I think we all fondly remember that experience when we were first introduced to the joys of reading. Somebody carefully took us aside and showed us the magic of those little lines. And that is what talented writer Alice Kuipers is doing with the first of her chapter books about Polly Diamond – trying to encourage younger readers to want to read and write more. It is a real privilege to be part of Kuipers’ blog tour of “Polly Diamond and the Magic Book” and have her answer a few questions for me.
1) First off, could you give a bit of an outline of “Polly Diamond and the Magic Book?”
Polly Diamond receives a book. Everything she writes in it comes true. Polly is lively and creative and she wishes for, well, everything! She turns her house into a palace and her sister into a banana. With beautiful illustrations by Diana Toledano, Polly’s adventure is to figure out how to get exactly what she wants!
2) Polly seems to be a very unique character. How did you come up with her? Was she inspired by a real-life person?
Polly made herself know to me in that strange way that characters have of appearing in the heads of writers. Then as I was re-drafting an early version of the book, I met a girl at my children’s school. The girl seemed to be so much like Polly that I interviewed her to get to know what it was like to be eight-years-old and full of dreams and hopes. The real life girl and Polly have similarities, but they also diverged as the book kept being rewritten. Polly got louder and clearer the more I worked on the book!
3) Is there anything you are hoping this book will accomplish? If yes, what exactly is that?
I would love for the book to inspire a young writer. I have made a free online course for kids who want to write, which any of them can find here: https://writingblueprints.com/ p/writing-course-ages-6-10/ –hopefully this course gets young writers inspired to create their own stories. One of my favourite things about being a writer is seeing the work that kids create.
4) You live in Saskatoon while the illustrator – Diana Toledano – is listed as living in San Francisco. How did the two of you work together on this book. (Travel to meet? Internet?)
This answer may surprise you, but Diana and I have never met. Not even that, we’ve never even spoken! In my experience, the way that illustrated books work when published with a traditional publisher is that the book designer and the editor co-ordinate the images and the text and, certainly for me, the illustrator and the author communicate through the publishing house, rather than through each other. It’s been an amazing process to see Diana’s illustrations come to life, and it has been surprising, fun and thrilling to see her vision for my words.
5) Are you planning a book tour with this book? If yes, are there dates/events you are looking forward to attend?
I’m traveling with TD Bookweek though Vancouver Island from May 5th-12th. I love going to schools and spending time with young readers. They make me laugh, make me think, make me want to write–it’s a real honour to be allowed to talk about my writing life with my children. Traveling though Vancouver Island will be a highlight for me as a writer!
6) So you seem to be active online with both social media and your writing courses through your website. Are you hoping to engage young fans through those tools with the creation of this book?
I’m hoping that I can spend a bit more time on my own writing by sharing my ideas online like this. I love to talk about writing and I have lots to say, but I also want there to be a resource on my website for people who want to explore some of my thoughts in their own time. I can’t talk to everyone I want to about writing in person, but this way young people and adults who want to write can watch videos or do writing exercises whenever they want to. Hopefully the courses are engaging and super fun. I have about 800 students taking my Chapter Book Blueprint and my Middle Grade YA Blueprint courses, so the online reach is huge and I think people like being able to write at their own pace.
7) Will there be more adventures for Polly in the future? If yes, when can we expect another book with Polly Diamond in it?
The second Polly Diamond book is already written and illustrated. It is due to come out a year from now–so, while I’ve been sharing this first book with the world, I’ve been copy-editing this second book. I love writing about Polly–she makes me laugh so much! And I love seeing Diana’s illustrations burst the story into life.
8) There seems to be a lot of thought and creativity in this book. How long did it take to bring this book from first notion to publication? Were there any serious roadblocks or hardships you encountered during that process in bringing this book forward?
So, the second Polly Diamond book took a year to write. But the first book took seven years. I wrote the first draft of that first book when I was pregnant with my daughter, who is now nearly seven. I had to redraft that first book many times, think, learn, redraft again. The earlier book was nearly published with another publisher, but in the end that didn’t work out. When Chronicle Press offered to publish, they wanted some rewrites, and so I was back to the desk. It’s always hard to face edits, well, it is for me. But they always push me to make the book stronger. And now the world of Polly and her magic book is established, it’s much easier to write about her, which is why the second book was written so much more quickly.
My daughter read Polly Diamond and the Magic Book to herself. It is the first ever chapter book she has read to herself, so the very long writing process worked out beautifully!
9) In our last Q&A you mentioned a few novels you were working on. Are any coming to be published soon? Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, are there details you care to share?
I have a non-fiction book coming out with Kids Can Press in a year. Currently it is called Always Smile and it is based on the life of Toronto teenager, Carley Allison. There is a film about her on Netflix called Kiss and Cry. It was an honour to interview her family, boyfriend and friends to make this book happen. I’m also working on two YA novels, and another book of non-fiction for teenagers about anxiety disorder, travel and writing. Of course. I’m always writing about writing!