Posts Tagged middle-grade readers

Author Spotlight: Andrea Davis Pinkney… plus a GIVEAWAY!

Today, I’m beyond thrilled to welcome acclaimed children’s author Andrea Davis Pinkney to the Mixed-Up Files!

Andrea is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of nearly 60 books for young readers, among them The Red Pencil and A Poem for Peter, as well as several collaborations with her husband Brian Pinkney, including Sit-In and Hand in Hand, which received the Coretta Scott King Book Award.

Her latest book, Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It, is a series of dramatic monologues narrated by three members of the Little family, Loretta, Roly, and Aggie. B. The novel has received four starred reviews to date – from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and BooklistEntertainment Weekly called the book “prescient” and a must for your anti-racist reading list. The book is illustrated by Brian Pinkney and available from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

A glimpse into Loretta Little Looks Back:

“Right here, I’m sharing the honest-to-goodness.” — Loretta

“I’m gon’ reach back, and tell how it all went. I’m gon’ speak on it. My way.”— Roly

“I got more nerve than a bad tooth. But there’s nothing bad about being bold.” — Aggie B.

Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B., members of the Little family, each present the vivid story of their young lives, spanning three generations. Their separate stories–beginning in a cotton field in 1927 and ending at the presidential election of 1968–come together to create one unforgettable journey.

Through an evocative mix of fictional first-person narratives, spoken-word poems, folk myths, gospel rhythms and blues influences, Loretta Little Looks Back weaves an immersive tapestry that illuminates the dignity of sharecroppers in the rural South.

Inspired by storytelling’s oral tradition, stirring vignettes are presented in a series of theatrical monologues that paint a gripping, multidimensional portrait of America’s struggle for civil rights as seen through the eyes of the children who lived it.

Q&A with Andrea Davis Pinkney

MR: A hearty welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Andrea! First and foremost, I must tell you how much I adored Loretta Little. Not only was the format highly original, each of the three narrators—Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B.—has a remarkably distinctive voice. As a writer, this is no mean feat. What’s your secret for getting inside a character’s head?

So happy to be here, Mixed-Up Files! Thank you for inviting me to your party. I’m glad you enjoyed Loretta Little Looks Back. Actually, I don’t get inside characters’ heads – they inhabit my thoughts. And they bury themselves in my heart, too. I feel like Loretta Little Looks Back wrote itself. These kids just started talking to me, each in their own brassy ways. One by one, they walked up, stared me down, and spoke. And they wouldn’t stop! That’s when the writing began. Roly, Loretta, and Aggie B. compelled me to share their stories with other kids like them who are passionate about what they believe is right.

Balancing fact and fiction

MR:  Speaking of Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B., I read in your author’s note that the characters are based on members of your family. Aggie B., for instance, is a composite of your aunt Katherine and your mother, Gwen.  Real-life historical figures are featured in your novel, too, including civil-rights activists James Forman, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Charles McLaurin. The rural setting—Ruleville, Mississippi—is also real. What is the biggest challenge of blending—and balancing—fact and fiction?

Yes, this book’s branches come from the roots of my family tree. They spring from the lives and times of the kinfolk who raised me. I come from a long line of grass-roots civil rights organizers. When I was growing up, I heard my family’s stories on porches and at the supper table. Many of these ended up on the pages of this book. My late father marched with Dr. King, and my mom was one of the first Black members of the League of Women Voters, so blending fact and fiction came naturally.

Historical ground

MR: In this novel, you cover life-changing historical ground—particularly, the struggle for Black Americans to secure the right to vote. To point out one example, young social activist Aggie B. becomes one of the youngest members of SNCC (the student wing of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, organized by Ella Baker and SCLC’s founder, Martin Luther King, Jr.), and she later sustains a brutal beating as a result of her activism. What parallels do you see between the events you describe in Loretta Little Looks Back and the current call for racial equity via the Black Lives Matter movement?

One of my favorite scenes in Loretta Little Looks Back happens in 1964, when young Aggie B. accompanies her Aunt ‘Retta to a local SNCC meeting that is seeking volunteers to register to vote. It’s the Jim Crow south, so folks are reluctant. When they ask for a show of hands, nobody is brave enough – except Aggie. She says:  My hand had a mind of its own. It raised itself so far, I thought my palm and fingers would fly off the top of my wrist! I knew that being only twelve years old, I was too young to register to vote. But my hand didn’t care about the age a person needed to be to help make things better. 

This scene is punctuated by a painting of Aggie B. with an exaggerated hand that reaches its way off the page to bring visual power, affirming that the future is the hands of our kids. This is exactly what kids are doing today. They’re raising their hands to becoming change-agents. It’s young people who are out there right now on the sidewalks and streets, letting the world know their voices are important. These are the voters of tomorrow. It’s up to us adults to pull up a chair, and let them talk to us – and to listen!

Trust, hope, and stars

MR: Loss is an important theme in Loretta Little. The loss of a parent, of a spouse, of land, of basic human dignity, of hope…  As Aggie B. says, “You can only see stars when the sky is the darkest.” What is the message you are trying to convey?  

The Little family endures so much injustice.  They transcend and triumph, too. One of the narrative elements that appears throughout their stories is the concept of “can’t see,” which refers to the dark hours right before the sun rises, when there are still stars in the sky, reminding us of hope. Daybreak always comes. Trusting in that is what hope and stars are all about.

Brian Pinkney and “the three C’s”

MR: As most kidlit afficionados know, you and your husband, illustrator Brian Pinkney, have published nearly 60 books between the two of you — Brian is you collaborator in art, and in life. [The Pinkneys have been together for 30 years and have been dubbed a “Picture Book Perfect Author-Illustrator Couple” by NPR.] How do you maintain a work/life balance? Also, how do you and Brian decide which projects to tackle? I’m guessing arm-wrestling is not involved. 🙂

Working with the one you love can be a beautiful experience — or a fast track to disaster! Brian and I have come up with some great strategies for making books while staying happily married. We have a weekly “meeting” each Saturday at our dining room table to review our projects, and to sit down together to talk about them.

Before and after the meeting, we don’t discuss work at all. Our weekly meetings are when we brainstorm project ideas. We have a running list. The ones that keep bubbling to the top are those we work on first. Others can linger for as long as a decade, and then, suddenly, something happens and we move ahead with one or two of those. At every stage of the creative process, we abide by “the three C’s”  – Courtesy, Communication, Commitment. These simple words have been the key to keeping our love at the center of our creative lives together. We steer clear of arm-wrestling!

Andrea’s many hats

MR: In addition to writing children’s books, you are the Vice President and Executive Editor at Scholastic. This is a tricky balancing act as well. How do you separate “Andrea the Editor” from “Andrea the Writer”?

I like accessories, which is why I enjoy wearing a few different hats — author, editor, and publisher. These “hats” are all completely different. I’m seldom wearing more than one at the same time. As an early riser, I start writing when it’s dark outside around four in the morning, until around six, when the sun starts to rise. By full daylight, the “writer hat” comes off, and I slip into publisher/editor mode.

Writing is a solitary discipline that’s very introspective. As an editor and publisher, my primary purpose is to serve other writers. I’m the one who holds the flashlight while they do the digging. As a graduate school professor who teaches writing, I’ve become very accustomed to working with students, helping them tell their stories. The same rules apply with authors. I’m like the midwife. They’re the ones doing the hard work.

MR: And finally, I’m curious: There are three narrators in Loretta Little Looks Back. Why did you choose to single out Loretta in the title?

Loretta is the family griot, the storytelling presence that ignites the story, and keeps the narrative threads moving forward – she’s a powerful root of the Little family tree. Since the book is written as a series of theatrical monologues, Loretta is the first to present herself to the audience of readers. And she was the first to introduce herself to me on a cold early morning when she stepped up to my consciousness and said, “This is me, talking to you.”

MR: Oh! Last thing, Andrea. No MUF interview is complete without a lightning round, so…

Preferred writing snack? A Red Delicious apple.

Coffee or tea? Scalding water with lemon.

Favorite song? This Little Light of Mine.

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? Big NAY!

Favorite word. Love!

 

Favorite place on earth? London, England.

You’re stranded on a desert island, with only three items in your possession. What are they? My husband and our two kids (who are neither “items” on “in my possession” but we have so much fun together, especially in island settings).

MR: Thank you for chatting with me, Andrea—and congratulations on the publication of Loretta Little Looks Back. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I know MUF readers will too!

Thank YOU, and happy reading!

And now… a fabulous

GIVEAWAY!!!

For a copy of Loretta Little Looks Back, comment on the blog–and, if you’re on Twitter, on the Mixed-Up Files Twitter account–for a chance to win! 

Andrea’s bio

ANDREA DAVIS PINKNEY is the New York Times bestselling an award-winning author of numerous books for children and young adults. Her work has received multiple Coretta Scott King Book Award citations. She is a four-time nominee for the NAACP Image Award, and has been inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame. Andrea is the recipient of both the Regina Medal and the Arbuthnot Honor Award for her distinguished and singular contribution to the field of children’s literature. She has been named among the “25 Most Influential People in our Children’s Lives” by Children’s Health magazine, and is listed among the “25 Most Influential Black Women in Business” by The Network Journal.

Andrea is the librettist for the Houston Grand Opera’s The Snowy Day, an opera based on the beloved bestselling children’s picture book classic The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. She has served on the creative teams for several theatrical and audio productions based on works for young people, including those drawn from her acclaimed books, Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, The Red Pencil, and Rhythm Ride: A Trip through the Motown Sound. Andrea lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and frequent collaborator, illustrator Brian Pinkney, and their two children. You can find Andrea on Twitter and Facebook.

Interview with Tod Olson, Author of Into the Clouds + Book Giveaway

Sean McCollum: This is my first blog post for Mixed Up Files, and I couldn’t be happier to be here, as well as an appropriate amount of nervous. What a cool, helpful crew working together to keep creating this website. I’m a long-time writer for youth and educational publishers, and being part of MUF helps keep me current with young readers and the MG universe, even as I live the life of a digital nomad. (House-sitting in Edinburgh, Czech Republic, New York, Phoenix, and Ecuador in the last year—Have Internet, Will Travel.)

I’m also MOST pleased to introduce Tod Olson to MUF-world. Tod and I go back nearly 40 years, to a small liberal arts college—Lawrence University—in the belly of Wisconsin, before working together at Scholastic. So as I considered what my first post might be, an interview with my best bud (having been his Best Man) immediately came to mind. He also happens to be one of the foremost authors of narrative nonfiction working in children’s publishing—so bonus! Hey T, welcome to MUF.

Tod Olson: Thanks, Sean! Wish we were doing this in person, but I’ll settle.

SMc: I loved Into the Clouds and its nuts and pitons description of the first attempts to climb K2, the second highest mountain in the world. How did you first learn about this chapter in mountain-climbing history and what attracted you to it?

TO: So, I really wanted to tell a climbing story, partly because the ethical questions are so primal: What’s your obligation to other humans when you barely have the resources to keep yourself alive? The 1953 expedition to K2 is legendary in climbing circles for the selfless—some would say suicidal—attempt to get a sick comrade home alive. But the story hadn’t yet found a wider audience. Plus, the contrast with the previous expedition to K2, which ended in disaster, raised interesting questions, not just about climbing but about life: What’s important about any endeavor—the summit or how you climb? The product or the process? Your achievement or the bonds you form along the way?

SMc: You and I have both done some expeditioning and climbed non-technical mountains. So why do people undertake such misery-causing forms of recreation?

TO: A lot of climbers talk about the mountains as a world apart from their workaday lives in New York or Peoria. It’s a place where the complications of civilized life are stripped away and your relationship with nature, with other people, with yourself, is somehow more basic, more pure. I think there’s also a mindfulness to climbing. The danger focuses the mind in the moment—the feel of the rock under the fingers; this foothold, then the next one. Besides, the burgers taste that much better when you get home.

SMc: Oh yeah, and the warm bed. Your writing is rich with sensory detail. How much of that is personal suffering and how much is imagination and empathy for your subjects? In other words, do you go out and risk your life as a way of doing primary research?

TO: Ha! Writing is the most exquisite form of suffering ever invented. Why would anyone feel the need to add to the misery? Actually, it does feel like an act of hubris to presume you can capture an experience you haven’t lived. But even if we tried to climb K2, our experience of the mountain wouldn’t match anyone else’s. We still need to find a way into the minds of the people we write about. I think of research as listening, whether I’m actually interviewing people or engaging with written sources.

In large part, I think I look for portals—observations, phrases, or anecdotes that suddenly admit me into the world of the other. For K2, for instance, one of the 1938 climbers talked about his reluctance to read mail from home on the rare occasions when it arrived at Base Camp. For some reason that made it real for me: Conditions on the mountain were so uncomfortable that in order to bear it, he had to block out the fact that some people in the world lived differently, even if it meant cutting himself off from the people he loved most.

SMc: How did you get interested in survival stories, like the four books of the Lost collection?

TO: When I was 11, I read Alive, the story of the Uruguayan rugby team that was stranded in the Andes by a plane crash and had to eat the bodies of friends and family to survive. I barely left my chair for two days, and I think I’ve been trying to recreate that immersive reading experience as a writer. I tell the Alive story on school visits, and it’s amazing how quickly the thought of eating your cousin can focus the attention of a couple hundred 6thgraders.

SMc: Why do you think young readers are so interested in such stories, whether fictional or not?

TO: Survival stories have an interesting history. Eighteenth-century Europeans were entranced by stories of people marooned with cannibals on remote islands. Robinson Crusoe was arguably the first novel in English, and it was a survival story. At that point, European settlers were spreading out around the globe, leaving everything familiar behind, colonizing places that felt alien to them. The stories were a way of working out their fears.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that survival stories do something similar for a kid anticipating her own entry into a complicated adult world. Besides, what is middle school but a three-year survival epic with really bad food?

SMc: I can still taste the liverwurst. In your mind, what distinguishes narrative nonfiction from fiction? And narrative nonfiction from history? What niche in our need for stories does narrative nonfiction fill?

TO: I love thinking about the first part of that question, but we could talk about it for hours and still fall short of an answer. When you really look closely, I think it’s hard to draw a clear line. So much mediates our knowledge of the past—the limitations of memory, cultural gaps, lack of documentation. Narrative nonfiction authors make decisions on every page about the relationship between their sources and the words on the page.

That said, I think we absolutely need to draw a line, and for me it’s that everything needs to be documented. As for the importance of narrative, I don’t write books primarily to teach, but I do think we learn best through story. We understand people at a deeper level, we empathize, and we retain what we read. If you need evidence, try Say Nothing, which I just finished. It’s an amazing feat of storytelling that made me understand the Troubles in Northern Ireland for the first time.

SMc: Could you describe your research process for Into the Clouds? How much time did you spend researching versus writing?

TO: Hard to say because the research continued after I started writing, but maybe a year of researching and six months of writing. I reached out to the family members of all the climbers I wrote about, and that can take a while because you’re following leads that lead to other leads, etc.

It’s really all about primary sources, and the turning point for me was when I found Dee Molenaar’s diary. He was one of the climbers on the 1953 expedition, and he wrote with disarming honesty about his struggles with pride and fear and insecurity on the mountain. That kind of candor was unusual for the era, and it gave me that portal I needed to get inside their experience on K2.

SMc: Tell us about your writing journey up to this point. What literary mountains are you still wanting to climb as a writer?

TO: I’m done with survival stories for a while. As much as I love them, there’s a sameness to the story arc, and after a while you run out of synonyms for cold, hungry, and miserable. I’m trying to write a novel, which is a lot harder than writing nonfiction. At any given moment, there are hundreds of viable choices instead of dozens.

SMc: What is something people would be surprised to learn about you, besides you and your dad once being national tennis champs in father-son doubles?

TO: I hate being cold. (How are things in Ecuador?)

SMc: Living and writing at 8,000 feet … please … send … oxygen. Advice for writers wanting to try their hand at narrative nonfiction?

TO: Be faithful to your sources, but make the story your own. You’re not building a day-by-day, minute-by-minute chronicle of lived experience. You’re telling a story. As you research, pay attention to the pieces that quicken your pulse, raise a lump in your throat, make you think. Those are the peaks in your mountain range; write up to them, down from them, and around them.

SMc: What are you working on now?

TO: That novel, but we don’t need to talk about that. During quarantine I made a really cool (I think) on-line scavenger hunt for Into the Clouds: https://todolson.com/scavenger-hunt/into-the-clouds/. It’s on my website, and anyone who completes it gets a chance to win a book. If the novel doesn’t work, I’m going to be a scavenger hunt writer. Is that a thing?

It is now! Thanks, T, for taking the time to share your adventures—writing and otherwise—with us. The best way to follow Tod is through his website: https://todolson.com/.

And here’s another chance to win Tod’s Into the Clouds—via MUF, thank you Tod. (Sorry, only available for MUF readers in the United States and Canada.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Spotlight: Joy Jones… plus a GIVEAWAY!

For today’s Author Spotlight, I’m pleased to interview Joy Jones, author of the debut middle-grade novel, Jayla Jumps In (Albert Whitman, 2020). Plus a giveaway!!!!

About the Book:

When 11-year-old Jayla finds out that her mother used to be a Double Dutch champion, she’s stunned. Who knew her mom, who’s on doctor’s orders to lower her blood pressure, could move like that? Jayla decides to follow in her mom’s footsteps, thinking that maybe Double Dutch can make her stand out in her big, quirky family. As she puts together a team at school and prepares to compete, Jayla finds that Double Dutch is about a lot more than jumping rope—and it just might change her life, in ways she never imagined. Full of hilarious family dynamics and plenty of jump-rope action, Jayla Jumps Infollows one girl’s quest to get her mom healthy and find her place in her community.

And now, without further ado, let’s jump into the interview! 

Interview with Joy Jones

MR: Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Joy! First and foremost, I need to tell you how much I enjoyed your book. It’s filled with heart, humor—and, of course—Double Dutch. What was the impetus for writing this novel?

JJ:  I’m so glad you liked it! I want the reader to have fun. I always feel great when I jump Double Dutch; I’m hoping the reader gets to feel a little bit of that joy–and maybe even decide to actually try it!

When I first came up with the idea to jump Double Dutch, I was trying to lose ten pounds. Now, I’m trying to lose twenty. Hmm… the weight loss has been a little tricky but I gained a great deal of creative capital. I got a stage play and a book out of the deal.  So what happened? Well, some co-workers and I were talking about losing weight and I suggested we jump Double Dutch during lunch. Everyone said they were already too fat to exercise so we never did it. But I thought it was a pretty good idea. Since I didn’t get to do it in real life, I did it in my imagination and wrote a play called Outdoor Recess about a group of adult women who form a Double Dutch team. When I was promoting the play, someone suggested that I actually get some women together to jump rope–and I did. That’s how DC Retro Jumpers got started. {Check out this video of the Team in action!}

Years later, I would talk to my agent in passing about the various exploits of DC Retro Jumpers. “You should write a middle-grade novel about Double Dutch,” she said. But because I had already done a play on the theme, and as the team’s founder who was often promoting our activities, I didn’t think I had anything more to say about Double Dutch. But she brought up the idea again, and this time I decided I’d try writing on that theme. That’s how Jayla Jumps In was born.

Combatting Loneliness

MR: Speaking of your book, Jayla, the 11-year-old protagonist, often feels lonely, despite being part of a large extended family. As an only child myself, I can absolutely relate to this. Did you experience loneliness as a child as well? If so, how did it affect you—and how did you cope?

JJ:  I’m the oldest in my family so there were a few years when I was the only child. My way of coping was to inform my parents that I wanted a baby sister. When I was seven, they delivered what I requested–practically on my birthday! My sister, Lorraine, was born on November 22nd; I was born on November 23rd. (I think that was the last time my parents gave me what I wanted. ) I also have another younger sister, Vita, who is an August baby. But was I lonely as a child? No, I always had a book at hand whenever I wanted company, or was feeling bored, or had nothing to do and nobody else was around. Sometimes I preferred a book even when people were around.

A Jump on Health

MR: The importance of exercise and healthy eating factors heavily in Jayla Jumps In, when Jayla learns that her mom suffers from hypertension, a health issue that affects 1 in 3 Americans. If not treated, uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. What prompted you to focus on this particular health issue? What is the message—and ultimate takeaway—for your middle-grade audience?

JJ: Being physical is such a wonderful thing! All you couch potatoes, stop rolling your eyes. A physical body was made to be physically active! You’re zoned out on the sofa only because you haven’t yet discovered the activity that’s right for you. When you move, you stimulate your endorphins–the ‘get-high’ hormones in your body. Vigorous movement feels glorious! It’s not work, it’s pleasure. You do like to feel good, don’t you? As I like to say, not everyone likes to exercise but everyone likes to play.

Too many people spend too much time padlocked to a screen, watching somebody else do something fun. For many adults, we have childhood memories of being outdoors, playing a game that doesn’t require batteries or using our imaginations to entertain ourselves. But too many young people haven’t experienced the fun of physical movement, of outdoor play, or of at least actively exercising their own imaginations, rather than passively consuming someone else’s creativity that’s been packaged for sale.

I also do yoga, take frequent walks, swim, and dance–my favorite physical activity. I hope by reading Jayla’s story, young readers get motivated to try some old-school, screen-free fun. I’m not at my goal weight, but I am convinced that my good health is in large part due to being physically active. My mother has hypertension–she’s 89–and although sometimes we have to nag her about being consistent with her medication,  she regularly exercises and is in pretty good shape. She can still fit into the wedding dress she wore in 1952!

Team Spirit

MR: You founded the DC Retro Jumpers, an adult Double Dutch exhibition team, in 2004. What was your motivation for forming the team? Did you jump as a child, or are you relatively new to the sport? Also, what is it about Double Dutch that appeals to you most? I’m guessing it’s more than exercise.

JJ:  Yes, I jumped rope as a child, but single rope more than Double Dutch. Although I enjoyed it hugely, I think I get even more enjoyment now. Jumping Double Dutch gives a rush that’s both easy and exciting at the same time. Plus, my ego gets stroked because often people are surprised–and impressed–to see someone old doing it. During DC Retro Jumpers demonstrations, I love it when someone comes forward to jump. Usually, it’s been years since they jumped or they never learned how. But once they start jumping and they find the rhythm, the joy that suffuses their whole being is gratifying to witness. People on the sidelines are cheering them on, and cell phone cameras are recording their triumph. The experience hits all my pleasure centers: fresh air, having fun, helping others, ego strokes.

Renaissance Woman

MR: In addition to being a middle-grade author, you are a playwright, a poet, an educator, a journalist, a trainer, a motivational speaker, and you write non-fiction for adults. You’re also active in the DC Retro Jumpers. How do you juggle so many balls—and keep them in the air? Also, what does your writing routine look like? Enquiring minds want to know!

JJ: Some years ago I was working a job that sapped my energy, and my soul. I wanted to quit and spend my days lazing around in bed and reading novels. But my wallet said, “No, Joy, that won’t work!” So I started saving money aggressively. I managed to accumulate a nice stash that allowed me to leave my full-time job for part-time work. I landed a job at DC Public Library (an ideal place for a writer!), working 20 hours a week. This allowed me to have time for my creative pursuits.

My writing routine? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Even now that I’ve got a less stressful schedule, the writing happens catch-as-catch-can. I used to believe one needed long stretches of time to get writing done. That’s nice, but life seldom accommodates me in that way. Usually, I write in stolen snatches of time. I always keep a journal with me, so I can write while in a waiting room, on the subway, during slow moments at work. If you keep doing a little bit of writing, eventually the bits and pieces become pages–and then the pages become books. I begin in longhand, with pen and paper for the first draft, then go to the computer to edit and refine.

Question from Jonathan Rosen

MR: Oh, and Joy? MUF member Jonathan Rosen has a question for you, so I kind of feel obligated to pass it on…

JR: Hi, Joy! Which version of the song “Double Dutch Bus” do you prefer—the original 1981 hit by Frankie Smith or the remake by Raven-Symoné, as featured in the 2008 movie, College Road Trip? (I should mention that “Double Dutch Bus is my go-to karaoke song.) <MR: Sadly, it is.>

JJ:  Shhh… I don’t normally reveal this, but I can’t stand that song. I cringe any time it is played when we’re doing a demo. But I’m sure when you sing it on karaoke night you rock the mic. <JR: Yes, people have noted my rockstar quality…>

And finally, no MUF interview is complete without a lightning round, so…

Preferred writing snack? Fruit.

Coffee or tea? Tea.

Cat or dog? Traditionally, I’ve preferred cats, but over time dogs have become more appealing. But I’m too lazy to keep a pet myself.

Favorite song? (And certainly not “Double Dutch Bus”! I’m partial to R&B oldies. Too many favorites to single out just one.

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? Nay. Unless you count the way everybody is glued to their screens like zombies. In that case, the zombie takeover has already happened.

Superpower? I’m a pretty good listener; especially at hearing what’s not being said.

Favorite place on earth? Muir Woods in California. When I’m among those majestic redwood trees I feel like I’m in God’s living room, basking in His company.

Signature Double Dutch move? Pop-ups. That’s when you propel yourself straight up in the air while jumping. I never could do that as a child, so it’s been especially exhilarating to learn how to do it as an adult. Old dogs can learn new tricks!

If you were stranded on a desert island with only three things, what would they be? A library, a dance partner, and a box of Thin Mints Girl Scout cookies.

MR: Thank you for chatting, Joy—and congratulations on the publication of Jayla Jumps In. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I know MUF readers will too!

And now… a fabulous

GIVEAWAY!!!

Joy has generously offered to gift a lucky reader with a signed copy of Jayla Jumps In. Just comment on the blog (and, if you’re on Twitter, on the Mixed-Up Files Twitter account) for a chance to win! 

JOY JONES is a trainer, performance poet, playwright and author of several books, including her MG debut, Jayla Jumps In (Albert Whitman & Company, 2020). She has won awards for her writing from the D. C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, and the Colonial Players Promising Playwrights Competition, plus awards from both the D. C. Department of Recreation & Parks and the D. C. Commission on National & Community Service for outstanding community service. She is the director of the arts organization, The Spoken Word, and the founder of the Double Dutch team, the DC Retro Jumpers, which has led exhibitions and classes throughout metropolitan Washington and abroad. Joy often leads workshops on creative writing, communications and black history. Learn more about Joy on her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.