WBBT Interview – Jane Yolen! (Part Two)
(CONTINUED FROM PART ONE)
Fuse #8: I think that readers of my blog associate you primarily with your younger works. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, etc. It may surprise them to know that you are a past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Science fiction gets a bad rap in the children’s literary world. The general consensus is that kids don’t read sci-fi. Have you ever written sci-fi books for young ‘uns? Your Commander Toad books come instantly to mind, but have you done any middle grade works? Do you have any thoughts on whether or not kid sci-fi does well?
JY: Well–she gets on high horse and puts on teacher hat–scifi is said by people who don’t like the genre or who’s idea of the genre is Star Trek and, as Margaret Atwood so witheringly called it, "Squids in Space." We say sf or science fiction or fabulations or other things. As a genre it’s very broad and deep and only some it has squids and space in proximity. (Though I do love the Pastafarians who worship the squid god.) It’s a genre that can easily encompass
Philip Pullman, Ursula Le Guin, Michael Swanwick, and Jo Walton and Bruce Coville-all favorites of mine.
That said, once you get up into the YAs, they head straight for the adult stuff.
I actually write more fantasy or folkloric sf. Maybe we could call it Squids Under the Hill?
Fuse #8: Not too long ago I was flipping channels and I came across the documentary The Great Pink Scare. The film concerned the "sexual McCarthyism" surrounding a case where three Smith professors were forced out of their jobs following a police raid of their private homes that uncovered naked pictures of men. To my very great surprise I saw you interviewed frequently in the documentary, as you were a student at Smith at the time. How were you approached to be involved in this project? Had you been involved in similar documentaries in the past or was this one special?
JY: That’s a long story, and probably not all that interesting. Short form, I had written to the president of Smith at the time and gotten a very unsatisfactory answer. And nearly 40 years later, when Barry Worth wrote THE SCARLET PROFESSOR about the same case, I visited with him and he took down all my remembrances of the time. It’s a wonderful, moving book and told me the rest of the story, which led me to getting in touch with my old professor whom I thought long dead. The movie makers (Werth, the movie makers, and I all live in the same area) read the book and contacted me. And yes–movies put 200 pounds on you.
Fuse #8: You’ve been doing quite a bit of poetry lately. Is this a recent love or have you indulged in poetic forms over the years?
JY: I began as a poet. As a child I wrote my 7th grade essay on New York State inventors etc. in rhyme. There was a brilliiant rhyme about Otis elevators which–lucky you–I have long forgotten. I wrote my senior year in college exam in American Intellectual History in rhymed couplets, which made the professor (the man who did the book which was turned into the musical Fiorello) to give me an A+ for a C- worth of knowledge. I also won all the poetry prizes my senior year at Smith College. So yes, I began as a journalist for my pocketbook and a poet for my my heart.I have lots of poetry books for kids out, both rymed and unrhymed, rhnymed and unrhymed picture books, novels with poetry inside, two books of poetry for adults. I write poetry (and verse) all the time.
For further info about Ms. Yolen, do be so kind as to check out her website.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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