Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday Spotlight on author Ellen Wittlinger, who will be visiting our 65 James Street store on Saturday, November 11, from 1:00 – 3:00 PM to share her latest middle grade novel, SATURDAYS WITH HITCHCOCK. To celebrate, the store will also be hosting some pop culture trivia questions throughout the event with some cool prizes for the winners!
Thank you so much for joining us, Ellen! Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
I’m the author of 17 books for young adults and tweens (and I also write plays for adults.) My book Hard Love (a YA) won a Printz Honor Award from the American Library Association and also a Lambda Literary Award. My novels have been chosen as Best Books for Young Adults, Junior Library Guild selections, and have won several state book awards. Some have been translated into German, French, Turkish, Croatian, Korean, Dutch, Danish, and Italian.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from your work?
Someone once asked me what my books were about and I hesitated, unsure if there was anything linking them together. But my husband, who was standing nearby, said, “They’re about how art can save you.” And I think that’s about as good a description as there is. Many of my characters face some kind of challenge for which they need strength and energy—often that strength and energy emerges as they immerse themselves in writing or painting or music or, as is the case with my characters in Saturdays with Hitchcock, they immerse themselves in movies and hope to eventually make that their career. I also try to have both boys and girls represented in my books in the hope that the books will speak to both genders equally.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
The research for Hitchcock was the most fun research ever—I watched movies! First I made lists of movies I remembered watching when I was around the age of Maisie and Cyrus, then I added movies I knew my kids had loved, and then I Googled similar films. I ended up with a list too long to use in its entirety, but I spent many afternoons watching great old movies and calling it work. (I’ve always been a movie lover, so this was incredibly fun.)
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
Well, I always more or less fall in love with my characters, and in this book, I really loved them all, but the standout character for me is Uncle Walt. Maisie’s Uncle Walt is based on MY Uncle Walt—yes, I even used his real name. My Uncle Walt was my mother’s younger brother (same as in Maisie’s family) and he too left our small Midwest town to become an artist. He wasn’t an actor (as in SWH) but he was a musician who traveled all over the country with Big Bands in the 1950s, and when he came to visit my grandmother showered him with attention and so did I. Later he ended up settling in the Los Angeles area (same as in SWH) and kept playing his trombone until he passed away at age 80. I’ve always believed that it was his example that allowed me to believe that I too could do such an impractical thing as leaving home and becoming an artist.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
Next year (October 2018) I have another middle-grade novel coming out, also from Charlesbridge. That one is called Someone’s Else’s Shoes, and it’s about three kids who are unlikely companions thrown together under difficult circumstances. It’s often funny, but it’ll make you cry too.
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
Writing takes up a LOT of my time, but I also enjoy doing things with my hands. For a while I was making hooked rugs, but now I’m contemplating doing some painting. I was an art major in college and often miss the physicality of making art. I also love photography, which probably qualifies as my primary hobby these days.
What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?
That I started my writing career as a poet for adults. I published a book in 1970. Then I segued to plays and wrote those seriously for six or seven years before trying my hand at fiction. After a job as a children’s librarian (and reading the shelves there) I started writing for children and young adults.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) is a necessity for anyone hoping to write for this age group.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
Any online bookstore should have most of them, and brick and mortar stores (my choice too!) can always order them if they aren’t in stock.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
Thank you again, Ellen! We look forward to having you at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, on 65 James Street, Saturday, November 11, from 1:00 – 3:00 PM. Friends of our store, join us for a fun afternoon of stories and movie trivia with Ellen Wittlinger and Saturdays with Hitchcock.