Kekla Magoon: An Interview with the Author and Speaker
Teen Voices (TV): What do you do on a typical day of work?
Kekla Magoon (KM): Most days, I wake up and start writing. I like to write at least a little bit every morning, no matter what else I have to do that day. Some days I just stay home and keep writing. When I am working on a book that requires some research, such as a historical novel, I often go to the library in the afternoon to use reference materials or check out books and other resources. I travel quite a bit, attending conferences, teaching writing workshops, and visiting schools. Even when I wake up in a hotel room, I like to start the day by dashing off a paragraph or two. Every little bit helps build a novel.
TV: What is your favorite part of your job?
KM: I love that I get to go to work in my pajamas! I enjoy sitting at the computer and plunging myself into another person’s mind and heart and world, and seeing where it leads me. Writing is very self-directed work though, and there are days when I wake up and think, “Do I have to?” On those days it helps to think about my other favorite part of my job: meeting my readers. I love going out in the world and visiting schools and libraries and interacting with teens who are reading my books. It’s very inspiring and rewarding.
TV: Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?
KM: No. I always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t know when I was younger that I would grow up to write for a living. I wanted to be a lot of different things as I was growing up: a teacher, a doctor, a ballroom dancer, a health educator, and more. When I started writing more seriously, though, I realized that it was going to be a major part of the rest of my life. Soon, it became my career!
TV: What do you think is one of the particular advantages of writing and reading books for young adults?
KM: I am continually inspired by my teen audience. Their enthusiasm for books and stories is powerful and meaningful, and very motivating. Young readers are much more open to new ideas than most adults, and they are eager to learn about the world by looking at things through another person’s eyes, which is what fiction is all about for me. I feel free to bring my best, most wildly creative self to my work, because I know that teens can handle it.
TV: You’ve received a lot of nominations and awards for your books. Is there any particular moment of recognition that you’re particularly proud of?
KM: It’s always wonderful and flattering to be honored for my writing. Each award, nomination, and recognition that my book receives is meaningful in it’s own way. I have especially enjoyed being honored by the American Library Association, because the librarians who choose the honored books are extraordinarily committed and talented educators who really know kids and teens and their reading needs. To be honored by librarians is a very high honor! The only higher honor is being recognized by teens themselves, and I have been flattered to be included in several kids’ choice award lists.
TV: Do you have a favorite book, young adult or otherwise?
KM: Oh, I have quite a number of favorite books. Some of them are cookbooks! I like to cook. One of my favorite novels is Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. I recently read Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.
KM: Political issues I would focus on as president include: education, health and human services, international cooperation, encouraging respect for diversity, and including young citizens in the governing process in meaningful ways. Most of all, I would like a stronger focus on education—creative approaches to education in particular. I believe the best investment we can make is in our youth—not just for what they can become in the future, but for who they are today, and what they can contribute now. Young people have a vested interest in the future of our nation and our world, and I believe their input could help us remember to look at the big picture when we make decisions.
TV: What do you think would be different about America if a teenage girl were president?
KM: For one thing, White House parties would be better! But seriously, I think that young leaders would take a more serious look at long-term issues that impact their future. A teenage girl has a great, long future ahead of her, a future that may involve college, employment, marriage, motherhood, business ownership, military service, or all of the above and more. Her future will necessarily intersect with all the major issues politicians deal with—and fresh perspectives on these issues from someone young might inspire new directions.
TV: If you could share one piece of advice with teenage girls, what would it be?
KM: Be yourself! It always used to sound trite to me when people would say that, but the older I get the more I realize what they were trying to tell me. Here’s what it means to me now:
Believe in yourself, in who you are and what you have to offer. Remind yourself often that you are important and special, particularly on days when you feel forgotten or sad. Spend time getting to know yourself, all of the weird, fun, delightful, quirky qualities that make you YOU. Then celebrate them. This is how you will find true friends. This is how you will find your place in the world. And it will feel so good.
For more information about Kekla Magoon, see: http://keklamagoon.com/
To read other interviews Teen Voices has done with Kekla Magoon, see:
Tagged as: Julia Hunter, Kekla Magoon, Writing Contest