Monday, December 05, 2011

FEATURED AUTHOR: Gwendolyn Hooks

Gwendolyn Hooks is the author of sixteen books for children. She writes both fiction and nonfiction to encourage children to explore their world. As a child, Gwendolyn was forced to explore whenever her Air Force father transferred to another base. “It was hard always being the new girl in class,” Gwendolyn remembers about those moves. But she could count on a trip to the library to ease the transition.

Gwendolyn graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with a degree in Secondary Education-Mathematics. She taught in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Now she writes from her home in Oklahoma City.

Her recent books are the eight-book series, The Pet Club Stories (Stone Arch Books 2011), and Bobby’s Big Bear Hunt (Red Chair Press 2010), The Best Shoes (Bebop Books 2011).

How did you start out your writing career?

I have always been a reader and would sometimes think that I could write magazine articles like the ones I read. But I didn’t seriously consider it until my brother –in-law took a playwriting class and had one of his plays produced. As I sat in the audience I thought to myself, “If he can do it, I can, too.” That was the beginning. I did write a few adult magazine articles and got them published. Then one day, I read in our local paper about a meeting for children’s writers. Sitting in the meeting with all those people who loved writing for children made me feel like I’d found my place.

What did you learn while writing this book?

No matter how confident you are about how your story will turn out, a character will make a choice that you didn’t see coming—changing your story.

What did you hope to accomplish with this book?

With all my books, I hope to spark the imagination of a child’s mind. I want to encourage them to find out why and search for more.

Which character did you have the most fun writing about?

In one of my books, Three’s A Crowd, Keisha is very upset when her best friend brings a new girl on one of their Saturday adventures. It was fun writing about someone with a sassy attitude and having her say “not so nice” things.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?

After I wrote my first book, I thought the others would be easier to write and sell.  What I learned was that each new book is just as hard as the first and you have to sell yourself all over again.

What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?

The first draft is the hardest for me. I love revising. I truly believe writing is rewriting.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

1. It takes more than one draft to write a publishable book.
2. Words don’t magically appear on a page, you actually have to sit and type them.
3. Besides sitting and writing, you have to study your craft.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?

Do read and study the types of books you want to write. Discover for yourself why some books work for you and some don’t. When I find a book I really like, I’ll type it. It helps me to discover why it’s special and how it was structured.

The don’t is simple—don’t give up. I’ve met writers who were much more talented than me, but they gave up because they got ONE rejection. Get a thick skin and move on.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

Unless you have a BIG name, you don’t make a lot of money.

If you could be a character from any book you've read, who would you be?

One of my favorite authors is Nevada Barr. She writes a series about a national park law enforcement ranger. Anna, the ranger wears a uniform, packs a gun, rides horses in the mountains, sleeps under the stars, collects bear scat, wrestles alligators, and hikes in caves all alone. She travels all over the country working in national parks and in each park she has to solve a murder. Yeah! I’d love to be her except I’m a scardy-cat!

When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to read and travel. I just returned from northern California where I was part of the Humboldt County Author Festival. I visited three schools—one had only eight students! I drove through the trunk of a Redwood tree. I kept singing the line “From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters” from the Woody Guthrie song This Land is Your Land. I’m always up for a trip.

What do you do to interact with your readers?

Since most of my readers are young children, my interaction comes mostly during school and library visits.

Our theme for this month is CHILDREN BOOKS. What inspired you to make children’s literature the focus of your career?

Writing is my second career. Teaching middle school math was my first. But I have always been a reader. I love books. I love being transported to different worlds. I want children to experience the fun and excitement that’s captured between book covers.

Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?

I know there are many more stories in me and that I’m the one to tell them. I know they’ll never be told my way unless I sit down and write them. I know that whining about the success of others won’t get me any closer to my goal. So I will congratulate them, wish them well, support them, and continue to sit and write.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

I am writing a picture book biography about an African American who made an enormous medical contribution to the world, but very few people have ever heard of him. I want children to know him and be inspired by his life.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
Twitter: @GwenTheGweat

The Cat Food Mystery - A Pet Club Mystery

When Kayla discovers that something is eating Daisy's cat food, she immediately calls the Pet Club to action. They grab their pets and start to gather clues. Will they solve the case of the cat food thief?

Three's A Crowd

Keisha is very unhappy when Val spoils their Saturday fun by bringing along Mya, a new girl in her neighborhood, but soon realizes that three is not such a bad number after all. Includes activity ideas for parents and children.

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LaShaunda said...


Thank you for being a featured author today.

My daughter will be tickled to see a character named Kayla.

Gwendolyn Hooks said...

Thank you LaShaunda!
This has been a fun opportunity. My daughter's best friend is named "Kayla." She has never forgiven me for not using her name. But I tried to explain to her, it just has too many syllables.

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