The IRA, or International Readers Association, is an annual worldwide convention to gather literary professionals together. On April 25-28 2010 the IRA was held in Chicago where Ingrid Law, a local author, had the pleasure of attending and participating in.
Ingrid Law is an imaginative children’s book author with an eye for mountains and small towns that have big energy. Law has also always had a thing for tall tales and thus her inspiration behind the book Savvy. Savvy combs a magical element into the lives of children where it is presented as “savvy,” a particular and fantastical trait or talent. Here is a closer look into Law’s world and how she shared it at this conference:
Jackie Sonnenberg: Was the International Reading Association in Chicago your first time? What was your reaction on arriving?
This was my first visit to IRA, and I was immediately impressed by the sheer numbers of friendly and dedicated educators I met who came to the conference from all around the world.
Ingrid Law: Can you give a brief synopsis of Savvy?
Savvy is the story of Mibs Beaumont, a girl about to turn thirteen. Only, in Mibs's family, a thirteenth birthday brings with it an extra-special gift: an extraordinary, larger-than-life talent that no one can predict. Mibs's grandpa can move mountains, her brother causes hurricanes. Now it’s Mibs’s turn. But just before Mibs’s special birthday, her poppa is in a terrible car accident that changes all her wishes—and her life. Savvy is a coming of age story that mixes tall-tale adventure with a funny and heartwarming road trip adventure and a wacky cast of characters. It is a story that will leave readers wondering what their own savvy—their own special talent—might be.
JS: Tell us about the speaking event you did with Susannah Richards. Who is this individual? What did you cover?
IL: Susannah Richards teaches reading, children’s literature, and language arts in the Education Department at Eastern Connecticut State University. She’s expert at teaching teachers and future teachers how to use books effectively in the classroom. She is also a tireless supporter of children’s books and authors. Susannah and I teamed up to present Savvy, and the book’s companion, Scumble (Dial/Walden, August 2010), to a group of educators at IRA. We shared a conversation about my inspiration for the books, allusions and metaphors within the stories, projects teachers have done, excitement over a future feature film adaptation of Savvy by Walden Media, and more.
JS: Of all the events and activities that you did, what was your favorite and why?
IL: I really enjoyed my session with Susannah. We had a great turnout and some wonderful questions at the end. It was also really fun to be able to share some stories about the processes behind my storytelling, and the excitement about my next book. Speaking to such an engaged group of educators was a treat.
JS: Do you get to travel to events like these often? What is it you'd like to accomplish by attending?
IL: I’ve had the opportunity to travel quite a bit since Savvy was first published in 2008. Conferences like IRA allow me to meet and interact with large numbers of people from all over the country and around the world, some of whom may already know my work, and others who may be learning about it for the first time. As writing can be such solitary work, getting out and meeting the people who are putting books into the hands of children is a great way to remember why I love doing what I do. There’s nothing like meeting a teacher or librarian who tells me a reading success story, or a story of a student who loved my book, to inspire me to keep writing.
JS: Tell us about yourself as a writer and as a person. What are the subjects you focus on to write about, and do you tend to stay in a specific genre?
I read a lot of fantasy when I was growing up, so adding fantasy elements to my own writing came naturally. However, my books are grounded in the real, everyday world, have real-life conflicts, and the characters visit real places. I love small towns, so for both Savvy and Scumble, I visited the places that appear in the stories as I wrote about them—small towns in Kansas and Nebraska for Savvy, and in Wyoming for Scumble. Throughout both books, I enjoy exploring themes of family, friendship, growing up, and the discovery of inner strengths.
JS: How did you first start off as a writer and what work of yours gave you your identity as a writer?
IL: I actually wrote for many, many years without ever trying to get published. I always enjoyed creating stories as a way of relaxing and dealing with anxiety. Eventually, I began to take my writing more seriously. When my first book, Savvy, was published in 2008, I was stunned by the attention it received. A Newbery Honor Award, a segment with Al Roker on the Today Show, a spot on the New York Times Bestsellers List… it was all a little overwhelming. And it set a high bar for my second book. But I’m excited that Scumble is finally finished and coming out in August.
JS: What current projects are you working on that you'd like to share?
IL: As I mentioned, Scumble is the title of my next book, and it comes out August 24th. I’ve been working on it since the day I finished Savvy—writing whenever I was not traveling. Scumble is a companion to Savvy, not a sequel, so it follows a brand new main character—a boy named Ledge (Mibs Beaumont’s cousin) as he turns thirteen. But there are some familiar characters from Savvy in the book as well, so it is a blend of the old and the new. I wanted to take the idea of a ‘savvy’ birthday and explore it from an all new point of view. I love to go new places—in my work and when I travel!
Check out more about Ingrid Law and her books at www.ingridlaw.com/