Interview with Newbery Medal Winner Clare Vanderpool
Unplug & Read Blog Tour
By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: April 7, 2013
This Spring, the national celebration of Screen Free Week is April 29 – May 5. Random House Children’s Books has launched an Unplug & Read Blog Tour, starting April 1st running through April 29th, counting down the days until Screen Free Week. With 22 days to go, we are so incredibly lucky to chat with Newbery Medal winner Calre Vanderpool (MOON OVER MANIFEST, 2011) about her latest novel, NAVIGATING EARLY, and her thoughts on being screen free.
Bianca Schulze: When you were a kid, what was your favorite Screen Free activity?
Clare Vanderpool: I had lots of screen free activities, probably the biggest was swimming. There was a pool right around the corner from our house and we spent hours and hours a day in the water. Evenings were full of hide and go seek and there was always plenty of four square in the driveway.
BS: Due to your obvious love of literature and writing (your amazing books are concrete evidence of this), one could assume that you think going screen free is important. Am I correct? Are you planning on participating in the national celebration of Screen Free Week?
CV: I do think going screen free is important, especially for kids today. When I was a kid there was plenty of time when there was nothing good on the three channels available so the TV would naturally go off. Now, it’s a little harder to draw kids away from the many screens constantly accessible, but given the opportunity and some boundaries I think kids do like being active and getting outside. I plan to take part in Screen Free Week but we also try to limit screen time in the house on a daily basis. It’s a wonderful thing to see my kids reading, riding bikes, jumping on the trampoline, and walking down to the bookstore café.
BS: When was the last time you went screen free for more than 12 hours?
CV: Honestly, not very recently. I write on a computer so that accounts for some of that screen time. And when I need a little lunch break, I like to watch game show bloopers on You Tube. I admit it’s a bit of a time waster but it gives the endorphins a boost.
BS: What do you think will be the hardest part about going screen free? Are you looking forward to it or dreading it?
CV: I don’t think it will be that hard but I have to confess, I’ll be out on a trip during that week with my sister and two daughters. That makes it much easier! If I were home it would be challenging.
BS: Screen free time means no typing on your computer! What is your writing process and schedule like on a typical day? When you are writing, do you begin with writing by hand?
CV: Honestly, I think I would change the rules for myself on that one. For me, writing is writing whether I’m using a pen or the computer. I’m in a different world and the computer has very little to do with my writing experience.
BS: How do you think going screen free will help budding writers get their creative juices flowing?
CV: Writing screen free might be helpful for a beginning writer in that it would eliminate distractions that go along with screens such as e-mail, internet, etc. I do write with pen and paper in the dreamy, beginning stages of getting into a new story so I sometimes write screen free on the floor in my bedroom and that is a very freeing experience for me.
BS: Your book NAVIGATING EARLY is set in the 1940’s. Kids in historical fiction generally seem to be extremely adventurous, partly because they have no screens and exploring was what they did for fun. How do you think Jack and Early’s adventure would have changed were it set in today’s world? Would anything be different?
CV: A lot would be different if the novel were set in today’s world. The boys would probably never have gotten as far away from school as they did, for as long as they did without being caught. However, Jack is a fairly reflective boy who might gravitate towards more screen free activities anyway. And Early would surely be somewhat suspect of most things on TV today.
BS: Jack and Early are quite complex characters and the story’s plot is ever building toward a rewarding grand finale. Do you have a process for character development? Were there specific traits that you wanted either of these characters to have right from the get go? And, were there elements that you added to their personas as the plot grew and you yourself got to know the characters better through writing them?
CV: My only process for character development is to really get to know them. I start out by asking them a lot of questions on paper and in my head but ultimately, my job is to listen and let them tell their own story. Jack and Early are two special boys who became very real to me over the course of writing the book. I knew from the beginning that Jack was from Kansas and Early was a math savant. As the story developed and I grew to know and love these two characters, I could write them with all their flaws, insecurities, and heroic moments with a good deal of clarity.
BS: You solidified your career as an author with your 2011 Newbery Medal winning book MOON OVER MANIFEST. What would you say are the three most important things you took away from this fabulous Newbery experience to further your writing career and enhance your well-received, follow-up novel?
CV: 1) A great sense of appreciation for the wonderful validation the Newbery represents.
2) Having spoken to and more importantly, listened to people all around the country ranging in age from 9-90, I have gained a very real understanding of the importance of stories in our lives and the power they have to transform, inspire, and delight.
3) The certainty that I needed to put the Newbery medal on the shelf and get back to sitting on the floor in my bedroom in that dreamy stage of getting to know the characters in my next book.
BS: As a parting note, what else do you think we should know about you, your books, and going Screen Free?
CV: The stories that I like to write and the ones I like to read tend to be very rooted in a sense of place and the connections between people. I think life is all about where we’re from and the people we’re with. So going screen free is really only half the equation. The remaining part is what we do with that time. My hope would be to go outside, visit a friend, volunteer, have a sit-down dinner, and most definitely… read a book.
For more information on Clare Vanderpool, visit: http://www.clarevanderpool.com
For more information on Screen Free Week, visit: http://www.screenfree.org