Tricia Springstubb vividly remembers reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” from start to finish in one summer day, lying beneath a tree in her backyard. Now a published author herself, Tricia hopes her own writing makes a lasting impact on children.
“I hope kids like my books because they’re good stories, the kind that make them turn the page dying to know what happens to the characters!” Tricia told Cracking the Cover. “I also hope my books make kids laugh (and sometimes cry). I want to write books that readers think about afterwards, and that change the way they see themselves and their world.”
Tricia is the author of five books for young readers — “What Happened on Fox Street,” “Mo Wren, Lost and Found,” “Phoebe and Digger,” “Moonpenny Island” and “Cody and the Fountain of Happiness.” “Moonpenny” published Feb. 10 and “Cody” is available April 15.
It’s unusual to have two books come out so close together, but Tricia wouldn’t have it any other way. “I still pinch myself over how lucky that makes me,” she said. “One life isn’t enough for me. I want to walk in lots of different shoes, see through many other eyes.”
“Cody and the Fountain of Happiness” and “Moonpenny Island” are quite different. “Cody” (ages 7-10) focuses on Cody, a young girl who finds magic in the ordinary. For Cody, nothing is as beautiful as the first day of summer vacation, but when plans are changed, Cody must find her own way to the fountain of happiness. “Moonpenny” (ages 8-12) looks at life on Moonpenny Island through the eyes of Flor, one of only two 11-year-olds on the island. As summer comes to an end, unthinkable things begin to happen. Flor’s best friend is sent to school on the mainland, and Flor’s mother leaves to take care of Flor’s sick grandmother and doesn’t come back. Flor feels alone for the first time in her life, but in time she comes to realize she has she never knew were there.
When asked where do her ideas come from and how do they take shape, Tricia responded with another question: Why do some ideas become stories, but not others? Tricia continued with a metaphor of an egg hatching Jane Yolen once explained: “The mother hen (the idea that sparks the story) is outside, and the chick (the emotions that idea arouses or evokes for the writer) is inside. The two tap-tap-tap away, pecking their way toward each other. When hen and chick meet, the shell falls away and the story begins.”
In the case of “Cody and the Fountain of Happiness” the story began with Cody. “She is one of those characters who arrive fully-formed, ready to roll,” Tricia said. “I regard her as the optimistic side of me, times 100.”
Flor, on the other hand, started out as a boy named Larry Walnut. “I can’t tell you how many times I revised that book — it was the hardest bit of writing I ever did,” Tricia said. “Pretty much the only thing that stayed the same was the setting, which always drove the action. I can’t remember the exact moment Larry became Flor, but as soon as it happened, I found the book’s true voice. Larry, by the way, loved his bike as much as Flor does.”
Both books include coming-of-age elements as well as real-life experiences. Tricia says that’s because she writes the books she wants to read. “When I was young, what I most wanted from reading was to recognize myself,” she said. “Of course we can see ourselves (or the people we long to be) in fantasy or adventure stories, but I prefer writing about situations that can really occur.”
While “Moonpenny Island” is a standalone novel, “Cody and the Fountain of Happiness” is the beginning of a new series. Tricia is currently revising a new middle grade novel that’s different from anything she’s done before. “It’s about a shooting, and its repercussions for a family and a close-knit neighborhood,” she explained. “It’s also about the nature of goodness, time, and language, things so hard to pin down. It’s a challenging book to write, and when I finish it I’ll be glad to turn to writing the fourth book in the very happy, sunny Cody series!”
In addition to writing for children, Tricia writes fiction, essays and reviews for adults, but most of her work is for young readers. “Writing for them, I get to wear my heart on my sleeve,” she said. “I know they will fully enter the world I create, their own hearts wide open. No one cares about stories more deeply than kids do.”
Read a complete transcript of Tricia Springstubb’s interview with Cracking the Cover.
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