Monday, November 9, 2015

Catching up with RJ Palacio

An Interview with Wonder author, RJ Palacio

We are so excited that RJ Palacio granted a special Q&A for CCA. After celebrating #ChooseKind Day in October and working to bring awareness to bullying prevention, we wanted to catch up with our favorite author to see what she's been up to. We hope you enjoy this exclusive interview. 

CCA: You have written several “chapters” – books – after Wonder. What is it that you love about these characters specifically?

RJP: I very purposely chose the characters we hear from in Wonder because they helped expand the story of Auggie Pullman’s fifth grade year at Beecher Prep. Wonder is, after all, the story of Auggie Pullman in that one pivotal year of his life, and those kids whose lives intersect with his in that year. Having said that, there were other characters that had interesting stories to tell, that didn’t belong in Wonder but were still worth telling. Julian, most especially, had a narrative of his own, that doesn’t exculpate him from the mean things he did to Auggie, but gives his bullying a framework of understanding that allows him to feel like a more complete character.

CCA: You’ve seen a lot of the country and many schools by now. What’s one unique thing (or program) you love that a school or many schools are doing surrounding kindness?

RJP: In all honesty, there have been so many schools that I’ve visited that have done so much to promote kindness, that I’d serve no one well by singling one out. I’ve been overwhelmed by the creative ways teachers and librarians have adopted Wonder in the classroom and integrated its message of inclusiveness and tolerance with their students. From celebrating Auggie’s birthday on October 10th, to figuring ways of working Wonder into their curriculum, to read alouds and staged readings, to fundraising for organizations devoted to helping children around the world—the outreach and support has been incredible.

CCA: What does your family think of your writing? 

RJP: They’ve been so supportive throughout this process, and patient with all the traveling I’ve had to do in support of the book. My younger son especially, who is perhaps the most impacted by my absences, has been incredibly tolerant of “sharing” me. He’s in the 6th grade now, so a lot of his friends and teachers know about Wonder, of course. He’s a very well-grounded boy, though, so he’s the last one to point out a connection when new teachers, who don’t know he’s my son, might start talking to their students about this book called Wonder. His friends are the ones who point out a connection since he’s actually kind of shy about it.

CCA: For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

RJP: Oh goodness, there’s no comparison! I only read ebooks when I have to because it’s not available in book form. I’m a person whose worked in book publishing my whole life, remember—as an art director and as an editor. I know that inherent in every printed book is a team of people who’ve made decisions about every aspect of the book’s physical form: what paper stock to use, what the title page will look like, will there be running heads and feet, what will the text font and leading be, how many pages will the book be, will it be a 5 ½ by 8 1/4 –inch trim size of a 6 x 9, hardcover or paperback, rough front edges of not, printed endpapers or colored, blind stamp on the front or foil, ribbon marker or not, etc. etc. Each printed book is a work of art and collaboration, that simply doesn’t happen with ebooks. If you appreciate that, and understand that printed books are part of a tradition that goes back five centuries, you would never equate the two. Now, I’m not saying ebooks are bad. They serve a purpose, and they have their own merits and a team of people behind their publication that work arduously to bring those books to light, too. I fully acknowledge some books are best read online or as ebooks. But if you’re asking me my preference, it will always be printed books.

CCA: What are you working on next (if you can tell us)?

RJP: Totally secret.

CCA: Well, as much as we are wonder-ing (womp womp), we know it will be exciting and fantastic! Thank you so much for catching up with us today!

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