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Penguin Young Readers

Barbara Joosse

Barbara Joosse is the author of thirty-five books for children including ROAWR!, Please is a Good Word to Say, and Love is a Good Thing to Feel. A resident of Wisconsin, she works in a charming historical stone house by a river. Make sure you visit Barbara's website at www.barbarajoosse.com to learn more about her. Also, download the pdf of her essay Big Hairy Loudness for supplemental information on Roawr!

If you are interested in having Barbara Joosse make an appearance at your school, library, or conference, please use the online request form or email the Author Appearance Coordinator at authorvisits[at]us.penguingroup.com with possible dates, your school name, location, details about the day, and your contact information.

 

A Note From Barbara Joosse

As a little girl, I didn't have a library. At St. Joseph's Catholic Grade School, each classroom only had a shelf of books about saints. I was not a saint, although I'd often practiced folding a towel over my head to look like a saintly veil and felt I was excellent at a Holy Look. Culling the accumulated knowledge from that shelf, I realized I needed to be two things in order to be a saint: A martyr and a virgin . . . and nobody would explain to me what a virgin was! There was no library in my town, either, until I was about ten. I think now, how I would have treasured a rich selection of books about real children and fantastic places, how my world would have expanded. I think about how I would have been excited to meet an author, and would have recognized similar characteristics in myself.

I believe I have no business writing for children unless I spend time with them. I love visiting children, passing along my love for books and them, drawing details from them to use in future books.

Children never ever ever stop surprising and inspiring me. My school sessions are lively and personal. I introduce many important writing concepts and children see the connection between my personal life and the books I create. Although I don't sell the books myself, it's very important to me to include book sales at these events.

Although children are my purest delight, I really enjoy talking to adults, too. I believe I have an innate understanding of children and picture books, and like to identify the clever tricks I use to draw children into my books.

—Barbara Joosse

 

Author Appearance Q&A with Barbara Joosse:

Penguin: What is a typical appearance like with you? What do you do differently with audiences of varying sizes, ages, and interests?

Barbara Joosse: My approach is comfy, warm, personal and humorous, all the while emphasizing strong writing principals throughout—just done in a way that isn't didactic. I begin by brainstorming. Where do authors get ideas? Most groups list ideas from the "two pots" I draw from when I write: 1) Things That Really Happen Pot (personal experiences, historical & scientific facts etc.) and 2) Imagination Pot. My power point helps them make that connection with my life/work and then we do Q&A and finally read a book, often something new or forthcoming. The sessions vary with age, interest, experience etc.—I shorten the power point considerably for K/1. I'm comfortable with any size audience. A smaller size audience can smoosh up closer, which we all love, but I find that I can overcome most disadvantages of a larger size with my pictures and my nature (as long as I'm not the size of a pea, way off in the distance). I want the children to leave happy, so gauge the length and sophistication of the discussion based on their response. I usually do three sessions per day, geared for K-5.

Penguin: What makes your author appearances unique?

Barbara Joosse: I really like kids! They sense this and trust me. Everyone has a good time and learns what we need to know about each other without feeling "talked-to." Teachers usually ask whether I'm a teacher myself, and are surprised to find I have never been. Also, the fundamentals of writing are cleverly tucked into my presentation. My sessions are fun, but not fluff.

Penguin: Do you enjoy making appearances for adult audiences? What do you do when presenting to adults?

Barbara Joosse: I love talking to adults. I want my books to have a satisfying first-read, but with meaningful underlying layers to enrich the 100th read. I like explaining these techniques to adults. I'm quite comfortable with any size audience and gear my talk to the size, interest, and sophistication of each group. When I'm talking to educators, I give very specific examples of techniques I use to connect children to my books. When I'm talking to a parent group, I also read books so they can experience the delight of listening.

I often talk about The Reader's Hug: A picture book holds unique power in our too-busy sometimes-scary, way too noisy world. The Reader's Hug is a quiet position of trust, a child nestled on your lap, your arms around him in an embrace, the child's ear next to your heart, with the book you share the seal of the hug. What can be accomplished in that position . . . and how? And what "afterword" can you create in your own lives?

Penguin: What can schools and libraries do to ensure a successful appearance?

Barbara Joosse: Children should be familiar with my books. Since I have many different voices and write in two genres (picture books and chapter books), I recommend a variety of five books, depending on the age group. Also, books should be offered for sale. Whenever possible, I like children to leave with an autographed book in their hand, to remember our day together and continue the excitement. I believe both children and adults are disappointed when books are not available. Plus, most publishers offer an excellent discount on books for author appearances! While good listening manners are important and children sometimes need to be reminded of this, I want the emphasis on delight when I'm introduced. Finally, sound system, projection, light conditions, etc. should be checked both the night before an author visit, and again when the author arrives.

Penguin: Do you enjoy traveling to other parts of the country for appearances?

Barbara Joosse: Oh, boy, do I! A community-wide author appearance is positively contagious. I love a four—or five-day community-wide visit the best. Hey, would anybody in Hawaii like me to come?

Penguin: Do you ever make appearances at more than one school in an area? Could schools and libraries from one area join together to bring you to their institution?

Barbara Joosse: Yes yes yes! Previously, I hadn't agreed to multiple schools in one day, but have made special concessions because of the economy. Now I'll do several schools in one day (still maintaining 3 sessions per day), preferring, of course, a different school each day within a community. Multiple schools add to the community excitement, likelihood of media coverage and economic reality—you can share travel expenses.

Penguin: What do you hope your audience will come away with from your presentation?

Barbara Joosse: I want children and adults to feel I've touched them personally. An author strives to make a personal connection in our books, to connect ourselves to our readers. An author appearance should confirm this feeling. That will give all books an aura of warmth and intimacy. I want children to feel respected and understood, both through my books and my talks. I want them to understand that, while authors and book topics often appear exotic, exotic is simply the life that is not your own. Your life experiences are exotic to someone else, worthy of writing.

Penguin: What was your favorite/most interesting/most memorable [choose one] appearance experience?

Barbara Joosse: I've visited children in China, Kenya and Uganda, talked with no electricity in the pitch dark with rain pummeling a tin roof. I've been locked in a room with 100 children. I've controlled chaos while a "little puker" created a fountain of post-lunch spaghetti. I've milked a fake-cow, addressed an audience at the Smithsonian, walked down a red carpet, and was heralded with a symphonic French horn, performed by the principal. I have truly loved it all.

Still, most memorable was my experience at Fairytale Town, a young children's play-park in California. This was a book festival, and I was the featured author. The festival occurred just a few days after the initial market crash in ‘08, when we were all paralyzed with fear. I'd had quite a few media appearances the previous day, so my audience, I think, already felt as though they knew me. I sat on a throne onstage, and experienced something like a Child-Mash. Crowds of little people swallowed me up. The sound techs worried that I was all right—I'm quite short and they couldn't see me. "Well," they said, "I guess she's alive as long as we can still hear her." Attendance that day was twice that of any other festival, I think because of the economic worries. Families wanted reassurance, they wanted each other, they wanted books. I was so happy to be there on that day.

 

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