Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Nikki Grimes
Get to know Nikki…
New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children.Her distinguished works include ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, the novels Jazmin’s Notebook, Dark Sons,and The Road to Paris(Coretta Scott King Author Honor Books).Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California. For more info, visit her website.
What’s your motto in life?
If I had a motto, it would be probably be “Go for it.” Life is short, as they say, and tomorrow is not promised. That said, you should decide what you really want to do in your life, and then go for it. Don’t allow fear to stop you. Everyone wrestles with fear, but you don’t have to let it consume or overpower you. Focus on your goal and beat fear back. Make your life count!
Who was your favorite teacher?
Mrs. Evelyn Wexler, in high school. She taught me to acknowledge the challenges of my life, as a teen at risk, while refusing to allow those challenges to limit me in any way. She also believed in my writing talent and went out of her way to nurture it.
What is one quality that you really appreciate in a person?
Integrity. It’s the one quality I look for in the people closest to me, whether in business, or in my personal life.
What is your favorite board game?
Scrabble! Hands down. I don’t win as often as I’d like, but I always enjoy the challenge.
Name one thing that drives you crazy.
Tardiness! I hate it when people are late to a meeting or a planned event. I cannot tolerate lateness. As far as I’m concerned, if you value me, and you value my time, you’ll be on time. If for some reason you can’t, then you pick up a phone and call. Period.
As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
Crayon or paintbrush?
What food item would you remove from the market altogether?
Potato chips. They are simply too tempting, and too addictive!
What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
I could not not write, so I had to figure out a way to make a living at it, for one thing. Besides, reading and writing were my survival tools, growing up, and I believed I had stories to tell that would possibly be that for other readers, particularly young readers.
What books are you reading right now?
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher, and re-reading Okay for Now, by Gary Schmidt.
Name someone who supported your writing journey outside of family members.
There were several people, but two come to mind, right now: My childhood friend, Debra Jackson, who has encouraged my writing since we met in our early teens; and cellist Akua Dixon Turre. We met early in our careers, and we collaborated whenever the opportunity arose. She was always a great support.
Was there ever a time in your writing career where you wanted to seriously give up? If so, how did you find the motivation to continue?
Oh, once a week, at least! Writing is in my blood, though, so I keep coming back to it. My muse owns me!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write in the style that comes naturally to you. There is no wrong or right way to write a book, there is only what works for you! Learn to trust your own process, and learn to be patient with your writing. Good writing cannot be rushed.
What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.
Combining poetry and prose. It comes to me fairly naturally, but it is also a skill I have intentionally honed.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing?
Prose novels. They are especially hard for me.
What comes easily?
Writing poetry comes most easily.
Who’s your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
One of my favorite authors is Gary Schmidt. For one thing, he has an amazing gift for restraint. For another, he manages to weave classical art and literature into his work for young readers in ways that are totally age-appropriate, and in a manner that never feels intrusive, or academic. Gary is a scholar, but it is never the voice of the scholar that you hear. I’m not sure how he achieves this, but he does so brilliantly. That restraint of his, though, that’s something I’d like to master someday!
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