My Writing and Reading Life with Corey Ann Haydu, Author of One Jar of Magic
Interview with Corey Ann Haydu | Partnership with HarperCollins Publishers
The Children’s Book Review
I write because …
I have so many questions about the world, and writing is the best way that I know to unpack and untangle and unwind all of those questions. And often to then find new questions that I need to figure out. Which is I guess why the writing doesn’t stop—there is always more that I want to understand about what it is to be a human in the world.
I read because …
I love to have a space that is outside of my own life and my own brain. I can get so caught up in my anxiety, in the tiny details of every interaction I have out in the world, every bit of nervousness and stress, and books are a place where I can live outside of myself, while still being emotionally connected to the greater world. I also read because I’ve read my whole life, because I grew up in a family that has been known to spend holiday gatherings reading instead of partying, and that is part of what defines me.
My latest published book is …
ONE JAR OF MAGIC, which is my fourth middle grade novel. It’s a book about a girl who was meant to be a sort of heir to her father’s magic, but fails to reach that magical potential, and has to grapple with what that means. As she struggles to understand who she is without that magical destiny ahead of her, the secrets embedded in her family– secrets she herself helped keep, even from herself at times.
Like all my books, it is also about hope, which exists right alongside hurt, helping us muddle through it.
I wrote this book because …
I wanted to write a book about how toxic a person in power can be, and as that evolved over time, it turned out I also wanted to write about safety and secrets in a family, and how that might intersect with toxic power in a community. The story truly evolved over time, and at first I didn’t know why I was writing about a girl who wanted to catch magic in jars, or why that might matter in a more novel-worthy way. It took a long time to find Rose’s story, and to understand how it might intersect with mine. I always need to find my connection to my stories, and with Rose it was in navigating family secrets and trying to re-draw herself within those new rules and confusing revelations and truths that were always there but were hard to see.
I have had to do that too—re-draw, revise the world around me to understand what has always been true but that I didn’t see or couldn’t accept.
Maybe I also wrote this book as a reminder to myself that no one gets to tell me who I have to be, and no one can try to fit me in a box—or a jar—and define me based on what matters to them. I can be defined by what matters to me. I know I need that reminder sometimes, too, and writing helps me remember.
I wrote this book—I write all my books—to let young readers know it’s okay. That the world is confusing and they are changing and truths can be both buried down deep and right there on the surface, but that the truest thing of all is that you matter, and you can be sturdy and strong and vulnerable and searching in the midst of any kind of storm or rewriting or reorganizing.
There are a lot of truths, but hope and its persistence is the truest one of all.
Best moment …
In my publishing journey? I can think of two. One was seeing my book reviewed in the New York Times. I’d seen the review online, and I wanted to go get it in person. My local bodega didn’t have a copy, so I went to my favorite coffee shop, to see if anyone had abandoned the book review section on the counter, the way people are always leaving behind bits of the paper there on weekend mornings. It was really special to share that moment with my favorite baristas. I did a lot of my writing right there, at those tables, and it felt strange to have it out in the world, in the paper that people were reading. And the other moment that comes to mind was when I found out I was nominated for an Edgar Award. I was walking to toddler yoga (yep!), with my daughter in a stroller and my phone started buzzing, and when I saw the news, I face timed with my editor, who had been such a huge collaborator on the book and also happens to be a very special friend. There was something so lovely about pushing the stroller with one hand and trying to facetime with my editor with the other and processing the beautiful news in the midst of just every day life.
But also? Honestly? So many of my best moments are just sitting at my desk and writing. That’s what I love to do it. And every day that I get to is a best day.
My special place to write is …
Well, it used to be at my neighborhood cafes. Sadly, due to COVID, that option isn’t currently available. I miss eavesdropping on strangers’ dates and wondering what the person on the laptop next to me is working on, and being out in the world but in my own head at the same time. I treasured those mornings, and I can’t wait for them to return.
Necessary writing/creativity tool …
The person who has been my greatest writing teacher or inspiration is …
This is a hard question. SO many people along the way have inspired me, but I’m focused on the word “teacher”. There are teachers from when I was very young—my third-grade teacher who helped me write stories, my sixth-grade assistant teacher who did fun creative writing exercises and made me feel like mine were worthy. My ninth-grade English teacher who wasn’t afraid of the dark and sad things I wanted to work on in my writing. And honestly? My editors. I have learned so, so, so much from my editors. I love the learning part, and I try to let them know that—that I really want to learn and grow and listen. And every editor I have worked with has pushed me so much and helped me understand enormous things about storytelling.
Currently reading …
I recently decided to return to a childhood favorite that I had never reread since childhood, Julie Andrews Edwards THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES. I loved the book growing up, and I wanted to read it again to figure out what kind of stories mattered to me when I was ten and eleven, and to write from that space. So far I am charmed and bewildered and fascinated.
Favorite bookshop …
Truly too many to name!!! But a few local bookstores that I love and that have been homes for me and my books: Books Are Magic, Books of Wonder and McNally Jackson.
All-time favorite children’s book I didn’t write…
Favorite illustrator …
Well, I certainly can’t get enough of Jane Newland, who has illustrated two of my covers, EVENTOWN and ONE JAR OF MAGIC. SO magical. I also really love Christian Robinson and Simone Shin. And, maybe my current favorite, Luisa Uribe, who lovingly illustrates my HAND ME DOWN MAGIC chapter book series. Luisa’s work really speaks to me, and captures so much of what I want to get across on the page. I love how she illustrates my characters’ bad moods especially, and how she gets across family and community in her work.
A literary character I would like to vacation with …
Anne Shirley from ANNE OF GREEN GABLES! We could just read and chat the whole time—the perfect combination for an extroverted bookworm!
When I am not reading or writing I am …
Playing with my daughter, teaching, doing yoga, or cooking. Or watching The Bachelor.
To learn more about Corey Ann Haydu, visit www.coreyannhaydu.com.
Written by Corey Ann Haydu
Ages 8-12 | 352 Pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books | ISBN: 9780062689856
Publisher’s Synopsis: Magic is like a dream. Delightful. Terrifying. Unreal.
Rose Alice Anders is Little Luck. Lucky to be born into the Anders family. Lucky to be just as special and magical as the most revered man in town—her father. The whole town has been waiting for Rose to turn twelve, when she can join them in their annual capturing of magic on New Year’s Day and become the person she was born to be.
But when that special day finally comes, Rose barely captures one tiny jar of magic. Now Rose’s dad won’t talk to her anymore and her friendships have gotten all twisted and wrong. So when Rose hears whispers that there are people who aren’t meant for magic at all, she begins to wonder if that’s who she belongs with.
Maybe if she’s away from all the magic, away from her dad telling her who she’s meant to be, who she has to be, Rose can begin to piece together what’s truly real in a world full of magic.
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