Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Arlene Alda

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Ten Questions with Arlene Alda

Tundra author and award-winning photographer, Arlene Alda, has written fourteen children’s books. Her latest picture book for children is Hello, Good-bye. Visit Arlene Alda’s website at: http://www.arlenealda.com/.

OBT:

Tell us about your book, Hello, Good-bye.

AA:

Hello, Good-bye is a book about enjoying words and pictures that have opposite meanings. The meanings of the words are shown through similar pairs of photographs (that I've taken), i.e. two trees, two umbrellas, two musicians, etc. Many of the words referring to the photos are done in a humorous way, as are some of the photos, themselves. There is very minimal text and very many photos.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

AA:

I like to think that the readership spans from ages 4 to about 104. A lot of my humor and photos have a crossover “audience.” But since I write for the picture book ages (3 to about 7 or 8), I actually keep that readership in mind.

OBT:

Which books made a great impression on you when you were a child?

AA:

Aesop’s Fables and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Those were the books that were popular in school and home at the time that I was growing up. I especially loved the Fables, because there always was usually a moral at the end of the story, (which I tried to figure out) and the stories were short, so that I could read a lot of them at one sitting. When I got older I loved the Nancy Drew mystery stories, which I bought at a second- hand book store for 10 cents each. I loved trying to figure out the solutions to the mysteries. To this day, I love trying to create something that the reader has to figure out, even if it’s not a true mystery story.

OBT:

How does your photography influence your writing?

AA:

Wow! I think in visual images, and if I could draw, I would illustrate with my drawings, as well as my photos. I very often get my ideas from looking through my library of photos and also by seeing things around me that I may not have yet photographed.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

AA:

I need a quiet place with a comfortable chair, either at a computer or in a room with no distractions. I am very easily distracted and need to control my writing environment so that I can get the most done in sometimes limited time frames.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

AA:

In high school I wrote a poem that was published in the Year Book…But my first grownup publication was as a photo contest winner in the Bergen Record newspaper in New Jersey, I think in the late 1960s. My first writing that was published was in a magazine called Today’s Health. I did a photo essay of a tonsillectomy and I wrote the introduction to the story and wrote the captions, as I recall. (I could be wrong about the writing part, but that’s what I remember.)

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

AA:

I'm reading the newspaper every day… and I'm reading a biography about a woman named Evelyn Nesbit, who lived at the turn of the 20th century. I wish that I could tell you the exact title and the author’s name… but I've now misplaced the book and I don’t remember either of those important facts!

OBT:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

AA:

When working, write everything down. Edit after. Rewrite until you can’t do anything else that could make the story better. The sloppy copy is the only way to start for me.

OBT:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

AA:

I have received a lot of comments about looking and seeing things differently and then finding faces in unexpected places after reading my book Here a Face, There a Face. Hearing about the excitement and the discoveries is extremely gratifying.

OBT:

What is your next project?

AA:

Lulu’s Piano Lesson will be out later this year. This is a story that I wrote and which is illustrated by Lisa Desimini. If you’ve ever taken music lessons, you might know the agony of practicing… and the other agony of taking a lesson without having practiced. This story will make you feel hopeful about both those things.

For more information about Arlene Alda’s Hello, Good-bye, visit the Tundra Books website at www.tundrabooks.com.

Author photo by Alan Alda.

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