The Proust-Esque Questionnaire is based on a set of 36 standardized questions designed by Marcel Proust in the 1890’s to give an overview of the respondent’s personality. Our goals are less lofty, but hopefully will provide some insight into how your favorite authors and illustrators work and what they love.
Our guest: Roopa Weber is a writer, whose debut book, Messy Penny, is available now; it is the first in a forth-coming series about Penny the Peacock. Roopa lives in Chicago with her husband and daughter.
Books were and are a sense of comfort and wonderment for me. Reading is something that I have loved from a very early age and I had many cherished memories of getting lost in a story and its pictures. I fondly remember reading Le Petit Prince. I clearly did not fully absorb its deep messages at the time, but I remember picking it up over and over again. I had not read the book again until recently when I read it to my daughter. Its message that “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye,” reminded me why it must have resonated with me even as a young child and even more so now as a grown up.
2. WITH WHICH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE CHARACTER DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY?
I most identify with Mrs. Raccoon in The Kissing Hand, which is a story about a little raccoon that is nervous about going to school. His mother kisses his palm and tells him that “whenever you feel lonely and need a little loving from home, just press your hand to your cheek and think, ‘Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you.’” It doesn’t get much better and sweeter than that…
Mo Willems (left) is brilliant. We started reading the Knuffle Bunny series and immediately fell in love, then came the Pigeon and next were Elephant and Piggie. I can still hear my daughter’s non-stop giggles. What a great way to end a night.
4. IF YOU WERE THROWING A KINDERLIT PARTY FOR FIVE GUESTS, WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?
I would invite my daughter to join Fancy Nancy, Olivia (the pig), Amelia Bedilia (because it would be hilarious), Mo Willems, and Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web (we welcome all shapes and sizes).
5. WHICH QUALITY DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT IN GOOD CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
Love and joy are powerful emotions that attract me the most to a children’s book. If it warms your heart, makes you think, and laugh hysterically, it’s a winner in my eyes.
My defining characteristic is that I leave children with a smile and sense of gratitude. There is so much to appreciate and we simply have to embrace who we are and enjoy the journey, knowing we are imperfect and flawed, but that’s what’s interesting. All anyone wants is to be accepted and to be loved so the Penny the Peacock series is designed to spread good karma to all who experience it.
7. IF YOU WERE TO DIE AND COME BACK AS A CHARACTER FROM CHILDREN’S LITERATURE, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE?
8. IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND REDO ONE THING IN YOUR WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I love how the character and book turned out, but I have found it to be increasingly difficult to penetrate the children’s book market so I have questioned whether I should have engaged a literary agent or major publishing house at the onset of my efforts. I still believe that Penny will make her way into the broader world and continue to have trust and faith that the universe will give her the opportunity when the timing is right.
9. WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
I have gotten so much good advice. One of the best pieces of advice is to enjoy the journey and never give up on what you believe in. If you lower your standards, you will end up living a life you do not want. Most things don’t end up being success stories because people give up.
To pile on, another friend told me that when something (or someone) is really good, it will find its way into the world. It’s what keeps me going.
10. DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS.
My workspace is mostly in my head. I think a lot before I write. When I am ready to formulate my ideas, I use a notebook, the Notes in my phone, my computer, etc. You have to be ready for the idea at whatever time it comes so I like having a flexible “work space.”