Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Nikki Grimes

Nikkie GrimesGet 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, and the award-winning Dyamonde Daniel chapter book series, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California. Her most recent title is the novel, Planet Middle School, a Junior Library Guild Selection. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

How did you choose the genre you write in?

I write in several genres, and for all ages. I’ve done biographies, historical fiction, fiction, chapter books, verse-novels and poetry.  My first love, though, is poetry. My fascination for language, and my love of word-play drew me to it. 

How do you recharge your creative batteries?

When I need to recharge, I declare a mental-health day, and I spend it painting, or making handmade cards, journals, or books, or I take in a gallery or two, or maybe head for the theater. Surrounding myself by, or indulging in, art stimulates me to create. 

Can you tell us about the book you’re working on?  Is it coming easily are have you run into road blocks?

I’m working on three books, alternately.  The picture and chapter books are moving along nicely. The MG/YA novel, however, is testing my resolve! I do have a vision for it, though, so I’m pressing ahead. My trick for dealing with troublesome manuscripts is to treat them like jigsaw puzzles. I concentrate on one piece at a time. That way, I don’t become overwhelmed. There’s plenty of time to figure out how the pieces fit together, later. 

Is any material in your books based on real life experiences or purely imagination?

My books are frequently a mix of the real and the imagined.  If I do my job well, the reader can’t tell which is which. So far, so good! 

What is your favorite part of the day?

Morning is golden. That’s when I have the greatest clarity. Nothing has yet come into my day to distract me!

How did you celebrate your first book being published?  Has the excitement worn off with each book you publish?

I treated myself, and a good friend, to dinner at a French restaurant! I remember it well.  I can still taste the duck in orange sauce. Yum! Nothing quite matches the excitement of that very first book, but I still tingle a little when holding my newest book-baby! 

Best writing advice you ever received?

My first mentor told me to never compromise in the area of your giftedness. Do work with integrity so that, when you look in the mirror, you like what you see. James Baldwin taught me that, years ago. I was about 17-18 years old at the time, and I’ve never forgotten it. 

If you were handed free opera tickets, would you go or sell them?

I would go! I got turned on to opera when I lived in Sweden. There, the arts are subsidized so that even students can afford to attend the symphony, the ballet, or the opera. My first introduction to opera was Wagner. Every other opera is a piece of cake after that! 

What is your worst personality characteristic?

Impatience. No contest! 

What was the best thing that happened to you this year?  

I got into my first art exhibit, and one of my watercolors won second place! It was very exciting. 

What is your definition of a productive day?

Any day I get work done on a manuscript is a productive day.  Everything else is gravy. 

Have you ever jumped out of a plane? If you knew you would survive, would you do it? 

Absolutely nothing in me wants to jump out of a plane.  I make my living full-time as a children’s and YA author. That is daredevil enough for me!

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