The Power of Writing: Q&A with Scribbles to Novels Author Gayle Forman

Scribbles to Novels celebrates the power of the written word while raising funds to support Jumpstart’s programming. Our Scribbles to Novels gala in New York City will take place on April 18th and will feature bestselling author and journalist Gayle Forman. Her #1 New York Times bestselling novel If I Stay was adapted into a film starring Chloë Grace Moretz. In today’s blog, we speak with Forman about her inspiration for becoming an author and her encouragement for young readers and aspiring writers. 

What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Writing successfully can be a real, sometimes fruitless, challenge, but I love being able to work out my own life experiences and thoughts through my writing.

What book ignited your love of reading?
Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary — the scene with her shoe absolutely made me love reading!

How old were you when stories became an integral part of your life?
Eight or nine. My parents used to drag me on these long, weekend hikes. I hated them. I was so bored. So I would lag ten paces behind them and concoct these wild stories in my head in which my parents were Nazis (never mind that we’re Jewish) or I was a horseback riding cross between Nancy Drew and Wonder Woman. They were too busy looking at flowers to notice that I was galloping behind them, talking to myself. I think this is when I became a writer.

What books did your daughters love when they first started reading?
My older daughter did that thing that first graders do: started the year painfully sounding out words and finished it reading chapter books (including Ramona The Brave!). After that, she was off, going deep into books. When she read the Harry Potter series, she wore a school uniform and spoke with a British accent the entire time. (This went on for months!) My younger daughter had a different evolution. She came to love reading through graphic novels (bless you, Raina Telgemeir) and still reads graphic novels now. Last summer, we discovered she loves audiobooks, too (anything Jason Reynolds), and we do chapter books at night for read-aloud (Lemony Snicket right now), which is lovely. My older daughter fired me from reading aloud when she was in 5th grade. I try to honor each kid and let them read what they want to read.

Finish this sentence: Books are…
Books are empathy delivering devices.

When you speak, you often purchase books for every student in attendance at the event. What’s the inspiration for this?
Part of this is altruistic — I would rather a school’s money go toward books than me as the guest speaker. Part of this is strategic — I also want to encourage a new generation of readers!

What do you see as the biggest obstacle when it comes to creating a level educational playing field for all children?
Oh, god, where do I start. I just went through the high school application process in New York City with my older daughter. The process — in which 8th graders apply, test in, interview for, and audition to a limited number of schools — is meant to level the playing field for all New York City students. Yet, the playing field is already so tilted toward families who can navigate the process (it was a part-time job; I had spreadsheets) and afford the test prep, etc. The privileges of wealth, whiteness, and maleness already set so many students ahead. I don’t know how you unpack that. But it’s heartening to see that we are at least trying.

What advice would you give a young reader struggling to find their way with words?
The struggle to find out what to say is as much a part of writing as actually putting the words on paper.

Join us for the Scribbles to Novels gala in New York City on Wednesday, April 18, to meet Gayle Forman and our other featured authors, including award-winning author Veronica Chambers, The Dollhouse author Fiona Davis, New York Times bestseller Tad Hills, Wonder author RJ Palacio, and Coretta Scott King award-winner Renée Watson.

Together, we can help all children build the key language and literacy skills they need to take on the world.

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