of the things that many women, because we are raised to be nurturers and carers and so forth, is that the next logical step is that we want everything to be all right and we want to fix things, right? So that I think of KIDLIT Women as one wonderful and remarkable way into the conversation, and not the only one, right?

LINDA:                                        That there needs to be many efforts like this on a large scale and on an individual personal scale so that, I hope, there are people out there who begin to think about intersectionality because of KIDLIT Women. Right? And I think that that is only one of many efforts. So you don't have to feel like KIDLIT Women has to fix everything or has to be the one, that it's just one way into things.

LINDA:                                        And this is making me think of when I first started my career, I didn't want any bio info on the flap because I wanted it to be about the book. I didn't want people to ... I was very much against this cult of personality, this cult of rock star-ism. And I was like, no, it's not about me. It's about the book. So if you look at my SeeSaw Girl, my very first book, there's bio info in there because there was nothing else to put on the flap, but if you look at The Kite Fighters and A Single Shard, you get an early edition of books two and three, there is no bio info at all. It's just review quotes of the previous books, which I now had, right?

LINDA:                                        And Valerie Lewis at Hicklebee's store, a wonderful bookstore in San Jose, she said, "Linda Sue, you're wrong." I told her about this and she said, "There are some kids who are going to find their way into that book because they look at your picture and they see you with a dog, or they look at your picture and find out that you like baseball in the flap. Okay? And you can't tell them that's not a legitimate way into a book. It's not your way. You are about the book, but it's not your ... There are other ways into a book, and by not letting them have that moment of contact with you, you are denying many people, many young readers, a way into the book."

LINDA:                                        I'm still thinking about that because I do not like this cult of personality that our society has developed. And yet, I also have a lot of time for Valerie saying, "People have different ways into a book than yours and you need to respect that. People have different ways into a movement, of this fight for justice." So if KIDLIT Women is, as you're saying, let's start with the gender and then move on to the next issue, if that's their way into it, and there will be people like that, then that's terrific.

LINDA:                                        And from my point, I'm sort of starting at the other end of the table, if you will, or with my main priority being to look at issues of race, and that will hopefully be a way of getting other people into it. So I think that all the efforts are necessary and that the idea is just to get, help as many people find a way into the discussion as possible

GRACE:                                      So, we are talking about looking at your own stuff, and you talked about looking at your own stuff as an author, and we talked about doing the three things that you suggested. What are some other ways you think we can look at our own stuff?

LINDA:                                        Well, I think the bookshelf's thing is my number one thing. I mean, the writing thing is so personal and everybody's going to approach it differently. But, most people listening to this right now I hope are readers, and either I'm reliable, and frequent bookstore patrons or library patrons. I myself am a library girl, right? I do buy books of course, but I do most of my reading from the library.

LINDA:                                        So, that experiment that I talked about where I said, "I'm only going to read mostly women of color this year." It wasn't something I was uncomfortable with because I often do, but just making that conscious decision. So, I think we can all read books outside of our usual choices, and to read, and buy, and recommend, and talk about, and request from the library books by diverse authors. I often think to myself, like that thing I did where I only read women of color for a year, what if I had been able to get 10,000 people to do that with me? Oh my God, it would have actually have made a significant difference maybe. To the authors themselves, to the whole social landscape, to the reading world, right?

LINDA:                                        I loved Gene Yang when he was ambassador for young people's literature from the Library of Congress. His platform was Reading Without Walls, asking people to read something different. Right? And I think that, that is just such an easy in a way, if you're reading anyway, I'm not asking you to do something you don't usually do, just read something outside of your usual choices. You can keep reading your usual choices, but add something.

GRACE:                                       Well, I think that would be a really great holiday challenge for all the listeners. So, your holiday challenge, whatever holiday you celebrate this winter, usually it involves getting gifts. Maybe your holiday challenge is to make sure you give everybody on your gift list, something that they're not used to reading. Give your gift list a Reading Without Walls challenge. Oh, maybe we should explain the Reading Without Walls challenge a bit.

GRACE:                       . So, the REading without walls challenge was, first it was read a book about a character who doesn't look like you. That covers the race things that we've been talking about. The second was to read a book about a topic you don't know much about, so I guess that would be like, I don't know much about football, so maybe I'll read a book about football. But, if you had a huge football person in your life, maybe you would get them a book about, Korean pottery.

GRACE:                                       Then the third was read a book in a format that you don't normally read for fun. If you usually read a novel, you could read a graphic novel, or if you usually read prose, you could read a book in verse, those kinds of things. I think that would be an excellent challenge for all of our readers to do for their holiday gift list this year.

LINDA:                                       I love that. I love that. And it's a very practical thing, and that challenge can be holiday, and it can also be personal to whatever your particular area of blinkeredness is. I love the idea, for example of, I have a five year old grandson and you've just given me the idea that maybe my next few purchases for him are going to be girl books with girl protagonists.

LINDA:                                      Especially from my particular interest, I've been reading a lot about both black and native American history here in this country, because I feel that as a population we are incredibly undereducated about that. But, yeah, pick an area, pick a ... And, it's going to ... I promise you there are incredible, wonderful books on in all of these three areas, or topics, or whatever the diversity you want to pick. There's incredible books on all of them, right? You'll be able to find them if you are serious about searching them out.

GRACE:                                       Well, I just think it's fascinating what you said, "You took that challenge to do it for the whole year." Imagine if parents took that on for their sons. Like, we've decided this whole year we're just going to read a girl protagonists, and girl are female authors. What does that do?

LINDA:                                        Wouldn't that be amazing. It would be amazing if family's all over took that challenge. 

 

GRACE:                   So I think that is probably a good way, a good place to kind of end this conversation. I think I should end the conversation with the two questions I ask everybody who comes on the podcast.

LINDA:                                        Oh.

GRACE:                                       The first question I ask everybody is, what are you working on now? Is there something that you'd like to share that you're working on that readers could go and see? This will probably air in around December.

LINDA:                                        Okay, right. This past year, which was 2018, I had two new books come out. One was the third and concluding volume of my fantasy trilogy, Wing and Claw. The first book, Forest of Wonders, the second, Cavern of Secrets, and the third, Beast of Stone. And in that book, the protagonist and his friends battle against an evil chancellor who wants to get rid of all the immigrants in the country. So there's a very personal slant to that story.

LINDA:                                        And then the second book is a collaborative YA, young adult, true teen novel, not 12 years old, but 15. Okay? Called Fatal Thrown, and it's the story of Henry VIII and his six wives. So MT Anderson wrote small bits of Henry VIII in between chapters by myself and five other incredible women writers, each of us taking the role of one of the queens. My queen was Catherine Howard. So that is a kick butt KIDLIT Women novel because it was really trying to give those queens the kind of agency that they haven't had in history. So I think that book is a wonderful one.

LINDA:                                        I have 2019, two picture books coming out. The first one is called Gondra's Treasure, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt. There are two traditions of dragon mythology, western and eastern. Gondra's father is from the east, and her mother is from the west, so she is a little mixed race dragon. And as you get to know her family, you get to learn about the differences and similarities of the two traditions of dragon.

GRACE:                                       I just have to ... I have to put something in here because I'm very excited about that because oh my gosh, because I do so many things with Chinese dragons and so many people get them mixed up and they do it so wrong.

LINDA:                                        Yes.

GRACE:                                       always so many ... They'll always put like Chinese dragons with wings.

LINDA:                                        Wings and breathing fire and all that, yeah.

GRACE:                                       No, no, Chinese ... Eastern dragons do not breathe fire.

LINDA:                                        Yeah, we should do a joint thing.

GRACE:                                       Okay, I'm sorry.

LINDA:                                        No, that's all right. The fall 2019 is Nya's Long Walk, which is a companion picture book to A Long Walk To Water. And it is one of the episodes mentioned very briefly in the book in Nya's part of the book, the girl's part of the book, because it's a dual narrative, boy girl alternating chapters. And that small incident mentioned in Nya's chapter is expanded to a full picture book, and that is being illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

GRACE:                                       Wow.

LINDA:                                        So I'm very excited about that. So that's what I've got coming up next.

GRACE:                                       Great. Okay. And then the very last question is, what is your biggest publishing dream? And we ask this with the idea that we want the guests on the show to aim high, dream big. We think or I think that many times that the people come on our show, they tend to be ashamed of their ambitions, that we're always saying things like, "I just want people to love our books." And I'm like, no, no, no. I want you to dream big, own your ambition. So what is your biggest publishing dream?

LINDA:                                        Okay, well. I'm going to have to go at this question from maybe a little different perspective from some of your other guests because I never even dared to have the kind of publishing dream that has already come true for me. Okay? I did want to write. I wanted to write the best book I possibly could, and relatively early in my career, book number three, A Single Shard won the Newbery. Well, how can you have a bigger dream than that as a children's literature person? Right?

LINDA:                                        So that has put me, I think ... And it's happened to a number of people, but that has put me in sort of a different ... I think many people might say, "Oh, my dream is to someday win a major award or something like that." And so that can't be my dream anymore. So it becomes something like this, and I know this is very much colored by the times we're living in, but it seems to me that the ability to read, read well, and read critically is a skill that our nation needs a lot more development in.

LINDA:                                        This explosion of social media and different sources of information or rather, really rampant sources of misinformation, is really troubling to me. So I guess my publishing dream would be that the children's publishing world especially, would be publishing books to turn every single child in our country into a reader.

GRACE:                                       A critical reader.

LINDA:                                        A critical reader, right? First starting by loving reading because you can't become a critical reading unless you. You can't become a critical ... Sorry, I'll wait five seconds. Okay. You can't become a critical reader unless you love to read first. So when I speak to groups of young people, I say, "There are books out there that you will all love to read," right? You just have to have ... They're hard to find. We have to make them less hard to find.

LINDA:                                        You have to have diverse books, diverse formats, all kinds of out of the box, so that every kid in the country can become a lover of reading and from there, a critical reader, an educated population. That's my dream. It's a pretty big dream.

GRACE:                                       That would be an amazing dream, and let's hope we get there. So thanks so much, Linda Sue.

GRACE LIN