Copyright Clancy Tucker (c)
Quote of the day:
"The way to get started is
to quit talking and begin doing."
ALMA FLOR ADA
- SPECIAL GUEST AUTHOR
Today I am pleased and honoured to welcome an interesting and very talented lady - Alma Flor Ada, Professor Emerita at the University of San Francisco, has devoted her life to advocacy for peace by promoting a pedagogy oriented to personal realization and social justice. A former Radcliffe Scholar at Harvard University and Fulbright Research Scholar she is an internationally re-known speaker and the author of numerous children’s books of poetry, narrative, folklore and non fiction. Her books have received prestigious awards; among many: Christopher Medal (The Gold Coin), Pura Belpré Medal (Under the Royal Palms), Once Upon a World (Gathering the Sun), Parents’ Choice Honor (Dear Peter Rabbit), NCSS and CBC Notable Book (My Name is María Isabel). She is also the author of a book of memoirs, Vivir en dos idiomas, two novels for adults, En clave de sol and A pesar del amor, and several professional books for educators, including A Magical Encounter: Latino Children’s Literature in the Classroom, as well as a wealth of educational materials. Her work, in collaboration with F. Isabel Campoy in promoting authorship in students, teachers, and parents is the content of their book Authors in the Classroom: A Transformative Education Process. Alma Flor Ada has been awarded the American Education Research Association [AERA] Hispanic Issues Award for Research in Elementary, Secondary and Postsecondary Education and the California Association for Bilingual Education [CABE] Life Long Award.
Wow, welcome, Alma Flor Ada. Tell us more ...
Were you a good reader as a Kid?
I was very fortunate to have a wonderful grandmother who was a great storyteller. My love for stories began listening to her stories. She taught me to read very early, when I was 3 years old. She would create a story for each letter of the alphabet, always related to the letter shape and to something we could see around us in the farm. The letter V resembled the cow’s horns. Since cow is vaca in Spanish it made much sense. She would write the word for vaca on the dust, with a stick, and tell me the story. Each day she would write the letters and words I knew, and add new words with new stories. I particularly remember the one of the letter R for rose.
From reading words on the dust she moved me to read newspaper high lines. When my surprised parents were shown I could read my mother gave me my first book, her own copy of Heidi.
From then on, it was non-stop reading.
When and how did you become a writer?
In sixth grade I wrote a play and three more plays in high school all with a strong historical woman as main character. My classmates and I enjoyed acting them out. Then on my senior year at high school I wrote a comedy with some criticism of our educational journey. We first staged it in our garage, with a large audience watching from outdoors. The success led us to rent a theatre and give two performances on successive weekends. But, of course, none of this made me a writer.
Several years later, as a classroom teacher I began preparing materials for my classes which evolved as textbooks.
When my 5 year old daughter complained that my high school textbooks were very ugly I made the first attempts of re-telling my grandmother stories for her and to collect the poems I had liked as a child. And so my first books for children began.
What do you enjoy more about been a writer.
There are many things I enjoy about being a writer. I enjoy the process of seeing books taking form, to realize that something that did not exist before has now been created.
I enjoy the freedom of writing what I like and what I want, even if many of the things I write do not get published.
I love going to schools and meeting teachers, librarian, and above all children who have read and enjoyed my books.
And then, there is the wonder, of how far my books will go, of what will happen when others read it. There have been many amazing moments, for example, knowing that my books Dear Peter Rabbit and Jordi’s Star have been translated into Korean and there are children in Korea reading them; discovering that Ballet Bras d’Or from Canada decided to transform The Malachite Palace into a wonderful ballet [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DF-p_iftLM]. Or finding out that this same book has been presented as a puppet show in Washington D.C.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
Finding an editor to publish what one writes.
What are you working on at the moment?
Three different books, all sharing some aspect of the rich Hispanic culture.
What inspires you?
Life, people, places, history. The hope for a world of caring, of understanding, of joy, of friendship, of solidarity, and above all a world of justice so that there can be lasting peace.
What genre do you write?
I write several genres: poetry, contemporary realistic fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, picture books, and theatre are some of them.
Do you have a preferred writing schedule and writing place?
My life has always been very active, teaching and speaking in many places so I have gotten used to writing when and whenever I can. I do love writing at home, in my computer, with the view of the roses in my garden and the hills beyond.
Do you have any tips for new writers?
Believe in yourself and write, write, write. Do not worry about how you will get it published, concentrate on getting it written. And continue enjoying reading without comparing yourself to others. What you can learn from them you will assimilate but above all enjoy reading!
Do you suffer from writer’s block?
Yes, I do. And it is a terrible feeling. But what a relief when words begin to appear on the screen again!
Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?
Yes, of course. Most of the important things that have happened to me in life find their way into my writing.
What is the greatest compliment you ever received from a reader?
I have a beautiful letter from a girl who had been seriously ill. While in bed she read Where the Flame Trees Bloom and wrote to tell me that I had made her pay attention to the small details in her life, things she had previously overlooked, and that the book had help her see the caring from the people around her and feel connected to them. Those words have been very valuable to me. To think that by reading one of my books someone could begin to have a different outlook of life is an enormous compliment.
How many books have you published?
I can’t give an exact number but they are more than 200.
Have you won any prices or awards? What do they mean to you?
I am very grateful for the many awards I have received. They are a great encouragement and above all contribute to make the books known and facilitate that they reach the hands of children. But the greatest awards are the words of readers who enjoy the books.
Other than writing what else do you love?
Family and friends. Art and any expression of beauty. Nature, in
all its forms, but in particular the ocean. I enjoy swimming, reading, traveling, both discovering new realities and re-visiting places I like.
If you had an opportunity to speak to the entire world, what would you say?
Every one of us was born a helpless baby. We have grown up thanks to the caring of others. We are all following the same journey, a journey that will have the same end for all.
As humans our similarities are fundamental, while our differences are minimal. If we treat each other with respect and caring, as we would treat our loved ones, we can build a world of peace.
Life is very short and at the end all that will count is the good we have been able to do. Fear can deter us from being the best we can be, unless we decide to let go of fear and embrace justice, kindness, solidarity and love.
Alma Flor Ada's contact points:
Clancy's comment: It's been a pleasure to have you as my special guest, Alma Flor Ada.
Love ya work! - CT.
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