Tracie Vaughn Zimmer is the author of Reaching for Sun, which I read for the Cybils middle grade fiction panel last year, and other books which I very much want to read. She is a talented writer, a wonderful poet, and a great storyteller, so we’re very lucky to have her here today for an interview. Without further ado:

Reaching For Sun is novel in verse. What do you particularly like and what is particularly challenging about writing in that form?

Oh, I LOVE poetry. It is my most natural voice, my first voice. I have dozens of journals that go back to fourth grade and much of it was written in this form. Not every story should be told in this way though- it should feel justified, I think, by something in the character. Free verse is challenging because you must say so much with so few words. A few select images must stand up for so many left unsaid.

What inspired you to write about a main character with a disability?

I was inspired by the students I taught who had disabilities and who faced middle school (a nightmare without a disability, if you ask me) with such grace.

Josie is physically different from the other kids because of her cerebral palsy, but there are lots of kids who are alienated from their peers for one reason or another. Do you have any advice for them?

Hold On (like that wonderful U2 song) It gets BETTER, I promise.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Read and read widely. Eat books like buttered popcorn. Then, write for yourself first. Write the stories you yourself want to read, wish you could find but don’t set publication as your goal. Set pleasing yourself as your goal.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes. Always.

What are you writing now?

A poetry collection but it’s still hatching so I don’t want to crush the egg.

What are some of your favorite books and authors?

OHHHH, I love this question! Katherine Patterson, Linda Sue Park, Phillip Pullman, Sandra Cisneros, Valerie Worth, Kristine O’Connell George, Kate DiCamillo, Libba Bray, Sarah Dessen, Helen Frost, Joyce Sidman, Marilyn Nelson, Tobin Anderson, John Green, Ralph Fletcher, etc. etc.

Reaching For Sun won the middle grade Schneider Family Book Award, and is on the shortlist for the 2007 Middle Grade Fiction category for the Cybils. Congratulations! Is your reading influenced by book awards, and is there one you particularly like?

THANKS! I’m thrilled that SUN won the Schneider and I’m honored to have that sticker on my book! Yes, my reading is influenced by awards- the Newbery and ALA winners and I love the Cybils, Teacher’s Choice picks and the NBA for teens, especially.

I really appreciate being on your blog, Jocelyn. Thanks for having me!

Thank you so much for doing this, Tracie!