Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Q&A with Hilma Wolitzer



Photo by Meg Wolitzer


Hilma Wolitzer is the author of the new story collection Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket. Her many other books include the novel An Available Man. She lives in New York City.


Q: You wrote the stories in your new collection over several decades. Do you see any changes in your writing style over the years, or do you think it's remained fairly consistent?


A: Well, I might use more contractions now and fewer adverbs. But I think my writing style has been pretty consistent—it still reflects the way I perceive the world and how we live in it. I still see the dark side of things, but also the saving grace of humor, especially at unexpected moments.


Early readers of my newest story, “The Great Escape”—a kind of coda to the collection—have told me they recognize my (writing) voice, so I guess my style hasn’t significantly changed.    


Q: Many of the stories focus on your recurring characters Howard and Paulette, and you bring their story up to the present moment. How did you create these characters?


A: Like all of my fictional characters, they came into my head with a sentence spoken in the first person. Paulette is the narrator of their stories, so she arrived first. But her obsession is with Howard, as her lover and then her husband, so it was pretty easy to conjure him up, too.


Howard and Paulette have continued to occupy my thoughts, even when I wasn’t writing about them. They became like friends who have moved out of the neighborhood. You’ve lost touch but you wonder what might have happened to them. Bringing them into old age and the age of Covid seemed like a good way to find out.


Q: How was the collection's title--also the title of the first story--chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The title “Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket” was originally the first line of the story, and I just moved it up. It’s a mouthful, isn’t it? Its meaning is both literal—a woman breaks down in the aisle of a supermarket—and metaphorical.


When the story was written, in the mid-1960s, many women were questioning their place in what felt more and more like a patriarchal society. The supermarket, with all of its domestic bounty, seemed like the perfect setting to examine those stirrings of discontent.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: Enjoyment first, of course--I read fiction for pleasure and enlightenment myself. I hope that younger readers’ curiosity about the recent past is stimulated and satisfied, and that older ones experience a shock of recognition.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’ve been writing poems, but I’m also in the “dreaming” stage of new fiction, before the characters and their story have fully materialized.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Like everyone, I’m worried about the state of the world—racism, oppressive societies, global warming, the persistence of Covid-19 . . . But I’m incorrigibly hopeful, even if I won’t get to see things get better myself. Maybe my children and their children will.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Hilma Wolitzer.

Q&A with S. Qiouyi Lu




S. Qiouyi Lu is the author of the new novella In the Watchful City. A freelance writer, editor, and translator, Lu is based in Los Angeles.


Q: What inspired you to write In the Watchful City, and how did you create your character Anima?


A: In the Watchful City was inspired by many things. I’d always wanted to create a secondary world, and I had a couple stories I’d written in-universe that I wanted to tie together.


The frame story came out of a trip to China with Western and Chinese writers where I got to see emerging technology that integrated facial recognition with digital wallet payments. It was interesting to see different cultural attitudes toward facial recognition, surveillance, and privacy.


I began to construct a narrative afterward where surveillance might not be dystopic as it’s often depicted, but perhaps something more benevolent.


As part of that narrative, I created Anima, who’s a bit naïve in the beginning of the story, because Anima’s been sheltered in a closed-off society and has really only known one way of thinking. I wanted to tie together Anima’s growth as a character with an exploration of different parts of the secondary world as illustrated through the short stories.


Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book says, “Lu’s full-length debut (after the collection Inhalations) combines beautiful prose, a complex structure, and well-wrought Asian-influenced worldbuilding into a powerful, futurist work.” What do you think of that assessment?


A: I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the early reception to In the Watchful City and how many people have described it as a powerful work. I wasn’t sure how the novella would be received, as it’s a bit experimental, but the positive Publishers Weekly review and other feedback has been encouraging.


I’ve also found it interesting that many people describe the book as “Asian-influenced.” There’s certainly a lot of Asian touchstones I incorporate, but the book also includes a weird Western that’s strongly influenced by the U.S. Southwest, and the mermaid story is in part influenced by the aesthetics and ecology of the bayous of the southern U.S. I see the influences as a bit more varied than can be encompassed by one descriptor.


Q: Did you know how the novella would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I did a bit more outlining for this novella than for my other work, mostly because I had a metanarrative structure in mind. I reworked the ending of the outline several times, though, and I don’t think I knew the specifics of how the novella would end until I got there.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I mostly hope that readers will take away a sense of wonder and curiosity. I’ve done a lot of work in the novella to write narratives that challenge assumptions and create societies that conceptualize their norms and values very differently than what I’ve experienced in the real world.


I’d love for In the Watchful City to inspire people to explore their own assumptions and realize that some may not be as fixed as they think.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently writing another novella for Tordotcom Publishing. It won’t be a sequel to In the Watchful City, though it’ll be set in the same secondary world.


The novella is still in the early stages, but it’s shaping up to be a story that draws heavily from my background in linguistics. I’ve always wanted to write linguistic speculative fiction, one where the worldbuilding centers on language and cultural contact.


The novella will probably be more story-driven than In the Watchful City, which focused more on the characters.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’ve produced an audiobook for In the Watchful City independently. You can find out more at my website: https://s.qiouyi.lu/in-the-watchful-city.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Josh Allen



Josh Allen is the author of Only If You Dare: 13 Stories of Darkness and Doom, a new middle grade book for kids. He also has written the book Out To Get You. He lives in Idaho.


Q: What inspired you to write Only If You Dare?


A: I like pretending. I like imagining that all around us, even in the most ordinary moments, there are mysteries and monsters and magic.


Take, for example, something as plain and as ordinary as a microwave oven. Sure, it’s just a dumb, old, boring thing that’s always in your kitchen. But what if it isn’t just a dumb, old, boring thing? What if your microwave has powers you’ve never considered? What if it’s even . . . vindictive? And what if it can find ways to haunt you?


Or consider so many other ordinary, everyday things. What fantastical possibilities might lurk in that snowman in your front yard? Or in that street sign up the road? Or even in your very own pillow?


I wrote Only If You Dare because, even as a 47-year-old man, I love imagining the impossible. I love thinking about the phantasmagoric possibilities of everyday objects and moments, and I think other people do too.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book calls it "an excellent offering for young people looking for real scares that don’t condescend to them or pander to adult anxieties about what might be 'too scary.'" What do you think of that assessment, particularly the idea of adult perceptions of what's "too scary" for kids?


A: I’m thrilled by that statement! Too often, we adults treat children as if they are terribly fragile. (“You can’t watch that TV show. It’ll give you nightmares!” “Close your eyes for this part! I’ll tell you when you can look!” “Put that book back. It’s not for you!”)


Of course, it’s true that children deserve our love and care, but sometimes in our efforts to protect them, we treat kids as if they’re delicate teacups, destined to shatter at the first sign of anything that isn’t nice and sweet. Treating kids this way, I believe, is disrespectful to them. 


As a children’s author, I want to respect kids enough to trust them with things that are scary. When kids read creepy stories, I believe they’ll navigate the spookiness like champs and come out the other end knowing they are infinitely brave and strong and tough (which, of course, they are).


Q: Do you usually know how your stories will end before you start writing them, or do you make many changes along the way?


A: I make MANY changes to my stories along the way. I believe revision is the key to a successful story. In fact, here’s a picture of the various drafts of Only If You Dare I wrote, each one significantly different from the last.


When I start writing, I often think I know how a story will end. But as I work, I usually find a better, more satisfying ending.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?


A: I hope kids will take away two things:


I hope they’ll discover that they can use their imaginations to fill their worlds with wonder and excitement. With a little imagination, we never, ever have to be bored. At any moment, we can look around and conjure stories about school busses or toasters or ceiling tiles or anything. Imagination is the permanent antidote to boredom.


I hope they’ll discover that they’re brilliant at navigating tensions, fears, and anxieties. I hope they’ll recognize that they are immensely, profoundly brave.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on two projects—another collection of spooky stories and a historical novel in verse. We’ll see which one I finish first!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Only that I’m deeply grateful for the chance to send my stories into the world and for all the people who’ve made that possible, most especially young readers.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Aug. 31



Aug. 31, 1916: Daniel Schorr born.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Q&A with Tess Gerritsen




Tess Gerritsen is the author, with Gary Braver, of the new novel Choose Me. Gerritsen's many other books include the Rizzoli & Isles series. Also a retired physician and a filmmaker, she lives in Maine.


Q: What inspired you and Gary Braver to write Choose Me, and how did you create your characters Frankie, Taryn, and Jack?


A: Gary and I met at a literary event some 25 years ago and have been friends ever since. A few years ago, we met up at a cocktail party in Boston and started talking about the #MeToo movement.


I told him it would be interesting to write a novel that explored the topic, told from both the male and the female perspectives. Depending on your point of view, the same situation can be viewed in very different ways.


Right there, over drinks, we began tossing ideas back and forth. We agreed the plot would be in the "gray area" of #MeToo, about an inappropriate (but not abusive) affair between a college professor and his student. Since Gary is a university professor, it made sense to put the story in an academic setting.


We didn't want this to be a good vs evil story, but rather a story with moral ambiguity, where there are no evil villains or shiny heroes. Aside from agreeing that the student would end up murdered, we didn't know much more about the plot -- certainly not who the villain was.


But we did agree that Gary should write the male POV and I would write the female points of view, of both the murdered college student as well as the female detective who investigates the death. 


Q: Can you say more about how you collaborated on the novel? What was your writing process like?


A: A few weeks after that fateful cocktail party, Gary emailed me the first chapter of the story, told from the point of view of Jack Dorian, the professor. I responded with a chapter told from the POV of Taryn Moore, the student.


As the months went by, we exchanged chapters, all over email. Oh boy did our characters torment each other! We had a good time one-upping each other with every crisis. It was a long, slow process (it took about two years), and it took lots of rewriting to mesh our writing styles so they didn't clash too much.


And about two-thirds of the way through, we had to stop and discuss who the killer might be (up till then we still didn't know!) Neither of us had ever collaborated before, and this was a completely different way of writing for both of us.


Q: Did you have any idea of how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: We felt our way through the whole thing. This is actually my usual writing process; I'm very much a seat-of-the-pants writer. But it was a new process for Gary, who has his stories planned out from the very beginning. We were continually making changes and adjustments, not just about our characters but also about the mystery.


Taryn Moore (who I knew was an obsessive type) gradually evolved for me as I wrote about her. She went from a needy and damaged character to someone with the capacity to do a lot of harm.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book calls your characters "a modern-day Heloise and Abelard." What do you think of that comparison?


A: It's very apt. The story of Heloise and Abelard is about an affair between a teacher and his much younger student. It ends tragically, with Heloise locked up in a convent and Abelard, after a brutal mutilation, renouncing his passion for her. Our story is also about a teacher/student affair and the terrible consequences for both. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I recently turned in my 13th Rizzoli & Isles novel (Listen To Me), which will be published summer 2022. It was a fun story to write, focusing on Jane Rizzoli's mother Angela, who turns out to be a pretty good detective herself.


The problem is, she's a middle-aged housewife and no one shows her any respect. So when she sees things out her living room window, and tells everyone there's something wrong going on in the neighborhood, no one believes her.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I'm now working on an espionage thriller set in my own hometown. What happens when a retired female spy gets called back into service -- and doesn't want to go?


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Helen Scales




Helen Scales is the author of the new book The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean and the Looming Threat That Imperils It. Her other books include Eye of the Shoal, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including National Geographic and The Guardian. She teaches at Cambridge University, and she lives in Cambridge, England, and in France.


Q: What inspired you to write The Brilliant Abyss?


A: There were two things driving me to write the book.


Firstly, the most exciting discoveries and research in the living world are taking place in the deep ocean. We now have incredible technologies that are opening up the depths to a greater understanding of what lives down there, and how this vast ecosystem works.


At the same time, with our growing knowledge of the deep ocean comes the realisation of just how critically important this realm is for all of life on earth. As I write in the book, the deep ocean quite simply makes this planet of ours habitable.


But, as so often is the case with human beings, we explore and simultaneously exploit the planet.


So, the second major reason I decided to write the book was to show readers how the deep ocean isn’t so vast and so remote that it’s untouchable by human impacts, and in fact our collective influence is reaching ever deeper than it ever has, with potentially devastating consequences.


Q: What do you see as some of the most common perceptions and misconceptions about the deep ocean?


A: A common misconception I try to bust in the book is that the deep ocean is pretty much full of ugly, slimy creatures and that’s about it. But there’s so much extraordinary, fascinating and beautiful life down there.


Also, I want to push against the idea that life in the deep is somehow alien. That seems to be a way deep ocean wildlife is often described, as if it is too strange to belong on earth. But the deep ocean makes up around 90 percent of the living space on the planet. So all of these incredible lifeforms are just as earthly as us creatures out on land — if not more so! 


Q: What impact do you think climate change is having on the deep ocean, and what do you see looking ahead?


A: Climate change is undoubtedly reaching into the deep and we’re already starting to see those changes, in terms of rising temperatures, reduced oxygen levels and acidification.


Also, the deep plays a critical role in regulating the global climate and has already saved us all from an unthinkably catastrophic version of climate change, by absorbing so much of the carbon humanity has released, and the heat that’s been trapped in the atmosphere.


So it’s all tied together really, the deep being both a great buffer for the planet and also, ultimately, somewhere that will be hit hard by the changing climate.


Looking ahead, it’s predicted temperatures will rise way beyond the normal range for many deep species and habitats that are adapted to very cold, stable conditions.


Also, it’s expected that animals living at different depths (the deep ocean is not all one water body, but divided into distinct zones) will respond to the changing climate to different extents and in different directions, which would push a lot of ecosystems out of synchrony, and cause even more trouble. 


Q: You describe some fascinating creatures in the book--which did you find the most intriguing?


A: That’s a tough question! There’s so much extraordinary life in the deep I find it endlessly difficult to single any out, which is why I tried to put as many as I could into the book.


In general, though, the organisms I find the most fascinating are the ones that have evolved amazing adaptations to survive in the deep ocean.


This is an extreme place to live, certainly by the standards of our lives out here on land. The pressure is enormous, there’s no sunlight, very little food, it’s cold. And yet there are species that have evolved all kinds of ways to survive down there.


So, with that in mind, some of my favourites are the animals that live on hydrothermal vents, which are probably the most toxic, scorching, inhospitable places on the planet, and yet life thrives there.


There are yeti crabs that farm microbes in their furry arms, and snails with a shell and scales on their foot made of iron. Those strange features are survival strategies for living on vents. And these fuzzy, white crabs and golden snails look very cool too.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Right now I’m working on a couple of picture books for young readers. I'm also working on some stories for National Geographic magazine. I really enjoy collaborating with artists and photographers to combine words with visual storytelling.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I write in The Brilliant Abyss about the looming threat of deep-sea mining. That threat is now even closer than it was when I wrote the book — it could possibly begin within the next two years. It’s an issue that is definitely not going away.


There are growing calls from scientists, conservationists, corporations and governments for a moratorium on deep-sea mining. https://www.seabedminingsciencestatement.org/. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Helen Scales.

Q&A with Laura Knetzger




Laura Knetzger is the author and illustrator of the new children's book Five Magic Rooms. Her other books include Bug Boys. She is based in Seattle.


Q: What inspired you to create Five Magic Rooms?

A: Five Magic Rooms is inspired by my memories of going to a friend’s house for the first time as a kid. The feeling of trepidation at being at a different family’s home, of not knowing their private rules, but I wanted to depict it as becoming full of joy rather than fear.


I also liked the idea of a mansion full of stuff that appeals to the five senses.

Q: The Kirkus Review of the book calls it "An engaging friendship story full of imaginative details for young explorers." What do you think of that description?


A: I like it! I’m glad readers can pick up on all the tiny details I drew in the house. I wanted there to be a “game” element of finding little fun things in the mansion as you read. 

Q: How did you develop your artistic style, and how did you first get interested in creating children's picture books?

A: For Five Magic Rooms I really wanted the art to evoke cartoons I like: sunny, bright, bendy shapes, and a sense of playfulness.


Sometimes I think that my artistic style is a mishmash of every image I’ve ever seen, filtered through my tastes. I’ve always been interested in kids’ books because they’re a place where fantasy, fun designs, and wild leaps of logic are the default.


Before working with Holiday House, I self-published an all-ages comic series called Bug Boys, so I’ve been working in kids’ media even before it was my job.

Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?

A: I hope they can feel a little less worried about going to new places and instead see it as containing the joy of discovery. 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m working on a middle grade graphic novel (also about friendship and trying new things) and I’m always thinking of new stuff for my comic series Bug Boys.

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: There are so many great picture books and kids’ comics coming out right now. It’s a great time to be a reader. Along with going to your local bookstore to get books, I recommend checking out small press comics shows to find even more fun stuff by independent artists to read. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Aug. 30



Aug. 30, 1925: Laurent de Brunhoff born.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Q&A with Michael Leventhal




Michael Leventhal is the author of two new books, Babka, Boulou & Blintzes: Jewish Chocolate Recipes from Around the World and The Chocolate King. He is the publisher of Greenhill and Green Bean Books, and he's based in the UK.


Q: You have two new books coming out that deal in some way with chocolate--what inspired your interest in chocolate, especially the Jewish connection to chocolate?


A: I’ve been a chocaholic for more than 20 years. It started when I attended a lecture - with plentiful tastings -  at Chocolate Week in the UK. It’s an annual event which celebrates chocolate in various ways. The lecture opened my eyes, or rather my tastebuds, to the range of chocolates available and I’ve been trying new ones ever since.


I didn’t learn about the Jewish connection with chocolate until I read a book by Rabbi Debbie Prinz, On the Chocolate Trail, just after it came out in 2013.


Q: How did you collect the recipes in Babka, Boulou & Blintzes, and do you have a particular favorite?

A: Ten years ago I founded a Jewish food charity named Gefiltefest, and, as a result, I’m in touch with some wonderful Jewish cookery writers and chefs around the world. That made it quite easy to get the first 20 or so chocolate recipes.


Still, I wanted to get to a grand total of 50 recipes from 50 contributors, so I reached out to people I’d never been in touch with before. I wanted to include recipes from as many countries as possible and that meant tracking down lots of experts around the world.


It is hard to chose a favourite, but I’d say Rachel Davies’ chocolate and tahini bark is a brilliant combination, or Joan Nathan’s delicious chocolate almond cake because it is 400 years old.


Q: How did you research The Chocolate King, your new picture book, and what do you think Laura Catalán's illustrations add to the book?


A: The book took much longer than I expected to research because I wanted to get every detail correct, and also not appropriate Maya and Aztec history. The Jewish connection to chocolate only begins in the 1500s - long after cocoa was discovered.    


I also publish history books and, as a result, I am in touch with experts who advised me on everything from Mesoamerican haircuts to the correct sword hilt designs for the 1580s. 


Laura’s illustrations deserve to win prizes. She has taken a tremendous amount of care in getting things accurate, but retaining a sense of life and humour. There are so many wonderful details in every spread. It is the sort of book that you can look at a hundred times and find new things every time you look. 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from both books?


A: That is a hard question to answer. My main aim is to entertain readers. I want them to laugh and enjoy spotting new things in the illustrations.


I want young and old readers to learn how chocolate is made, because it strikes me as peculiar that something so common in everyday life still remains something of a mystery. I think very few people have ever touched or even seen a real cocoa pod - but many people have chocolate every day.  


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am not writing anything, but I’m particularly proud of a new board book that I’ll be publishing by the American author Chris Barash, with illustrations by the Israeli illustrator Aviel Basil.


The book has one blind character and I’m hoping it will have Braille on the cover and throughout the book. This should make the book accessible to blind and partially-sighted readers, but also introduce many sighted readers around the world to the idea of Braille. I don’t know if this has ever been done before with a children’s book.

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I enjoy cooking but when I attempted chocolate domes it was a catastrophe. I followed a BBC video, which showed how to pour melted chocolate over an inflated balloon. I was impatient and didn’t wait long enough for the chocolate to cool.


The predictable result was that the balloon exploded, splattering chocolate all over me, and my kitchen. Weeks later I was still finding and cleaning specks of chocolate. 


Also, to end on a good, tasty note, I’d say that chocolate - in moderation - can be healthy. The addition of sugar is not a good thing, but for thousands of years doctors have written about the health benefits of cacao.  


You can read about them - and also download a free chocolate history timeline and take a chocolate quiz - at https://greenbeanbooks.com/chocolate/.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Steven T. Collis


Steven T. Collis is the author of the new book The Immortals: The World War II Story of Five Fearless Heroes, the Sinking of the Dorchester, and an Awe-Inspiring Rescue. He also has written the book Deep Conviction, and is a law professor at the University of Texas School of Law.


Q: What inspired you to write The Immortals?


A: I first came across the story when I saw a stamp issued in honor of the Four Chaplains. I locked the story away in the back of my mind and told myself: if I ever get the opportunity, I'm going to bring this story to life for readers.


Then, after I already landed the book deal and was researching the lives of the chaplains, I came across the story of Charles W. David, Jr. I realized that he had not received nearly as much attention as the chaplains and that I could not tell their story without telling his. 


Q: How did you research the lives of these men, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: Interviews, archival research at the National Archives and the American Jewish Archives, memoirs, letters provided by family members, books on U-boats, journals by U-boat captains, immigration records, academic treatises on German spies, resources from the Chapel of the Four Chaplains, formerly top secret government reports, many other sources--all played a role in bringing the book to life.


What surprised me the most was how little had been told about Charles W. David, Jr. At most, he had received a few paragraphs of treatment in one book. That's not to say he'd been completely ignored--he did receive honors and the Coast Guard named a ship after him. But previous accounts of the sinking of The Dorchester tended to focus on the chaplains and not on the rescuers. 


Q: What do you see as their legacies today?


A: We live in a time when people are struggling to sacrifice even a slice of their own self-interest to help those who are different from them. The Immortals give us an example of humanity at its best, and my hope is that we can all follow their examples.


Their legacy is more than their examples, however. Thousands of people are alive today because of what the Immortals did to save their ancestors. 


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: We had originally called it "The Immortal Chaplains," but as soon as I learned about Charles David, I reached out to my editor and said, "We have to change the title." Thankfully, he agreed 100 percent. From there, the title "The Immortals" flowed naturally. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I just finished the manuscript for a novel, based on a true story, of an American fighter pilot captured behind enemy lines during the Korean War.


When he parachuted to the ground, he snapped both his ankles, was captured by the North Korean and Chinese armies, then attempted a daring escape. North Korean soldiers received an order to execute him upon recapture. They did find him again. What happened next is nothing short of miraculous. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I regularly speak all over the United States about both writing and religious freedom law. Keep an eye on my website for various speaking dates. I'd love to see people in person (especially once the pandemic is finally, completely behind us)!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Lindsey Rowe Parker




Lindsey Rowe Parker is the author of the new children's picture book Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down. She is also a consultant who works with small businesses and nonprofits.


Q: In an interview on NPR, you said your daughter's experiences inspired you to write Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down. Can you say more about that?


A: My daughter was diagnosed as autistic the day after her second birthday. Like many families new to a diagnosis, we dove in to find out how we could “fix” it. 


Through a few years of seeking out,  listening to, and learning from the autistic adult community, we have really shifted from trying to “fix” it, to the realization that all our brains are wired differently, and our job is to help find ways to support her in the ways that she needs! 


This experience also opened up my eyes to sensory differences that I had as a kid! I was diagnosed with ADHD at almost 40, and it finally made so much of my struggles as a neurodivergent person make sense! I’ve realized how much neurodiversity has and will always affect my life and family, with positives and negatives, strengths and weaknesses. 


And since beginning to understand what that means, I have really embraced our differences, learned strategies that work for us, and give myself and others a bit more grace.  


Q: What do you think Rebecca Burgess's illustrations add to the book?


A: As an autistic illustrator, Rebecca brings a unique understanding to the story, and one that I sought out. There are so many autistic and neurodivergent creators, and this story needed to be brought to life by someone that understands these nuances of a lived experience with sensory differences!


The way the characters were brought to life exceeded everything I imagined. When you work with a professional with a talent for storytelling through art like Rebecca, you get out of the way and let them do what they do best!


Q: How would you describe the relationship between the mom and the child in the book?


A: The relationship between the child and the mom is one of love, acceptance and understanding. The child is not asked to change, she is supported, she is allowed to be herself, she is loved unconditionally for who she is. 


A few people have asked me if this is me, and I will be honest that I am not always as patient as this wonderful momma. But this is the ideal, this is what I strive for - because I think kids deserve this type of connection, we all do. We long to be loved, accepted and understood just as we are. 


Q: What do you hope kids and their families take away from the book?


A: I think most kids can relate to needing a wiggle, stomp or a squeeze! I want kids to feel seen when they read this book and think, “Hey, I’m not alone in this, they are just like me!”


When a parent or caregiver picks up this book, I hope they have fun with it, but deeper than that, I hope the next time they see someone experiencing the world differently than they do, they have a little bit of empathy, ask questions, don’t snap to judgment, and try to be supportive.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I have a few more manuscripts in the hopper, a couple about diverse family structures, blended families, an adoption story I’m co-writing with one of my sisters, mostly pulling from personal real experiences in my life that also have an underlying universal theme of acceptance and belonging.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Wiggles, Stomps and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down is available online at major retailers, and is available to order through your local bookstore or library! It is available in English, Spanish, and soon Braille. There are English and Spanish Read Alouds on the website, as well as ASL! Visit us at https://www.wigglesstompsandsqueezes.com/ and social media!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Aug. 29



Aug. 29, 1632: John Locke born.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Q&A with Peri Chickering




Peri Chickering is the author of the new book Leadership Flow: The Unstoppable Power of Connection. She is a coach, consultant, herbalist, and leadership educator. She lives in Hancock, New Hampshire.


Q: What inspired you to write Leadership Flow, and how would you describe "leadership flow?"


A: Like many things, the initial inspiration seems to be one thing and then as the process unfolds other layers of inspiration appear.


A couple of the early seeds behind writing the book were the fact I found it hard if not impossible to find leadership books that talked about leadership from the “inside out” and connected the health of our planet and spirituality with the attributes it takes to be effective.


When I was an associate professor at Regis University it was very hard to find good resources to use in my leadership classes.


Another reason was the constant question from clients “where can I read more about this?” when I would coach and teach the more internal dynamics of leadership.


There was also a persistent inner voice that kept saying “It is time.” And thank god it was persistent because I would never have finished the book without this inner voice urging me to keep going!


Leadership flow as a title and guiding image is about an invitation to live with a deep and abiding experience of connection to the wisdom and rhythms which drive the very fabric of our universe – we are a part of this wisdom and it lives in us as it does in everything around us.


The more aware you become of this relationship the more directly your living can flow with it and from it.


And it is my belief that each person has a leadership gift to contribute to the unfolding whole and this gift naturally flows out into the world when we are connected to these underlying rhythms.


Q: You write, "My journey in the land of leadership has been long and varied." Can you say more about that?


A: What a lovely question. When I wrote this sentence, I believe I was seeking to convey the idea that although I have had many different kinds of professional endeavors – from mountaineer, to wilderness guide, professor, executive director and leadership coach/consultant – there has always been a “leadership thread” woven into all these jobs.


And I have wondered and thought deeply and often about the issues of power, confidence, impact, empowerment, and enduring contribution.


How do these ways of being actually work? What makes for real impact? How would you even know? Who is really leading when following and drawing out the wisdom and insights from others is a powerful component of being effective in a formal leadership role? How do you teach “leadership” if you define it more as a set of behaviors or a way of being rather than a formal role or outer position?


I have lots of questions which keep me curious about what it means to make a meaningful contribution to the world.


Q: How would you advise people to maintain connection during these difficult times?


A: Every person is so uniquely wired that it is really hard to say exactly how to best maintain an experience of deep and personal connection to the larger order of things.


For me, and for many of my friends, here are a few common practices: unplugging from all things electronic for periods of time; being deliberate to give yourself space for silence and solitude; staying close to earth – whether this means your hands in the dirt, regular time with animals, plants, rocks, trees, etc.; living in places where you can see the stars and lie under the night sky; and getting yourself into water – oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, hot springs, and even “frozen water” as in out for a good long ski or snowshoe.


And when you find yourself in moments of genuine sadness or despair, be sure you have a good friend or two who can offer you a quiet listening ear and be your steady support as you will most certainly find yourself being for others in their times of need.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: Given all the stress and unfolding “issues” across the globe at this point, perhaps my biggest hopes for readers are to deepen their sense of being connected.


Connected to their own personal story and the fact that they are bringing value all the time in what may seem to be very simple ways. And connected to others, to a vast web of intelligence, and to the unfolding story of the planet itself.


I truly hope that readers come away with a sense that they are not alone and that they have support and it comes to them in all kinds of both seen and unseen ways.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on a very short “book trailer” and I will most likely also produce an audio book of Leadership Flow.


Otherwise, I am letting myself go “empty” in terms of any new projects. I have gotten very good at letting go to the space “in between” and simply enjoying my rural lifestyle here in the southwestern corner of New Hampshire where I do a lot of “stacking wood and hauling horse manure” – along with long walks and quiet cups of tea.


If a new inspiration begins to percolate, I will listen and see where it leads me.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Not that I can think of in these moments. Thank you for inviting me to share some thoughts with your readers.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb