To celebrate this new book, we’re going to sit down with Linda and share a cuppa while she answers some deep and difficult questions.
I happen to know that this is your second book about elephants. What’s with you and elephants?
I feel like my first elephant book was a gift from the Columbus Zoo. I learned so much about elephants and the conservation work that zoos do. But one thing that really stood out from me, from all that I learned, was this idea of keystone species, and all that elephants, in particular, are doing as keystones. I realized that the possibility of losing elephants—as tragic as that is—is an even bigger issue than, well, just losing them. This, then, became a writing goal—to explain the concept of keystone species to children, the inheritors of our earth. The concept wrangled around in my brain for quite some time before the words “Once Upon a Time,” and next “Once Upon an Elephant” came to mind. Once I had that phrase, the rest started to fall into place.
What was the hardest part of writing this story?
There was some revision work to be done once it was vetted by the International Elephant Foundation. They were very particular about the wording so that it would be 100% accurate, and I appreciate that. They challenged my editor and me to wordsmith sections to make sure that we got the information exactly right, while keeping with the voice of the book. It was both challenging and rewarding.
If you had a pet elephant what would you name it, and what would you do with it?
Her name would be Bulky, and I would ride her, of course!
Are people keystone animals?
Goodness, I don’t think so! Keystones naturally support their habitats. My perception of humans is that we tend to destroy habitat. Loss of habitat due to human encroachment seems to be a commonality in most of our endangered species.
You didn’t interact with the illustrator during book production. Was there anything in the illustrations that surprised you?
I was amazed and wowed by most of it, but never more than when I saw the finished version of the savannah fire. The flames, there, are so striking and beautiful!
You have to choose a favorite illustration in the book. If you don’t, I will be forced to live in a tree with no ladder and no roof or even a tarp over my head. I really don’t want to live in a tree. What’s your favorite illustration?
This is a totally unfair question, Jen . . .
I know. That’s why I went all arm-twisty right out of the gate.
. . . but okay, I’ll play along.
You’re such a good sport!
As much as I’m drawn to the savannah fire illustrations, I’ll tag pages 19 and 20—the picture of the mice and the footprint-pools. I just love how Shennen distributed the color on this spread, with the frogs, and the insect, and the water. And the mice are so darn cute!
Where, how, and when do you write?
I can write almost any place, but I generally write in my office at home at a desk in front of a window that I gaze out of when I stop to ponder something. I write almost every day—it’s hard for me not to write. I get phrases or ideas in my mind, and until I put them on paper, they bug me.
Describe your ideal writing space.
My ideal writing space is spacious and tidy. My office is small and usually shockingly untidy. My ideal writing space has plenty of light—ideally natural light, and mine does. And, my ideal writing space has a cat or two (sometimes three) on the cat tree, and NOT on my desk, which happens . . . some days.
What’s a subject you haven’t yet written about but would like to?
I always have the next book project in mind. But if I told you what it is, I’d have to . . . um . . . muzzle you!
Name a book you wish you had written.
A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park.
Ooooooo, that’s a good one! I’m a huge Linda Sue fan. She came to Alaska, you know.
What’s a word that you find really interesting?
Clobber. Maybe it’s funny to me because it sounds like slobber. To me, it’s just comical, and when I hear adults say it (and when I do, they say it in all seriousness), it sounds downright silly.
Pretend your next story is about a lamp with a problem. What kind of lamp is it, and what is its problem?
It’s a gooseneck lamp, and its problem is, it can’t turn itself off at night to go to sleep. It keeps lighting back up to look at one more thing. (This is me and my brain. Don’t ask me how this story resolves!)
You know . . . I think that has potential. There are not nearly enough stories about furniture.
Books by Linda Stanek
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Categories: Children's writing, Interviews
Full disclosure 🙂 Linda is one of my critique partners, but I have to say I love her work, and she’s an amazing artist in her own right!