The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Lanie’s world

On Tuesday, I did my very first author visit where I actually got to talk about Lanie and her story, and–to make it even sweeter–it was at Haggerty School in Cambridge, MA, where I did research to try to figure out Lanie’s world.  A program called City Sprouts is doing a fabulous job of hooking urban kids into gardening, so I got to walk around a whole bunch of concrete and still see cabbages and an apple cider press and lovely greens and all.  The librarian–book lover goddess Karen Kosko–introduced me to two students, Stella and Ursula, who let me ask them all kinds of questions about gardens and email and what they do outside and what they think of boys and whatnot.  With such juicy details, my girl and her family and what she was going to struggle with began to take shape.

An article in the Cambridge paper quoted me as saying that my interview subjects knew too much about gardening.  Can such a thing be possible??  My gardening dad wouldn’t have thought so.  Actually, what I meant was that I wanted to create a character who discovers dirt and roots and sturdy, fragrant leaves and all.  So I needed to talk to someone who had never realized that the wide, wonderful world could be right in her own backyard (or school).  Nonetheless, I couldn’t have asked for better interviewees than Stella and Ursula.

Yesterday, in a Newton, MA school, I made my usual comment that when I came back from Ethiopia to the US for college, my mom and dad were still in Ethiopia.  A third grader asked me earnestly, “But who took care of you then?”  Be still my heart!  What a thoughtful kid.  (I told him I didn’t think at the time I needed anyone to take care of me…though of course I did.)

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