Monday, April 30, 2012

A Very Special MMGM Interview with Jerry Spinelli, author of JAKE AND LILY -- And a GIVEAWAY!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger.  For others, please see my MMGM bloglist! Today, I'm excited to be interviewing the one and only Jerry Spinelli, the beloved author of many wonderful middle grade novels including the Newbery-winning Maniac Magee.  He has a new book coming soon.



Jake and Lily, by Jerry Spinelli (May 8, 2012, Balzer + Bray, for ages 8 to 12)

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from the publisher):

This is a story about me, Lily.
And me, Jake.
We're twins and we're exactly alike.
Not exactly!
Whatever. This is a book we wrote about the summer we turned eleven and Jake ditched me.
Please. I just started hanging out with some guys in the neighborhood.
Right. So anyway, this is a book about
goobers and supergoobers
bullies
clubhouses
true friends
things getting built and wrecked and rebuilt
and about figuring out who we are.
We wrote this together
(sort of)
so you'll get to see both sides of our story.
But you'll probably agree with my side.
You always have to have the last word, don't you?
Yes!

Why I liked it:  The special bond between Jake and Lily is unlike anything Jerry Spinelli has ever written.  Yet the book is chock-full of his signature funny dialogue and situations.  It's a great book for summer, because it takes place in one summer, a summer full of changes and possibilities, a summer for growing up.  Jake and Lily are eleven now, so their parents decide to put them into separate bedrooms. And that's just the beginning. When Jake starts hanging out with a neighborhood gang, Lily feels lonely.  So she spends most of her time with their hippie grandfather.  I won't spoil it by telling you what happens, but rest assured the ending is perfect.

I loved the train connection.  Trains play a special part in Jake and Lily's childhood.  I'll delve into this more in the interview below.

Another thing I loved about this book was that Jake and Lily still have both parents, who are still married to each other!  That's beginning to seem like a rarity in children's books.


Photo source


1) Welcome, Jerry!  Thanks for joining us here today.  You've written more than 25 books for children, including the Newbery-winning Maniac Magee and my personal favorite, Stargirl.  Of all your books, which one is your favorite?

My first, Space Station Seventh Grade.


2) How long did it take you to write the rough draft of Jake and Lily?   And how many times did you have to revise it?
Eight or nine months, I guess. I don't do successive drafts. I'll edit yesterday's work today, then fix whatever at the end.

3) That's great to know, Jerry.  Jake and Lily are twins who communicate in a very special way.  This is a departure for you. You've written about sibling rivalry before in books like Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush? but isn't this the first time you've had twins as your main characters?  What made you decide to write about twins?  And what made you decide to add that delicious hint of fantasy to your novel?
Yes, first time. I've always found the notion of sibling bonding appealing, and I guess it finds its fullest expression in twins. The ESP-type communication adds an intriguing dimension, and one that many will say is not entirely fantasy.


4) As the daughter of a train nut, I appreciated the train connection (the twins were born on the California Zephyr, Lily collects model trains, plus the twins experience an unusual dream every year on their birthday).  Would you consider yourself a train nut?  Have you always liked trains?
Yes, I'm a train nut, though more the size of a peanut than a brazil nut. I've ridden the California Zephyr coast-to-coast a number of times. When I was in grade school freight train steam locomotives hammered the night a stone's throw from my bedroom.


5) Bullying is a huge problem in our society and you delve into that when Jake joins a neighborhood gang called The Death Rays. Their favorite occupation that summer is to make fun of a new kid named Ernie, who's a total nerd, a "goober" in Jake's eyes.  When you were a kid, were you ever part of a gang like that? Or were you the one being picked on? 

No, I was neither a bully nor, except on two brief occasions that I recall, a victim.


6) Can you let us know what your next book is about?
Actually, two more are coming. First will be Third Grade Angels which is a prequel to Fourth Grade Rats. That will be in the fall.  Then in spring 2013 will come Hokey Pokey, a story that reimagines childhood as a place rather than a time.


7) Oh, that sounds wonderful! I understand that you wrote four adult novels that were rejected before writing Space Station Seventh Grade and becoming a published author.  How many years did it take you to get to that point?  And what advice would you give to aspiring writers? 
I collected rejection slips on those four unwanted novels for over a dozen years. There's only one secret formula: keep writing. And I would add: Write what you care about.


Thank you so much, Jerry!  I really appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions.

And thank you, Joanne. I miss being closer to the bookstore.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Doesn't that sound like a great book?  And wouldn't you like to read it?  Well, you're in luck, because I have a hardcover copy of Jake and Lily on order and I'll be giving it away to one lucky winner!  Jerry's coming to the bookstore on May 22nd, so I will get it signed at that point.

To enter, you only need to be a follower and leave a comment on this post!  It's as simple as that.  I'm very sorry but this one is going to have to be limited to United States entries only. You have until 10:00 pm EDT on Sunday May 13 (yes, that's Mother's Day) and I will announce a winner on Monday May 14 (that way if you want it personalized on the 22nd, I can ask Jerry to do that).  Good luck! 


39 comments:

  1. Awesome interview. So interesting to learn about Jerry's writing process of editing as he goes. Thanks for the giveaway. This sounds like a great book.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie! And I like his process too.

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  2. Thanks for the interview. Book sounds great.

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  3. I told my daughter about Jake and Lily after I saw it mentioned in the Chester County Books and Music e-newsletter, and she said, "Oh! Jerry Spinelli? He's the one who wrote the Stargirl books! So can we get this new book?"

    Thanks for posting the interview. I like reading about how other writers write and think.

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    1. Me too, Kim! And just a side note: that email newsletter is now put together by yours truly.

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  4. this book sounds wonderful!!! thanks for sharing, and love your interview :)

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  5. I always wanted to have a twin. :] Thanks for the giveaway! I follow as Gabi.

    teddycavygal AT yahoo DOT com

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    1. Oh, I always wanted to have a twin too! Thanks for entering the giveaway.

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  6. This looks like so much fun!!! Thanks :)
    GFC: Vivien

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

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  7. That sounds like a great book. I simply LOVED Stargirl, and I also love twins and trains, so this is a definite winner for me.

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  8. Holy macaroni, Joanne! Jerry Spinelli. I love Jerry Spinelli. And you got to interview him. *swoons*

    Great post!! :)

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    1. Yep! I really wanted to ask him more questions about writing, but didn't want to take too much of his time. He's practically a legend!

      Thanks, Shannon.

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  11. I love Maniac Magee myself. This one sounds really good though. I can always trust Jerry Spinelli to provide thoughtful, powerful stories.

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  12. daughter of train nut and sister of twins!

    i want to read this!

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    1. And I just might know where you can get a copy! Ahahaha!

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  13. I love Jerry Spinelli's work. Thanks for sharing this new one coming soon!

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  14. Thank you for the opportunity to receive a copy of this! I'm hooked just from the tiny portion you have here.

    Also, thank you, Jerry, for sharing your perspectives. The part about keep writing--especially that!

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    1. Hi Barbara. Yes, it's great to know what the secret formula is, isn't it?

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  15. Yes and yes.

    What a treat. And a comfort to know that Jerry Spinelli and I revise the same way. :-) yay trains, too. The only way to travel (well, unless you have to cross an ocean, but I'm still waiting for the ocean train to be invented)

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    1. Me too, Danika. And I love the idea of an ocean train. There's a book there somewhere...

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  16. Great interview--and the novel sounds super. No one's yet mentioned the cover: very eye-catching!

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    1. Thanks for mentioning that, Michael, since I neglected to!

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  17. Yay! A new book by Jerry Spinelli! Hope I'm the lucky winner...

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    1. Glad you're as excited as I am, Laurie!

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  18. I'm a massive Jerry Spinelli fan...can't wait to get my hands on this one!

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    1. Welcome to the blog, Sarah. Always happy to meet another Jerry Spinelli fan!

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  19. This sounds like a great book for boys and girls. I loved reading the interview with Jerry. Thanks for the giveaway, too!

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    1. Excellent point, Jennifer! It's perfect for both boys and girls.

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  20. I'm sooooooo jealous that you got to interview him! Super super cool to hear about his writing process. Always interested in that.

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    1. Hi Jill! Thanks for entering.

      I've known Jerry and his wife, Eileen, for about ten years. They used to shop in the bookstore where I work until they moved a couple of years ago.

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