Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Alan Silberberg

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On Writing, with Alan Silberberg

Alan Silberberg talks to Open Book about writing and illustrating his humorous book about grief and change for middle-school kids. Milo: Sticky Notes & Brain Freeze was released by Simon & Schuster this fall.

Open Book:

Tell us about your latest book, Milo: Sticky Notes & Brain Freeze.

Alan Silberberg:

Milo: Sticky Notes & Brain Freeze is a story told in text and cartoons about Milo, a 13-year-old kid who is starting at yet another new school. Not only is he coping with being the new kid (again) but he's also realizing how much he's missing his mom, who passed away. As his school year progresses he makes two best friends, develops a major crush and learns to say goodbye to his mom and start to heal himself. It's a heartfelt story told with humour and filled with hope.

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote Milo?

AS:

Two things: I knew that I wanted to reach kids at the middle-grade level. I was nine when my mom died and I would've really welcomed a book like this when I was younger. Also, I wrote this book to be a true and funny account of entering middle school, and to be a helpful guide through one boy's journey as he learns how to grieve. I am hopeful the book can make kids laugh while also showing the honesty in Milo's emotions.

OB:

Which comes first for you, the writing or the illustrations?

AS:

Nine times out of ten, the writing comes first. As I'm writing I get these flashes of how a cartoon will really add something to the story. I also found that I could lighten the mood of Milo's story by coming up with a comical way to tell a part of the story through a cartoon. Of course, not all the cartoons in the book are meant to be funny. There are some very tender moments told in cartoon form.

OB:

Tell us about your inspiration for your character Milo.

AS:

Milo sprang from the young boy inside me who had never fully grieved the loss of his mother. For so many years I felt that I was missing something huge from my life and as I started writing the book, that tiny voice that was hiding deep within me started to come out. Of course, the character has a great sense of humour too — which comes from within, because even back when I was Milo's age, I was hurting — but I was funny too.

OB:

What was your first publication?

AS:

My first book was Pond Scum, another middle-grade book, published by Hyperion. It was a finalist for the Red Cedar Award and a MYRCA honour book.

OB:

What writers inspire you?

AS:

Roald Dahl, of course, for his wonderful sense of humour and the way he captured odd childhood moments. M.T. Anderson has such an amazing strength writing different styles of fiction for young readers. Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowling obviously changed the game for children's fiction, and as an author now writing books filled with my own cartoons, I have to mention Jeff Kinney — Wimpy Kid opened so many doors for kids' illustrated fiction.

OB:

Do you have any advice for writers and illustrators who are trying to get published?

AS:

I always think the best thing to remember is to never give up. Write from your heart and create things that you wished you had to read when you were a kid. Does it feel real to you? That's always a good question to answer.

OB:

What's your next project?

AS:

Next up is a super-secret middle-grade novel that will also combine my cartoons in telling the story. I can't give away any details but it's safe to say that it's the story of two best friends who find out it's not always easy having everything they ever wanted. A ten tonne potato may also be involved.


Alan Silberberg, author of Pond Scum (Hyperion Books, 2005), is a writer and cartoonist who has created and produced TV shows for Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, FOX, Kids WB and PBS. He lives in Montreal. Visit him at his website, www.silberbooks.com.

You can read a graphic excerpt of Milo and find out more information about the book at the Simon and Schuster website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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