Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest author Suzanne Selfors who’s stopping by today to share her Library Love with us.
I’ve been writing full-time since 2002 when my daughter started 1st grade. I registered for a writing class that very day and have been working steadily ever since. My first two novels were historical epics set in ancient Greece. They got me an agent and a lot of publisher rejection letters. So I changed course and wrote To Catch A Mermaid, for kids and it ended up at auction.
I write both middle grade and teen novels, most of which contain magical elements. Writing for kids is rewarding beyond measure. Even a trip to the dreaded post office is transformed by this career. Every day, stuffed between bills and junk mail, I find letters from young readers—handwritten letters, not texts or emails. It’s a huge honor to know that a child has welcomed your story into her/his life.
I’ve earned some accolades along the way—a couple of Junior Library Guild awards, Kids Indie Pick, Scholastic Bookfair bestseller, Bank Street Best Books, starred reviews, state lists, things like that. I’m not yet a New York Times Bestseller but maybe one day…
Library Love When You Were A Cub:
I grew up on Bainbridge Island, WA and our library was small but well-stocked. The children’s section was down in the basement. My sister and I went once a week, with our mother, and I remember checking out as many picture books as I could carry. Then I’d spread them out on our living room carpet and read them all in one sitting.
One day when we parked in the lot, we were greeted by a small, shaggy dog. She followed us to the entrance and the librarian told us that the dog had been hanging out for a few days and no one had claimed her. When we came out with our arms loaded with books, the dog jumped into our car. She became my beloved childhood dog, Lulu. When my mom tells this story she always ends it with the line, “Lulu was the best thing we ever checked out at the library.”
The Bainbridge Library has a beautiful garden, complete with Otter sculptures and a fish pond.
What’s Your Experience of Libraries from an Author’s Perspective?
There’s a scene in my book, Smells Like Dog,
where Homer, Dog and Lorelei do some research in the public library. The room is warm and softly lit and everyone, including the librarian, is fast asleep. It’s a sanctuary of sorts.
I don’t fall asleep in libraries, but the quiet they provide is one of my favorite things. A place to be still, a place to focus, a place to lose myself in story.
Funding for libraries, especially school libraries, is currently under threat. As an author, what are your thoughts about that?
It totally sucks. Those are my thoughts.
Every single library I visit is struggling. During a recent Oregon school district visit, I learned that all the librarians were being laid off. Most school librarians tell me they have zero dollars to buy new books. Those who have money don’t get it from the school district or state, they get it from parent fundraising, so if you have involved parents you’re lucky. One librarian was putting together a presentation for his local school board members, to convince them that school librarians are valuable contributors to the school environment. Yeesh. Imagine a football coach having to make that same speech. That’ll never happen.
Librarians are not alone in this crisis. The publishing industry itself is facing great turmoil as the book takes on new forms. Independent bookstores are dying as Amazon.com eats a bigger and bigger part of the market. And authors are facing smaller advances and disappearing school visit fees.
I’m getting depressed as I write this. What gives me hope is this—we book lovers are creative people. Intelligent people. Inspired, passionate, obsessed people. We will figure this out.
Library Visit Photo
Roar for Reading!
While I haven’t visited ALA, I’ve been to NCTE, IRA, TLA to name a few. My very first conference my publisher sent me to was IRA and I was asked to give a speech about Summer Reading for Teens. No one had ever heard of me. My book, Saving Juliet,
had just come out. This was my first big speech. The conference room was packed with librarians and English teachers. On the stage sat a panel of best-selling authors and little ole me. I was a nervous wreck. I got through the speech, got some laughs because I confessed that my favorite summer read when I was a teen was Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask, a book I had discovered in the back of my mom’s linen closet. The great part was after the speech. My publisher led me to a booth where I was scheduled to sign and there was a line waiting for me. A line! For me. Amazing.
Photo: signing books with Shannon Hale.
A Roar for School Visits:
It took me a while to figure out the whole school visit thing. My first year of publication, I visited for free because I had no idea what I was doing. It was a great way to test the audience, see what reactions I got. I quickly learned that I do not like visiting high schools. Even though I write for teens, I’m not very comfortable with them. Honestly, I’d rather get a root canal than face all that eye-rolling. But elementary schools – that’s a whole different world. I thrive with that audience. 3rd, 4th and 5thgraders are amazing!
My presentation is all about the genesis of ideas. I bring lots of props and get the kids to dress up like characters from my books. The goal is to get them to see themselves as storytellers. Pictures from my childhood and examples of my early stories and drawings help the students see me as a real person who was just like them once—just a kid with a head full of ideas.
Finally let’s end with a little chocolate. . .
Let’s Link Up:
Suzanne’s Facebook Page
Thank you for sharing your Library Love with us, Suzanne!
Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.
Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Email Janet on the Contact page on this website for an interview.