Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tricia Springstubb on Empathy, Issues With 'Every Single Second'

Tricia Springstubb loves to celebrate the start of summer, as she has done with her award-winning middle-grade books. A former Head Start teacher and a children's librarian, Tricia is tuned into how excited students get for that final bell to ring, launching them into three marvelous months away from school. So it seems fitting to kick off summer vacation by getting to know a bit more about this lovely and talented writer. 

Tricia’s titles include What Happened on Fox Street, its sequel, Mo Wren Lost and Found, and Moonpenny Island (all with Balzer and Bray), which Kirkus gave a starred review and called “so fresh and honest it will resonate widely.” The second book in her new chapter book series published in April, titled Cody and the Mysteries of the Universe. It follows Book 1, Cody and the Fountain of Happiness (Candlewick Press, 2015), and both are illustrated beautifully by the hugely talented Eliza Wheeler.

As if that list isn’t enough to make you breathless, there’s more. Tricia has a new middle-grade novel that hit shelves just a week ago titled Every Single Second (Balzer and Bray). And already it’s a Junior Library Guild selection and is earning starred reviews.

Book Giveaway! Winner chosen from comments below!

Question: Every Single Second takes on big issues for young readers. What made you decide to write this book? Can you talk about the “a-ha” moment when you first got the idea for it? 

Tricia Springstubb: I’ve always loved Jane Yolen’s analogy of how a story hatches. The baby bird working its way out of the quiet, secret egg, the Mama hovering and waiting: when the outside world and our own deepest feelings meet, the best stories are born.

Every Single Second began when a woman from our community, whose family we know a little, became an object of on-line ridicule and scorn. The details aren’t important. What struck me and haunted me is how easily we can judge others, even when we know only the most superficial things about them. I wanted to write a book that showed how stories begin long before the first page, and go on long after the last one, and how we’re all connected, often in ways we can’t begin to guess.

Q: Nella and Angela come from a very distinct community. Were you raised in the same kind of community? What are some of your inspirations for the characters and setting? 

TS: The way Nella and Angela, once best buds, gradually grow apart—I think at some point everyone experiences the wistfulness, sadness and guilt of a friendship like that. That part comes from my own life.

Their neighborhood is inspired by Cleveland’s Little Italy, a short walk from my house. It clings to the side of a hill, suspended between two other, very different neighborhoods. Who could resist a metaphor like that? I go to Little Italy for wonderful food, including heavenly donuts and cannoli, to admire the gardens, and for the annual Feast. I’m drawn to intimate settings—see Moonpenny Island and What Happened on Fox Street. The coziness and support of small communities has deep appeal, but the wide world beckons, and sometimes threatens. That tension is in all my books, and in Every Single Second it explodes.

Beautiful Lakeview Cemetery, where I love to take walks, inspired the story’s graveyard. There’s a certain statue/monument whose eyes always seem to follow me, and he became my Jeptha Stone. There’s also a statue of a girl reaching for the stars…

Q: What do you hope readers take away from Every Single Second?

TS: I always hope my stories keep readers turning the pages, their hearts thumping. Helping readers to see the world through others’ eyes—that’s an important goal, too. With Every Single Second, more than other books, I also hope that kids will ask some big questions about their own lives. How do we form our opinions and beliefs? What’s the true definition of goodness? Are we ruled by fate or do we have choices? How do our pasts affect who we are and how we act? How do we find the courage to stand up, instead of stand by? Nella is always asking questions, while worrying that they’re the wrong ones. I hope that, as readers see her find her way, they’ll believe they can do the same.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your books and writing? 

TS: One of my forever-favorite quotes comes from E.B. White. “All I hope to say in books, all I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.” Love, empathy, wonder, hope! May they root and bloom.