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Friday, March 8, 2013

Interview and Giveaway: Elisabeth Dahl

I'm so excited to have Elisabeth Dahl here to talk about her book Genie Wishes. Be sure to check out my review and the full March MG Madness schedule (and big giveaway).

Genie Wishes
by Elisabeth Dahl
Purchase: Amazon / B&N

This sweet, funny novel follows fifth-grader Genie Kunkle through a tumultuous year. From the first day of school, Genie knows there will be good, bad, and in-between. The good? She’s in homeroom with her best friend, Sarah. The bad? Sarah’s friend from camp, Blair, is a new student at their school, and is itching to take Genie’s place as Sarah’s BFF. The in-between? Genie is excited to be elected to write her class’s blog, where she’s tasked with tracking the wishes and dreams of her class. But expressing her opinion in public can be scary—especially when her opinion might make the rest of her class upset.

Elisabeth Dahl authentically captures the ups and downs of a tween girl’s life, and the dramas—both little and big—that fill the scary transition between childhood and adolescence.

WS: What three words best describe GENIE WISHES?
Sweet, funny, realistic.
WS: Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers (especially reluctant readers) why they should give GENIE WISHES a try?

I’m a good pitcher of actual balls. What I’m bad at is pitching anything else—me, my work, etc. But for you, I will try!GENIE WISHES has a picture of a hamster eraser in it.
Will that work? See, I am terrible at this. Let me try again.GENIE WISHES is a book about a girl like many girls you probably know—maybe even you?

WS: Grab a copy of GENIE WISHES and answer the following:

Favorite chapter? 

Probably the final chapter, in which Genie goes to the fifth-grade graduation party at her friend Sarah’s house and starts readying herself for the switch to summer mode. As many times as the book was revised to prepare it for submission and publication, this final chapter stayed largely intact. I like the sense of both completion and transition the chapter conveys.
Favorite page? 

A couple of the drawings in the book always amuse me, so I’ll name a page with one of them: page 183, which shows Genie’s brother, Ian, in the eagle costume he wears at his part-time job, a position that requires him to stand on the sidewalk in a costume for a couple of hours a day, waving to drivers to attract attention to a local tax-preparation office. He’s doing his just-barely-a-wave wave, which is his way of doing the job, but just barely.
Favorite character? 

Well, of course I’m closest to Genie, but I’m deeply fond of some of the more peripheral characters, especially Anna Miles, Jack, Uncle Mike, and Walker. Even Blair has her charms.
Flip to a random page and give us 1-2 sentence teaser:
Okay! Page 192, which offers this glimpse of Genie’s least favorite classmate, Blair:
“Geez,” Blair said. She walked away, her ponytail flicking from side to side, the way cats’ tails do when the cats don’t get their way.

WS: What do you hope readers walk away with from Genie's story?
I’m hoping the book conveys to readers that transition (from one best friend to another, from child to tween to teen, etc.) might have its challenges, but ultimately they can weather it. Also, I’m hoping to remind them that growing up isn’t some kind of race and they should move at whatever speed feels right and natural to them.
WS: Genie deals with some of the embarrassing and confusing experiences that come with being a young girl...were any of these things based on your own childhood experiences? Any horror stories you care to share?

Oh yes, I remember fifth grade as a bit of a crazy and transitional time, with cliques forming and new social stratifications happening and puberty arriving. I did live through a painful moment of having a more “mature” and slightly bratty girl point out screechingly—as we gathered on bleachers for an all-school assembly—that I had not yet started shaving my legs. Much like Genie, I’d never even thought to do so. Shaving was something that my mother and grandmother did. I felt sort of accused.
WS: As a blogger, I love that Genie blogs and by the end of the book is genuinely excited to continue blogging. What advice would you have for kids who are interested in starting their own blog?

I’m glad you liked that! Well, most of all, I’d tell kids interested in blogging to get their parents’ permission and to work with their parents to set up a blogging system that’s safe and protects them from potential harm, both on the Internet and in real life. And then I’d suggest that they talk through blog topics and themes with their parents before putting anything up on the Internet. Genie’s situation is rather protected, with her school’s IT people screening her posts and her personal information concealed, but kids setting up their own blogs wouldn’t necessarily have that same protection.
WS: What do you love about writing middle-grade? Why do you think middle-grade is such a popular and important category of books?

Volunteering in my son’s elementary school library when he was younger (he’s nearly fourteen now), I was reminded of how deeply middle-grade kids bond with books; it’s an extraordinary connection. I wanted to try writing for them. More generally, as a writer, I’m drawn to all people who inhabit transitional places. For middle-grade kids, it’s the borderland between dependence and independence. They’ve come so far (from diapers and Pat the Bunny) but still have so much that awaits them in the future (driver’s licenses, romances, jobs, etc.).
WS: What is your all-time favorite middle-grade book? Who is your favorite middle-grade hero and heroine?
No question, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET was both my favorite childhood read (I read it probably twelve or thirteen times, and I’m not a rereader usually) and the biggest single influence on GENIE WISHES. Margaret’s confessional tale helped me process so many things.
WS: Fill in the blanks:
I'm really awesome at ___.

Catching things as they are falling—bits of scone or whatever. It’s a weird superpower I developed almost immediately after my son was born.
I'm really embarrassed to admit that ____.

I was cast as Nana the dog in a middle school production of PETER PAN without having auditioned. That’s how much I looked like a dog, apparently.
If I didn't blog about books and writing, I'd love to blog about ___.

Making terrariums?
The last great book I read was ___.

TENTH OF DECEMBER, a collection of stories by the great George Saunders. The title story is a killer. So is the one about the Semplica Girls. Everyone in America should read George Saunders, even people who think they don’t like reading short stories. His stories are both hilarious and profound.
WS: If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by GENIE WISHES what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

It would be the dessert equivalent of seriocomic fiction, inhabiting a middle zone between dry and sweet. I’m thinking a small shortbread-y yellow cupcake with dark chocolate icing. Maybe we’d call it the Genie Mini, and people would eat more than one, oh yes.
Thanks so much for your interest in GENIE WISHES and for interviewing me! A dozen Genie Minis for you…

Elisabeth Dahl
Website / Goodreads / Twitter
GENIE WISHES, a middle-grade novel with line drawings, is Elisabeth Dahl's first book (forthcoming from Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS, in April 2013). She has just completed her second book, a novel for adults. Her writing has appeared at, at, and at Baltimore Fishbowl. Elisabeth holds a bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University and a master's degree from Georgetown University, where she was a Writing Center Associate Fellow. She now lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Win a finished copy of
Genie Wishes from Abrams!
You have the chance to win 1 of 10 middle-grade books, including Genie Wishes, from Abrams books.
-will run from until 3/31
-there will be 10 winners who will each win 1 books
-must be 13+, one main entry per person
-winners will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours 
-I am not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
Fill out the Rafflecopter form


kirsten said...

I think that Elisabeth has sneakily written about MY KID in this book, and I just cannot wait to share it with her. (My kid. And Elisabeth, come to that.) Yay for middle graders!

Paige said...

I've yet to read many books about kid bloggers and I'd love to start with this one! :)