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Interview with ‘Screaming at the Ump’ picture book author Audrey Vernick

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Audrey Vernick writes funny and not-funny, fiction and nonfiction, short and long books for young readers. Her nonfiction picture book, ‘Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team’, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2012. A two-time recipient of the New Jersey Arts Foundation's Fiction Fellowship, Audrey lives near the ocean with her family.

For what age audience do you write?

I write humorous picture books for ages 2-7, nonfiction picture books for ages 3-9, and middle-grade fiction for ages 9-12.

Tell us about your latest book.

Screaming at the Ump (March 4, 2014) is about twelve-year-old Casey Snowden, whose father and grandfather own and run Behind the Plate, an umpire training school. Casey knows all there is to know about foul and fair and being objective and can't wait to put those skills to use as a sports journalist. But right now he has an awful lot to worry about -- enrollment is down at the school, his best friend, Zeke, is hatching a number of ill-advised plans to get himself on reality TV, and Casey's long-absent mom seems determined to make a reappearance in his life. And he's going to need a big story to break into the world of middle-school journalism. It's possible one has landed right in his lap--if that Behind the Plate student is actually a former MLB player disgraced in a steroid scandal, as Casey believes him to be. But would it be okay to expose one of his dad's own students? It turns out it's not always easy to make the right call.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I hope that they get what I always seek from a book -- a satisfying opportunity to get to know a character and witness his slightly-off-the-beaten-path life, and to watch him change and grow in believable ways. There's something for the baseball fan, something for aspiring journalists, for those whose best friends can be exasperating when they're not being hilarious, and for those navigating their way through their parents' divorce. And for those who are interested in humorous contemporary realistic fiction.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

This is probably a strange answer, but the waiting is the hardest part. At various points in my drafts, I'll seek out feedback, usually from writer-friends. I know it's impossible to instantaneously have read and responded to an entire book, but there's a part of my waiting self that is not wholly rational and wants to hear back within two minutes of having sent the file. And there's no end to the waiting--for my agent's response, for submissions to go out, to hear back on submissions. Even waiting for reviews can be hard!

Henry: So true. Being a writer means honing your craft, your endurance, your tolerance for criticism and rejection, and your patience.

Read the full interview at Henry's blog on KidLit, science fiction, and fantasy.

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