Hannah Stark is the next featured author in our #Notable19s members interview series. We are in awe of how much Hannah accomplishes with having to take care of her children, teaching full time, writing, and helping run events for our debut group. So, let’s not dilly-dally since Hannah is one busy person!
Notable19: First of all, Hannah, tell us about your debut book.
Hannah: My book TRUCKER AND TRAIN is about a big rig named Trucker who loves to rule the road with his size, strength, and mighty horn. One day he meets the larger, stronger, and even louder Train. Trucker quickly realizes that Train is bigger, stronger, and louder but isn’t using his might for power. Instead, Train is well-admired by the vehicles around him. Trucker and Train is a story about using our strengths for good. I hope young readers will see that with great power comes great opportunity.
Notable19: What a terrific message, especially in the light of today’s issues where it seems like people with power and wealth abuse both to suppress those who don’t have either. So, how did you get the specific story idea?
Hannah: When my son was three he was in a pre-school class made up predominantly of boys. Some of the kids had much more rough and tumble personalities than my son does. I was fascinated by how each kid used their budding personality, as well as, their body size, volume, and speed to sometimes take power over one another during play.
At about the same time, my son was into trucks and trains. We spent countless hours lying on the apartment floor drawing roads on butcher paper and creating worlds using wooden interlocking train tracks. One day my son got really aggravated that the trucks couldn’t fit on and drive smoothly along the tracks. There was a meltdown and afterward we spent time talking about the differences between trucks and trains. This was when I first thought about a character named Trucker.
Notable19: Spending quality time with one’s children often sparks the best ideas. We love picturing you and your son lying down on the floor together playing. We assume you don’t lie on the floor to write though, LOL!, so where do you like to write?
Hannah: I like to write in the Rose Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library. It is an incredibly inspiring space and I like being around other New Yorkers reading and writing. For me, it feels studious and quite official. I take my writing seriously when I am there.
There is also something about the motion of a vehicle on a track that soothes my soul into a place of imagination. I love to take long trips by train but as a New Yorker I spend a lot of regular time on the subway. I typed (or maybe I should say pecked) my first drafts of Trucker and Train into the notes app on my phone while commuting by subway in Brooklyn.
Notable19: Wow! That is dedication. Some of us can’t even write if we can hear someone else breathing in the same room. Hah! Maybe you grew up having to tune out sibling so you can concentrate in all sorts of places. Are you a first born/middle/family baby? Do you think that has affected your creative life at all?
Hannah: I am the oldest of three kids and have two younger brothers. I grew up in a house that was fairly isolated from neighbors and surrounded by woods. My mom is an artist and she let us explore and express ourselves pretty freely. I think a lot of my creativity came out through play. I remember making restaurants in the house (and creating elaborate menus), talent shows with extended family when they visited, and playing school. My brothers usually had subservient roles in each of these until they grew bored or fed up with me. Then I’d usually resort to using my dolls. I’d say these were my earliest experiences as a storyteller.
Notable19: Love that your mom is a creative type who allowed you to grow up free-spirited! Sounds like an idyllic childhood. What is a moment from that childhood that is crystal clear in your mind?
Hannah: I remember being shy at school but bold and brave at home. When I was around seven or eight my parents decided to put a pool in our yard. A couple of mini diggers showed up with a crew of workers and I remember thinking the yard started to resemble a big sandbox. One day, I started playing in the dirt as the machines were digging. The men stopped their work, walked up the hill to the house, and had to call my mom outside to tell her it wasn’t safe to have a little kid playing where they worked. Needless to say, my mom wasn’t very happy with me. I think I’ve always liked watching vehicles at work.
Notable19: How marvelous that you’ve come full-circle from watching, and playing around, big vehicles to writing a book about them! Thank you for taking time out of your packed schedule to share some interesting facts about you and your book, Hannah.
Check out our Books page to see where you can preorder TRUCKER AND TRAIN! Don’t forget to follow Hannah on Twitter, too.
2/19/19: The contest is now over. Thank you to everyone who entered. Please come back on Friday, 2/22/19, to find out who the winners are!
Thank you for participating in our Twitter Chat with Matthew Winner! Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter for a chance to win. We will pick two lucky recipients who will get to choose the prize they want!
The prize options are:
a) a manuscript critique with one of our authors or author-illustrators
b) a dummy critique with one of our author-illustrators
c) a "Mentor Texts for Writers" ebook offered by Marcie Atkins
d) a signed copy of "This Little Piggy" or a signed F&G of either "The Little Green Girl," "When a Tree Grows," "Poetree," or "Brave Molly"
To enter, simply click on the "Enter the Giveaway" box below (if on your smart phone) or the "Follow @Notable19s" pull-down tab to begin the process. Following @Notable19s is mandatory, but for each member you follow, you get another entry in the contest.
The contest ends 2/19 a 12:00a.m.ET. and we will announce the winners on Friday, 2/22. Good luck!
By Richard Ho
I’m proud to be a diverse author.
I just worry that I’m not being a very good one.
To clarify: I’m not talking about the fear of being a bad writer. (Though what writer doesn’t fear that?) My worry is that I’m falling short of the expectations that come with being a POC author.
In this era of #OwnVoices and #WeNeedDiverseBooks, I feel a responsibility to write stories that authentically reflect the experiences of the under-represented groups I identify with. I say groups, because the pressure I feel is twofold: not only am I Asian, but I’m also an Orthodox Jew.
The fact that I’m Chinese is obvious to anyone who looks at my headshot. The fact that I converted to Judaism over a decade ago, and have been keeping kosher and observing the Sabbath ever since, is probably more of a surprise. (It’s hard to see, but I am wearing a yarmulke in that picture!)
Being Chinese and being Jewish are both foundational pieces of my identity. And while some aspects of my religious observance occasionally present minor challenges in my life as an author (for one, conferences on Saturdays aren’t really an option for me), I can’t think of too many communities that would be more tolerant and understanding of my circumstances. As an example, the organizers of KidLitCon in Providence (where I’ll be appearing on a panel next month) were extremely accommodating, making every effort to schedule the panel on Friday so that I could participate!
So given the warm welcome I’ve already experienced in my brief time as a member of this community, the challenge for me is not finding acceptance. The challenge is finding my voice.
Do I identify as an Asian-American author? A Jewish author? The even rarer designation of Chinese-Jewish author? Do I have an obligation to write stories that speak exclusively to any or all of those perspectives? Through which prism should I focus my creative efforts?
Should I make those distinctions at all?
That’s the thing about prisms: they have many sides.
My first two sold books are about the Curiosity rover and a lost package, respectively. From a diversity standpoint, they admittedly don’t move the needle. (No one is clamoring for greater representation of robotic cars or cardboard boxes in publishing, as far as I know.) I do have stories in the works that speak to a Chinese or Jewish perspective—and some to both simultaneously. But they are all part of a wider tapestry of stories that cannot be grouped under a single umbrella.
And ultimately, I hope that’s okay. I hope it’s possible to be a diverse author, while maintaining diversity in interests, tastes, and creative output.
Yes, we absolutely need more books that are diverse in race, religion, physical ability, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, and every other marginalized group in modern society. And as diverse authors, we should embrace our unique platform to put more of those authentic stories into the world. But we should also allow ourselves the recognition that a given reader might find a wide range of stories appealing—and not necessarily just the ones that reflect them. I know I do.
As a POC author, I’m extremely fortunate to be in this position, to have the opportunity to make books. It’s a privilege I don’t take lightly. I hope to use that opportunity to create stories that reflect every aspect of my multi-faceted identity—as well as stories that transcend identity. I want to write for Chinese audiences, Jewish audiences, and all audiences in general. And I plan to champion diversity in all of its forms, both in the stories I consume and the ones I create.
I’m an Asian author. I’m a Jewish author.
I’m an author.
And boy, do I have stories to tell.
We are a group of writers and illustrators who have debut books (actual debuts , debuts as author-illustrators, or debuts with medium/large publishers) forthcoming in 2019. Thank you for joining us on our exciting journey!