Thursday, October 22, 2020

Q&A with Ann Marie Stephens

Ann Marie Stephens is the author of the new children's picture book Arithmechicks Take Away. Her other books include Arithmechicks Add Up. An elementary school teacher, she lives in Virginia.


Q: Did you know when you wrote the first Arithmechicks book that you'd be writing a second one?


A: I did! When Arithmechicks Add Up was in the process of being considered, I took a chance and sent my editor a summary book pitch for Arithmechicks Take Away. To my surprise, she called and said they wanted both! I know firsthand that teachers love to have addition and subtraction book pairs when we can get them.


Q: What do you hope kids--I don't want to say "take away"!--experience from the book?


A: I hope my readers will relate to something inside the book. Maybe they avoid bedtime like I did as a child. Maybe they struggle with subtraction and Jia’s illustrations can help them get a better grasp. Perhaps they simply love to play hide-and-seek and my book will provide them new ideas for hiding places.


No matter what else they “take away,” I hope they develop a long-lasting friendship with 10 chicks and a mouse.  


Q: What do you think Jia Liu's illustrations add to the book?


A: Jia is gifted at giving personality to characters. Our chicks and Mouse act like kids we know or teach or parent. Young readers see themselves in the expressions and actions of each chick and in Mouse. If happiness can be infused in art, it would look like the colors and textures Jia chooses.


Q: What first got you interested in writing children's books?


A: I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was in 5th grade. My teacher, Mrs. Ripol, encouraged me to write and read my stories to the class. That year really jumpstarted the need I have to express myself through words. I began writing poems, letters, stories, oral reports, and lists. I love lists!


I can’t remember exactly when my main focus went to kid lit, but I definitely got serious about it once I started teaching.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Tons of things. I have an exciting deal in the works that I can’t give details on yet. I’m finishing up a picture book manuscript, revising another, and I’m also writing a book of poems with an author friend we hope will sell. I like to do multiple projects at once so I can choose what to work on based on my writing moods!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I have an obsession with pens and stickers. I still have some of the stickers I collected when I was a child. As a teacher, I have unlimited access to stickers, which gives me an excuse to collect them as an adult.


I have hundreds of pens. I love to get different styles, inks, and points. I keep them everywhere. I once cleaned out my Jeep and found almost 30 pens in there! Being a teacher AND an author allows me to hoard such things without being questioned. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Ann Marie Stephens.

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