Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of the new children's picture book I Want a Boat!. Her many other books include All the World. She is on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she lives in Austin, Texas.
Q: What inspired you to write I Want a Boat!?
A: This book actually started as a writing prompt. A therapist friend of mine asks people to journal using the phrases "I have... I want... I have... I want," as a way to validate their desires and also acknowledge and appreciate what they already have.
I love the rhymic refrain of the prompt itself, and the fact that it kicks off a desire line makes it extra appealing as a structural storytelling device! In the end I was able to write the whole book that way, although at the very end I use a contraction in place of "I have..." -- a slight cheat!
Q: What do you think Kevan Atteberry's illustrations add to the book?
A: It's like the text was still a dream -- an act of imagination, for me and for the primary character. Kevan's art brought all of that to life in such a vivid way!
Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book says, "The draw of the story is the young protagonist’s ability to brings needs to life via imagination—power that Scanlon emphasizes with the punch of repeating, easily memorized prose." What do you think of that description?
A: Well, I'm flattered. I do think that both repetition and rhyme work really well for pre- and early-readers. Poetic language is so much fun, and memorization is, in fact, an act of early reading!
As for the protagonist using her imagination to fulfill her wishes -- to bring her needs to life -- I honestly think that's the great joy and power of childhood! And, it's something we give up too soon and then forever devalue.
Using one's imagination is an act of creativity -- a fundamental, ground-level act of creativity. I can't think of much that's more worthwhile.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: That the power to create an adventure (or for that matter, a life) is theirs for the taking. Also, there's no limit on how many times you revisit or revise a dream.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I started a new picture book just this morning—it'll be a while before I know if it holds water (boat pun unintended). But I have a few new books coming out next year, including my next middle grade novel and another picture book with Holiday House/Neal Porter Books called Frances in the Country, illustrated by the incredible Sean Qualls.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: This book—I Want a Boat—is dedicated to the incredible writing community at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. I'm on the faculty of their Writing for Children and Young Adults program, where I grow as much as I give. Lucky me.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb