Our guest: Jennifer Maschari is a Cincinnati based former teacher and current author of middle grade fiction. Her debut, The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price is out now, and she has two other books on the slate at Balzer+Bray. She also has two of the most adorable bulldogs on Earth, Hank and Oliver. (Author photo credit: OpenImageStudio.)
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.
I just know that I was always surrounded by books, whether I was being read to or trying to read myself. As a family, we spent a lot of time at the library and the bookstore. I loved filling out my reading log for the library summer reading program. I’d always leave there with stacks and stacks of books. During Christmas celebrations, I’d curl up behind the big chair in my grandma’s living room, unable to wait to start the new books I’d been gifted.
2. WITH WHICH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE CHARACTER DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY?
3. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR? ILLUSTRATOR?
It is very difficult for me to narrow down either one of these! This past year, I fell in love with the graphic novel Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson so I’m going to put her down for both! The illustrations are so bright, vivid and expressive, and I love how she just gets the changing dynamics and the ups and downs of middle school.
4. IF YOU WERE TO THROW A KINDERLIT PARTY FOR FIVE GUESTS, WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?
From the recently released Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book), I would invite Snappsy because he throws a really great party and is really quite humorous.
I would also ask Hattie Owen from Ann M. Martin’s A Corner of the Universe because I think she’d have a lot of big ideas about life to share.
Because every dinner party (at least my dinner parties!) needs a good dog, I’d invite Beau from Dan Gemeinhart’s The Honest Truth.
Finally, I’d ask author Rebecca Stead because I absolutely love her books.
5. WHICH QUALITY DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT IN GOOD CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
Honesty. Empathy. A real understanding of what it means to be a kid.
6. IF YOUR OWN WORK HAS A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, WHAT WHAT IS IT?
I hope that my work could be described as big-hearted.
I’m going to change this up a bit and say what book I’d like to be a character in, instead, if that’s okay! I’d love to be a character in Doll Bones by Holly Black. Poppy, Zach and Alice are about the fiercest and most loyal friends you could find. I would want to be part of their adventure and their wonderful stories.
I’m not sure! Charlie Price is my first published work and it still feels so new. I’m certain in a year or so that I would have a proper answer for you. I just always hope that I can keep getting better and discover the right way to tell each story.
9. WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
Do the work. That is, if you want to get better at something, whether it be writing or swimming or juggling or whatever, you have to put in the time. You have to do the work.
I work best at home – at my desk, in my own space, with a can of Diet Coke. I take a lot of handwritten notes on a Steno pad so those are always nearby. I find that when I need to figure things out about plot or character or theme that handwriting helps unlock a different part of my brain. Before I write a scene, I try to figure out the different things that need to happen, both physically and emotionally. Then, I set a timer and write for 30 minutes. After, I take a five minute break.
When I’m revising, I must have peanut butter M&M’s nearby.
11. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AND WHY?
My favorite children’s book of all time is probably The Secret Garden. It has everything I love in a book – hope, love, a bit of real-life magic, things and people coming back to life. That said, I have many, many favorites and this was a very difficult question to answer!
More recently, I really loved Corey Ann Haydu’s Rules for Stealing Stars. It’s a beautiful sister story that’s both sad and lovely.