Saturday, January 7, 2012

Interview with Author Melissa Studdard:Six Weeks to Yehidah Blog Tour, Part 2




About the Author
Melissa Studdard is the author of the bestselling novel Six Weeks to Yehidah, which also won the 2011 Forward National Literature Award for Middle Grade Chapter Books. She is also a professor, a book reviewer at-large for The National Poetry Review, a contributing editor for both Tiferet Journal and The Criterion, and the host of the radio interview program Tiferet Talk. As well, she is a member of many literary organizations, including the National Book Critics Circle and the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators.

She loves anything related to writing and reading, whether it's sitting alone with a book and a cup of hot tea, or attending a large poetry reading or literary festival. She also loves travelling, meditating, going for walks, bicycling, practicing yoga, and spending time with family.

She currently resides in Texas with her wonderful daughter
 and their four sweet but mischievous cats.

A Little Chat with Melissa Studdard
LLM: What was your inspiration for this book?
MS:I wanted to share wisdom traditions with young people in an entertaining way, through narrative and humor. The novel is basically an allegory, which means that I was less concerned with character development and more concerned with what the characters, scenes, and settings represent.

Most aspects of the book can be read two ways, literally and symbolically. Sometimes I spell out those meanings overtly, and other times I leave them as more of an osmotic experience. It’s not important that every person understand every part of the book or each symbol. What inspires me is that storytelling has been and continues to be a viable and exciting way to convey spiritual and philosophical ideas. If someone reads and enjoys the book and comes away with an idea or two to ponder, then I’m thrilled.


LLM: Is there a specific message in your book that you hope readers will understand?
MS:Six Weeks to Yehidah is about love, tolerance, acceptance of ourselves and others, and finding purpose in life. I want readers to understand that to a large extent we create our own realities and circumstances and that we can all live magical, meaningful lives if we approach them with mindfulness, authenticity, and love.


LLM: When did you experience your Yehidah?
MS:I’m pleased to say that I experience my Yehidah frequently. A few things that elicit it for me are dreams, journaling, meditation, and deep conversation. One of my most memorable experiences of my Yehidah occurred as I was sitting in meditation.At that time in my life, because I lived near woods, I was feeding anything that came to my door. The majority were birds, possums, cats, and raccoons. The funny thing is that although they’re supposed to be enemies, they would all eat there together, sharing the same bowls, without fighting over the food. One evening, just after the sun had gone down, I sat in my back yard, surrounded by these critters and meditating. I suddenly felt transported from my body, and I felt what it was like to be the little raccoon, knocking on the sliding glass door for food. I felt what it was like to be the independent tomcat prowling between rows of herbs. I felt what it was to be a fledgling herb, poking up through the soil. Through them I was jolted momentarily from my standard egocentric perception of the world into a realization of how important every little detail is, and suddenly the world seemed very large and very small at the same time,and I knew in the profoundest sense that my role in it did not exist in isolation.


LLM:Do you think that this work though written for Middle Graders can apply to all ages? Why?
MS:Although I geared the tone and message to middle grade readers, I also intentionally cultivated an adult sensibility. My vision was that any assortment of family members, from great-grandparents, to parents,to pre-school children could sit down and read this book aloud together and all get something from it. I wanted a teacher reading it aloud to enjoy it as much as the kids. The messages are universal, ageless, and timeless, and it was my honor and my beautiful, Herculean chore to make sure I didn’t mess that up by letting any age group fall between the cracks.


LLM: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
MS:You know how when you’re a kid you think your teachers live at the school (or at least you don’t picture them anywhere else),and if you run into one at the grocery store or a movie, it blows your mind? I had compartmentalized authors in much the same way. They were people who lived in the land of character and plot. Most of the ones I read were dead and had been so for a long time. So, it never even occurred to me that I could be a writer until I started to meet living writers in my early twenties. Thank God, they demythologized authorship for me, and I picked up the pen myself. Now, I can’t imagine my life any other way!


LLM: What would be your superpower if you could have one?
MS:You know, my answer to this has changed throughout my lifetime. Right now, I’d have to say that I would love to be able to heal. I see so much suffering in the world, and it breaks my heart. I wish I could make it all go away.

LLM: Who is your Favorite author? Favorite Book?
MS:I have a few favorites that I could pick, but right now I’d have to say Gabriel García Márquez is my favorite author, and One Hundred Years of Solitude is my favorite book by him. Every sentence he writes simultaneously breaks my heart and exalts me to wonder. His imagination is unparalleled, and his understanding of the human condition is genius. He is a complete original.


LLM:What is a question that you wish interviewers would ask, and the answer to that question?
MS:What a wonderful question.Earlier, you asked me if there was a message I wanted readers to grasp, and I’d like to elaborate on that a bit and discuss what the book can do for the reader. Sure, I hoped it would be fun, exciting,entertaining, and so forth, but I also had a deeper purpose beyond entertainment and beyond even the message. That purpose was to inspire people—especiallychildren—to create lives of meaning, connection, purpose, love, and joy. Six Weeks to Yehidah models the potential for this kind of life through the adventures and choices of the main character, Annalise. The companion book, My Yehidah, directly engages readers’ own experiences, feelings, thoughts, and dreams by asking them to journal about the themes most prevalent in the novel and in their own lives.
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4 comments:

  1. Thank you for hosting! I appreciate it. I love your answers to the My Yehidah questions.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I’m a writer, book lover, and your newest blog follower! My blog is Life of Lois Feel free to stop on by.

    Lois

    ReplyDelete

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