SSEF Literacy In Action: Author Spotlight, Part Two

A follow-up to last week’s author interviews.

The staff of North Springs’ Echo Literary Magazine and Oracle Web Zine had the good fortune of speaking with several of the sponsors, authors, and illustrators at the event. This is the next in a series of those interviews.

Irene Latham

Latham

Interview by Nina Schwelm

The Oracle: Tell us about your work. What type of genres do you write and what/who is the main focus?

Irene Latham: I got my start in poetry for adults, but these days I write almost exclusively for children. My 7th book, Love, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus, just released Oct. 1, and I have quite few more in the queue for publication over the next several years. I’ve written novels and pictures books in the genres of historical fiction, contemporary fiction, poetry, nonfiction,… just about everything! The one thing all my books have in common is that they are imaginative — AND they all include an animal (or animals) in one way or another.

 

The Oracle: Which book is your favorite? Why?

Irene Latham: It’s difficult to pick a favorite! I love them all for different reasons. I am usually most enamored of the project I am currently on, and no one usually knows about that but me. 🙂 However, if pressed, I always fall back on Leaving Gees Band, which was my debut children’s novel about a girl in 1932 Gee’s Bend, Alabama, who sets out to save her sick mother and records her adventures in quilt pieces. Ludelphia is brave and caring and the kind of human I’d like to be.

The Oracle: Were there any authors or books that inspired you to be the writer you are today? What was your favorite book growing up?

Irene Latham: I’m lucky in that I grew up with parents who read to me. My early favorites were Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss — both poets! Later I loved the Little House books and anything to do with horses.

The Oracle: How did you get involved in the SSEF Literary Festival and what was your role?

Irene Latham: I was invited to present about my books and sign copies for attendees. It’s always an honor to be invited to share about this thing that I love.

The Oracle: Why do you think reading is important? How do we get more children to read and be excited about it?

Irene Latham: For me, reading has always provided an adventure and a safe haven at the same time. My experiences as a lifelong reader, child, mother, homeschool teacher, and visiting author is schools has taught me that reading should be FUN! The kids who are most excited are the ones who have adults in their lives who read to them, with all the funny voices and the warmth and the joy that comes from the shared experience of words. You, too, can read to a child younger than you… try it! You won’t believe how much fun it is.

The Oracle: What advice do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

Irene Latham: Think if writing like brushing your teeth — don’t go to bed without doing it. If you make it a daily, essential habit, you will be amazed at how quickly the words will accumulate! And I want to read your stories, so please, get started TODAY!

The Oracle: Thank you so much for your time!

Irene Latham: Thank you, Nina! Best of luck to you! If you are serious about children’s books, be sure to check out scbwi.org. It is the premiere professional organization for writers and illustrators of books for children.

Surishtha (Sue) Sehgal Ph. D.

Sehgals

Interview by Khalil Kelfati

The Oracle: Tell us about your work. What type of genres do you write and what/who is the main focus?

Dr. Sehgal: [My work is] based on Indian culture.

The Oracle: What books have you written and which one is your favorite? Why?

Dr. Sehgal: A Bucket of Blessings (a New York Times best seller).

The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk (2016 Award recipient from Ga. Center for the Book “Book All Young Georgians should Read”).

Festival of Colors (2018 Award recipient from Ga. Center for the Book “Book All Young Georgians should Read”)

Thread of Love

…and many more to come!

The Oracle: Were there any authors or books that inspired you to be the writer you are today? What was your favorite book growing up?

Dr. Sehgal: [My inspiration was] folk tales, fairy tales from around the world, including India.

The Oracle: How did you get involved in the SSEF Literary Festival and what was your role?

Dr. Sehgal: [I was] invited as an author for presentation.

The Oracle: How do we get more children to read and be excited about it?

Dr. Sehgal: Good to learn of your interest in children’s literacy. Be true to yourself and tell the story from your heart!

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

Jodi 2

National Geographic Kids science author Jodi Wheeler-Toppen has written over 20 books for students and teachers. Wheeler-Toppen provided the Sandy Springs public school with the best attendance record at the Literacy Event a grand prize of a full day of assemblies that connect the fun and excitement of science with the power of nonfiction writing. (Although the North Springs Spartan Strong team didn’t win, it did make a valiant attempt!)

interview by Alma Kent

The Oracle: Tell us about your work. What type of genres to you write and what/who is the main focus?

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen: I write almost entirely nonfiction science. A lot of my books include activities, but I really enjoy explaining science–writing about the things that made me say “ha!” when I learned them.

The Oracle: What books have your written/illustrated and which one is your favorite and why?

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen: My most recent book is Dog Science Unleashed: fun activities to do with your canine companion (National Geographic Kids). It was so fun to do because a lot of the research for it involved playing with dogs!

The Oracle: What books inspired you?

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen: As a kid, I wanted to be a writer, but I was into fantasy and assumed that was what I would write! I loved the cycle of Prydain books by Lloyd Alexander, the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, and (not fantasy) Where the River Begins by Patricia M. St. John. (Harry Potter hadn’t been written yet!).

The Oracle: How did you get involved in the SSEF Literary festival and what was your role (speaker, panelists, workshops, etc).

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen: I did a little show of science “tricks” and had a table of dog science activities. I will be doing a school visit for the school with the most participation.

The Oracle: Why do you think reading is important and how do we get more kids to read?

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen: I don’t know that reading is “important,” but I do think it is fun. And it can be very useful if there’s something you want to find out. I think we get more kids to read by helping them find the books that are fun for them, and showing them how to get the information they want to know out of books.

The Oracle: What advice to you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen: Write. Write. Write. Later, when you’re a very skilled writer, learn how the business works. You have to have both parts. But the writing comes first. Thanks for the interview, and good luck with your own writing!

Special thanks to Miriam Salpeter, Marketing Director for the Sandy Springs Education Force, and to Mr. Hanson.

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