Friday, August 3, 2018

Panel: Truth vs. Innocence In Children's Books: Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold writes books for and about children and teens. Her young adult novel What Girls Are Made Of was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award and the winner of the Golden Kite Award for Young Adult Literature. Her middle grade novels, A Boy Called Bat and Bat and the Waiting Game, are Junior Library Guild selections. Some of her books have been included on School Library Journal’s Best Books list; Kirkus’ Best Teen Books list; the Bank Street Best Book list; the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults list; and the New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles Public Libraries’ Best Books of the Year list.


Highlights of what Elana shared:

Do you think about dark versus light when you're writing?

"Whatever you've been filled with is your material... That's my well that I pull from."

She speaks of how her first two books came from a well of body shame, and that writing Infandous and What Girls Are Made Of emptied her well of that emotion.

And then, the well filled again, and this time, it was full of rage. That rage, and wanting to empty the well of that hot, bubbling rage completely, formed her upcoming book, Damsel.

How do you deal with writing painful scenes?

"In What Girls Are Made Of there's a terrible scene of a dog surrendered by a group of kids after they'd tortured it, and they have to decide to either save it or put it down." She tells us about how she wrote that scene, the prep work, and then sitting down on the day she was going to write it, "Blinders on - only think about exact next sentence."

And how do you respond to critics who say that your books are too dark for young readers?

"Books are a wonderful place to practice saying no." If we don't allow young people to feel uncomfortable or unsafe in books, how do we expect them to know what to do when they feel uncomfortable or unsafe in life? We want them to put down the book if it's too uncomfortable, just like we want them to put down the drink, or leave the party.

And Elana shares one of her mantras,
"It's none of my business who reads my book."

The panel continues with lots more great stories and insights, as well as favorite reader letter stories.

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