Newbery Authors: Lois Lowry

We have several amazing new books by Newbery authors coming out over the next few months. We're taking a moment to highlight each of these creators. Today we're focusing on Lois Lowry, Newbery Award Winning author of Number the Stars and The Giver as well as the upcoming novel, Tree. Table. Book.

Seven Questions for Lois Lowry

Where were you sitting (or standing or sleeping) when you got the Newbery call?

Well, the first time I was right where I usually am in the mornings: sitting at my desk, working. The call took me completely by surprise, and maybe that confusion led me to make a bad decision when I said Yes, sure, I’ll go to the airport and fly to NYC this afternoon to be on the TODAY show in the morning. (Didn’t I notice that it was snowing like crazy outside? That plane trip was a disaster.)

Second time, there had been a lot of talk about THE GIVER, and I decidedly did not want to be sitting at my desk wondering if the phone would ring. So I planned a trip to a place where I would be incommunicado. And then there I was, in Antarctica, on a boat, when a pink slip of paper from the radio operator was slipped under my cabin door: CONGRATULATIONS THE GIVER HAS BEEN AWARDED THE 1994 NEWBERY MEDAL. I have no idea how the ALA tracked me down.

Name one thing that changed in your life after winning the award?

Really nothing changed. There were a zillion invitations, and because I hate to disappoint people, I accepted too many and traveled too much for a while. I met a lot of wonderful people, but I had to learn to prioritize my time so that I wouldn’t lose the solitude that I cherish.

What is your favorite place to read?

Breezes and birdsong seem to be a combined factor. In the summer, I am in an old Maine farmhouse with a screened porch. That’s where I read, mostly, in a comfortable wicker chair with soft cushions. And in the winter, now, I’m on the west coast of Florida. There I have….guess what: a screened porch, a comfy cushioned wicker chair, and a tree full of birds nearby.

And your favorite place to write?

I mentioned solitude earlier. I’ve carved that out wherever I’m living. But my favorite place is at the farm, where I (with the help of a contractor friend) created a room that was once where feed bins stored the grain and harnesses hung from pegs on the walls. The windows…which I added…look out on a garden and a meadow beyond. There is solitude but not quiet; there is always music. Right now, as I write this, I have Yo-Yo Ma playing the Bach cello suites in the background. Those cello suites have been my companions through the writing of every book for years.

What's the most memorable question a kid has asked you at a school or library visit?

Why does your face hang down that way? (Actually, that’s a lie. Another author told me she was asked that. I’ve always wished it had been me.)

Give us your best piece of writing advice for kids.

I used to tell kids to do a writing assignment as if they were writing a letter to a friend. By that I meant, of course: write with a relaxed intimacy, a sharing of feelings with the recipient. I still think that’s good advice. Trouble is, kids today respond with Huh? They don’t write letters. I worry that they’ve lost that feeling that I still value so: the joy of putting words together on a page.

How would you pitch your new book to a producer in Hollywood?

Ah, slow-paced, no car chases, no sex. A friendship between an old woman and a little girl. A meditation on friendship and memory. Some dialogue. And there’s a cat.

Read Lois Lowry's 1994 Newbery Acceptance Speech

“How do you know where to start?” a child asked me once, in a schoolroom, where I’d been speaking to her class about the writing of books. I shrugged and smiled and told her that I just start wherever it feels right.

This evening it feels right to start by quoting a passage from The Giver, a scene set during the days in which the boy, Jonas, is beginning to look more deeply into the life that has been very superficial, beginning to see that his own past goes back farther than he had ever known and has greater implications than he had ever suspected.

“…now he saw the familiar wide river beside the path differently. He saw all of the light and color and history it contained and carried in its slow-moving water; and he knew that there was an Elsewhere from which it came, and an Elsewhere to which it was going.”

Every author is asked again and again the question we probably each have come to dread the most: HOW DID YOU GET THIS IDEA? We give glib, quick answers because there are other hands raised, other kids in the audience waiting.

I’d like, tonight, to dispense with my usual flippancy and glibness and try to tell you the origins of this book.

About Tree. Table. Book.

About Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry is the author of more than forty books for children and young adults, including the New York Times bestselling Giver Quartet and the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, Number the Stars and The Giver.

More Books by Lois