Why am I writing a Student’s Guide to Interviewing Authors?
One of my all-time favorite children’s book authors was Tomie dePaola. I loved reading his books to my third graders. Strega Nona and Big Anthony and the Pasta Pot were two of our favorites. The more I read his books to my students, the more questions the children had that only Tomie could answer. I was able to contact Tomie to see if he would be able to answer questions from my students. Tomie graciously agreed to be interviewed by my students. We complied our questions and sent them off to him. The children loved reading his answers about writing children’s books, illustrating his stories and where he got his ideas for characters. It was an exciting way for the students to connect with the author, learn more about writing and the many elements of storytelling.
Interviewing children’s authors can be a great learning experience, especially if you are teaching about writing and authors’ craft. If you want your interview to be successful you will need to be prepared. Below you will find a student’s guide to interviewing authors.
What is the purpose and goal of the interview?
The author you have selected will want to know the purpose of the interview. Are you conducting this interview to learn about the author or learn more about their book? Is the interview for a class project, your personal interest, school podcast or for a school newspaper? What is it that you hope to accomplish by interviewing this children’s author?
Choose an author for your interview.
You may have an author in mind for your interview, but sometimes that author may not be available or may not want to be interviewed. Make a list of possible authors to interview. Use your favorite book authors or you can ask your teacher or librarian for suggestions. Find a local authors who would be happy to be interviewed.
Research the author
Researching the author involves reading several of their books. A librarian can help you find other books by the author. Look for other interviews with this author. Other interviews can provide answers to some of your questions and give you the opportunity to ask questions that are tailored to your audience and have not been addressed by the author.
Contact the author
One of the first places to look is the author website. Very often authors have a contact page or have an email address on their page where they can be reached. If there is no email address you can always contact the publisher and ask that your request be forwarded to the author. This often takes time, but if you give yourself enough time, it is a viable alternative.
In most cases the interview will be a paper interview. You will submit questions and the author will respond to your questions in writing. Authors are busy people, they are writing, they are promoting their books and they are visiting schools. Be sure to give them time to respond.
I like to follow up with a thank you note. If you are using their responses for an article that will be published in your school paper or on a blog, I would share the article or blog before it goes live. This way the author knows exactly what is going into print and it is also an opportunity to ensure that all of the information is correct. Our interview with Tomie dePaola was a great way for the students to get to know an author personally, learn about his talents as an author and illustrator and to inspire the students to write and illustrate their own stories.
To learn more about author interviews here.
Have you ever interviewed an author? What was your experience? Would you add anything to this list? Let me know below.