Project Chickens before the Eggs – Lesson 140 – Good Egg Interview with Joan Bauer

Always on the prowl for good Young Adult writers (mother of 6 remember?) I was perusing the shelves of our local independent book store and came across a staff recommendation for Peeled by Joan Bauer. I had already read and loved Hope Was Here and Stand Tall so I purchased the book, took it home and also loved it.

Joan has a way of capturing kids, real kids, you know the kind that sort of optimistically stumble all over the place making mistakes while they figure out how to grow up? That’s one of Joan’s specialties. Even though she’s an adult she still remembers.

There are a lot of Young-Adult writers out there these days, some are good – some not so good. Joan is a great one.

In Hope was Here – a teenaged waitress named Hope fights against small town political corruption to give us what we need as readers and humans – HOPE. In Stand Tall – the tallest ever teenager tries to handle his parent’s divorce realizing that great mass does not equal strength. In Peeled Hildy Biddle wants to prove to herself and others that she is a real journalist (even if its on the High School newspaper). She pushes for truth, she doesn’t fall for rumor or unsubstantiated statements. She is what we should all be, a critical and yet compassionate thinker.

And she wants to be a journalist.

I think I want to adopt Hildy.

Joan is a wonderful writer with a terrific and gentle sense of humor. Her portrayal of kids is spot on and she spins a story so well written that many an adult will love and appreciate this Young-Adult author’s talents.

I am so very pleased to have Joan-Bauer as one of my flock.

Usually we have one stellar photo of the chicken being profiled but Joan-Bauer here was a little tricky. Like the wildlife photographer he sometimes pretends to be (well have you taken photos at a U10 Soccer game lately?) Marc patiently waited and waited for the money shot.

While waiting, though, he got a few other great shots of this extraordinary little chicken.

Question – How does the tiniest bird in the flock get her food?

Answer – she climbs inside the feeder thus protected by metal all around while she gets her fill. No dummy here.

Question – How does the tiniest bird let the others know that someday she’d like to be boss?

Answer – She throws her head back and emits the world’s most ferocious (and let’s face it cutest) “peep”.

Question – Who in the literary-chick world is Joan-Bauer’s best bud?

Answer – That’s Jodi-Picoult checking out and heartily approving of the inhouse library.

Question – who is the most stinkin’ cutest chicken we’ve ever seen?

Answer – Why that would be Joan-Bauer.

Question: And who is the newest member of our literary-chick club?

Answer – That would be the truly one and only Joan-Bauer.

Joan Bauer Good Egg Interview

1. What is the best advice an older relative or family member gave you?

My mother always told me how important it was to be kind. I saw her embrace that throughout her life and quietly conquer some very tough stuff with kindness.

2. If you were given one wish to use anyway you wanted, what would you wish for?

That every child would have a chance at a good, healthy, safe, fulfilling life.

3. If you were allowed the use of a large billboard over a well traveled road, what would you put on the billboard?


4. What’s the passion that drives you to get up every morning?

The world needs more stories…I want to write them… and if I don’t get started early in the morning I don’t write nearly as well!

5. What is your ideal dinner? What would you eat and with whom would you share it?

That would be our Thanksgiving feast. Roast turkey with cornbread/pecan/sausage stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, sherry gravy with shallots (no flour used!), bourbon sweet potatoes, broiled tomatoes, wild rice with golden raisins and almonds, green beans vinaigrette, and three homemade pies — apple, pumpkin, and pecan, freshly whipped cream.

In attendance: my husband, daughter, son-in-law, and everyone else who I love.

6. Do you have any favorite chicken stories or memories?

This is from my essay, STORIES CONNECT US
When I was in school I used to dream about becoming a writer or a comedienne. And when I dreamed, I always imagined that getting there wouldn’t be hard. That’s one of the excellent things about dreams — we bypass the pain, the diet, the hard work, and jump to the good part where the whole world is waiting for us.

I see a dream as a kind of seed. But seeds won’t grow if you keep them in your hand — they’ve got to be planted. Planting is a strange system — nothing seems to happen at first. You’ve got to wait. I’m not good at waiting. But watch a grower and you’ll learn the secret — waiting involves work — watering the seeds, pulling the weeds, adding fertilizer. In my novel, Squashed, Ellie Morgan talks to her pumpkin seeds. Growers invented patience. I sure need more of it, but I’ve learning that getting things right takes time, achieving dreams requires discipline, and hard work leaves a gift.

Have you ever seen a baby chick trying to peck it’s way out of an egg?

The process is grim. The chick is wet, ugly, and totally stressed. It emits this pitiful cheep that makes me want to pick it up and dry it off. It’s got eggshell stuck to its body; it’s trying to shake the shell off and not keel over. I want an 800 number to call where there’s a chicken therapist who can talk the bird through this ordeal. But I don’t move. I watch. I know that baby chick is getting strong through the fight.

And that’s what happens to us a bit. These sad, unfair, frightening, discouraging, impossibly hard things come at us — if we let them, if we keep working to peck our way out, they can help to make us stronger.

What I try to do in my novels is create characters who are pecking out of hard shells. I use humor to help them through. I pull from experiences I had, feelings I remember. You might never have grown a giant pumpkin (Squashed); been visited by an irritated cupid (Thwonk); been a pool ace and had to face down the local bully (Sticks); been in crisis with your alcoholic dad and driven a crabby old woman down to Texas (Rules of the Road); tried to find your hermit aunt on a mountain in the middle of winter (Backwater); been a teenage waitress just moved to a dinky dairy town where the politics are messy but the hope won’t die (Hope Was Here); been a too tall seventh grader struggling through your parents’ divorce while everything gets thrown at you in one long year (Stand Tall); blown the whistle on corporate corruption (Best Foot Forward); tried to find the truth behind the mystery of a haunted house (Peeled) — but I hope you’ll see some of yourselves in the lives of my characters.

Stories help us remember that we’re all in this struggle together.

Thanks for being such a Good Egg, Joan.

About Joan Bauer

In her nine novels, Joan Bauer explores difficult issues with humor and hope. Her books have won numerous awards, among them the Newbery Honor Medal, the LA Times Book Prize, the Christopher Award, and the Golden Kite Award of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She has twice participated in the State Department’s professional speaker’s program, going to both Kazakhstan and Croatia where she talked with students, writers, educators, and children at risk about her life and her novels.

Joan starts off her blog introduction with this:

I was born at eleven A.M., a most reasonable time, my mother often said, and when the nurse put me in my mother’s arms for the first time I had both a nasty case of the hiccups and no discernible forehead (it’s since grown in). I’ve always believed in comic entrances.

And she ends it with this:

I had moved from journalism to screenwriting when one of the biggest challenges of my life occurred. I was in a serious auto accident which injured my neck and back severely and required neurosurgery. It was a long road back to wholeness, but during that time I wrote Squashed, my first young adult novel. The humor in that story kept me going. Over the years, I have come to understand how deeply I need to laugh. It’s like oxygen to me. My best times as a writer are when I’m working on a book and laughing while I’m writing. Then I know I’ve got something.

Seriously, how could you not love a person who holds that kind of life insight and who so appreciates the act and importance of laughter?

Hey Joan, forget Hildy, I think I want to adopt you.


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Filed under Backyard Chickens, Good Egg Interviews, Project Chickens before the Eggs

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