Friday, August 3, 2018

Panel: Truth vs. Innocence in Children's Books - Brandy Colbert

Brandy Colbert is the Stonewall Award-winning author of Little & Lion, Pointe, and the forthcoming Finding Yvonne. Her essays and short fiction have been featured in several critically acclaimed anthologies for young people. Her work has been named a Junior Library Guild selection, a Book of the Month Club selection, and has been included on ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, as well as best-of lists from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Vulture, and more.

What topics are appropriate? 
Like Elana [Arnold], I write issue books that aren't issue books--that is, there are a lot of issues, but there are lots of gray areas.

Tell us the initial kernel for one of your books?
People ask me a lot, "Are your books based on you?" I say that it's wish-fulfilment in an alternate universe. The family in Little & Lion is a version of my family, but a different version--plus, I'm interested in seeing Black queer girls on the page.  In Finding Yvonne (out next week, on August 7th),  I wanted to explore a family that was unfamiliar to me.

How do you deal with writing particularly sad scene?
I sort of "black out "when I'm writing [as a way of coping]. Sometimes I cry when I'm writing. Sometimes I cope by reading or watching something even sadder.

When did you have to "stand your ground" with an editor?
I butt heads over copy editing because I'm a copy editor. I'm very intentional about my words, but you can't copy edit yourself.  Their job is to copy edit; my job is to get copy-edited.

How do you respond to critics who say your books are too dark?
We underestimate young people.  They're in a very real, sometimes very dark world already. 

Favorite story from readers?
I am continually surprised how many people relate to Little & Lion. I felt like it was so specific--a black girl questioning her sexuality with a brother struggling with mental illness--but it really is true, the more specific you are the more universal you are.

Lightening Round
iPhone or android?

Window or aisle?

NYC or LA?

R2D2 or BB8?
I don't know… I don't really...

No outline. Ever.

Hogwarts house?
I've never read Harry Potter!

Desert island  album or recording artist?
Can I take a whole genre? Hip hop.

The final season of The Americans.

Last request meal?
I'm a vegetarian, so if this is my last meal, it would probably be a peperoni pizza.

What's on your headstone?
"She said what she was thinking."

One final takeaway?
Don't forget to focus on the writing.

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