Friday, August 5, 2022

Q&A with Ingrid Laguna



Ingrid Laguna is the author of the new middle grade novel Kit and Arlo Find a Way: Teaching Consent to 8-12 Year Olds. Her other books include Bailey Finch Takes a Stand. Also an educator and a musician, she is based in Australia.


Q: What inspired you to write Kit and Arlo Find a Way?


A: With the #MeToo movement in full force in early 2021, I was reminded of my own non-consensual sexual experiences of the past. I wanted to be part of the change that needed to happen in our non-consent culture.


I had seen Vanessa Hamilton, sexuality and respectful relationships educator and expert, when she presented to parents at my daughter’s school. Her candid, evidence-based and inspiring talk stayed with me, so when I wanted to do something to make a difference, I contacted her and she embraced the opportunity to create something together. Kit and Arlo Find a Way (Teaching Consent to 8-12 year olds) is the result of that collaboration.


Q: How did the two of you work together on the book?


A: Vanessa shared her vast and nuanced knowledge of the meaning of consent with me, in all its complexity, in writing and through discussions and meetings over the period of the development of the manuscript. Together we came up with 13 scenarios, each of which embodied a different aspect critical to consent, and child-appropriate.


I then created a cast of relatable characters and wove the scenarios into an engaging narrative and fictional chapter book.


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

A: I knew that the two key protagonists, Kit and Arlo, had to start out with a dysfunctional and harmful dynamic and that by the end of the story they both needed to have learnt how to make mutually consensual and respectful decisions with one another and with their peers. They needed to recognise their own behaviours and choose to change.


They had to reach a point at which they had the best friendship ever as a result of their effective communication, respectful behaviour and positive self-beliefs.


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


A: I hope that kids will internalise the key values that will lay the foundations for healthy, positive interactions and relationships as they move into adolescence and then adulthood. I hope they see the importance of asserting their true identities, and practising effective verbal and non-verbal communication.


I hope they understand there are strategies for managing your disappointment when someone changes their mind, and, above all, I hope they learn that practising consent leads to fulfilling shared experiences and mutually rewarding relationships.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am contracted by Text Publishing for my next two middle-grade novels. The one I am working on is inspired by the true history of an amazing Polish photographer and artist who lived in a forest in Poland for 30 years with a wild boar and a lynx in her hut!


The protagonist, 11-year-old Daria, has Polish heritage, and her sense of belonging and identity blossoms when she learns about her connection to this woman. The novel is based on the notion of curiosity sparking interest in the past and the way our heritage is part of who we are.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: One of the best things about being a children’s author is that I get to visit lots of schools and engage with my readers. Kids have wild imaginations and open minds. The experience of working with them is a pleasure and a privilege.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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