Ami Polonsky

Ami Polonsky

I had an opportunity to interview Ami Polonsky the author of Gracefully Grayson. Here is the interview:

Maci:
How did you get started writing?

Ami:
The quick and simple answer is that I started writing when I sat down to write GRACEFULLY GRAYSON. The longer response is that I always loved writing but never considered becoming an author, probably because it felt like an unattainable goal. Through teaching sixth grade English for many years, I became very familiar with middle grade novels. One day it crossed my mind that maybe I could actually write one, too.

Maci:
What is your favorite dessert?

Ami:
Anything involving chocolate and peanut butter.

Maci:
What do you use as a bookmark?

Ami:
I love this question so much. I use anything I can find—scraps of paper, pencils, other books… Often I’ll just leave books open, face down, wherever I was reading. I’m proud that my seven and nine-year-olds do the same. Before sitting on the couch, I always have to move a variety of partially-read books out of the way.

Maci:
What was your first book you wrote? Was it any good?

Ami:
GRACEFULLY GRAYSON. I think it came out pretty well 🙂

Maci:
If you could live in any world, magic or science fiction, what would it be and why (example: Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, Star Trek, etc.)?

Ami:
I’d live in the realm of magical realism. I absolutely love the idea of existing with one foot in this world and one foot somewhere else.

Maci:
Do you like to read on an electronic device or a real book?

Ami:
Absolutely, positively, no contest: A real book.

Maci:
Do you have a special procedure that you do when you write?

Ami:
My routine has been different for each book. When I wrote GRACEFULLY GRAYSON, my kids were really young and I had very little time to myself. I’d write when they were at summer camp for a few hours a day, twice a week, and then scramble for more writing time on the weekends. Writing my second book (which comes out next November) was a completely different story. My kids were in first and third grades at that point and I wrote while they were at school. I’d exercise in the mornings and get all my ideas while on the elliptical. (Talk about killing two birds with one stone!) Then I’d write for several hours. It was a lovely routine. Now I’m back to teaching sixth grade English (which is also lovely!) and, once again, am short on writing time. I’ve been trying to work on my next book on the weekends.

Maci:
What made you interested in writing about the LGBTQ+ community?

Ami:
When my son and daughter were born, I started thinking a lot about gender. Neither of my kids seemed to fit into the “pink box” or “blue box” which led me to contemplate how much of who we are, gender-wise, is dictated by societal norms and expectations. The seed for GRACEFULLY GRAYSON was planted during this time. I never set out to write a “transgender story.” I simply wanted to write about a girl who was not who she appeared to be and needed to exhibit great bravery to reveal herself to her community.

Maci:
Do you think that the LGBTQ+ representation in books is growing fast enough?

Ami:
It’s amazing to see the growth in LGBTQ+ titles—especially recently. That said, there are still many more stories to be told.

Maci:
Have you ever had a teacher that inspired you, like Mr. Finn?

Ami:
Unfortunately, no. I think that, in many ways, Finn grew out of a wish that I always had for a special teacher. I try to channel Finn when I teach my sixth graders.

Maci:
Did you plan on being an author? If not what did you want to do?

Ami:
The idea never crossed my mind. If someone told a ten or twenty or even thirty-year-old me that I’d be an author someday, I don’t know if I would have believed it. (Don’t get me wrong—I would have loved the idea—I just wouldn’t have thought it possible.) I always wanted to be a teacher. Interestingly, if I hadn’t become a sixth grade English teacher, I never would have become an author. As a teacher, I fell in love with the novels I was reading with my students. The authors of the books that we read together were my writing instructors.

Maci:
Do you miss your characters when you finish writing a book?

Ami:
Yes and no. In many ways, I feel like my main characters are my children. But, that said, I feel confident with where they are when I leave them at the end of a book. In this sense, I am comfortable letting them go.

Maci:
Lastly, What is your favorite bookstore?

Ami:
I love The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois and Women and Children First in Chicago. Both bookstores have been so supportive of GRACEFULLY GRAYSON and me. The employees know and love books and are passionate about matching books and readers. I’ve recently come to know Second Star to the Right Children’s Books in Denver, which is exclusively a children’s bookstore and literally the most adorable place on the planet. It’s a neighborhood bookstore in the truest sense; each child inside refers to the store as “my bookstore.” All three of these bookstores are gifts to their communities.

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