Insights From a Young Author
An Interview with Hannah Kuo, 14-Year-Old Author of Wildfire's Twin
“A strange, hot wind picked up, ruffling the teen’s long, black ponytail. Her arms started to glow with a red-orange light as the air started to feel even more heavy. Finally, before the heat became unbearable, the humidity was sucked into the girl then exploded back out in flames. Her hand snapped upward, flames pushing up, up, up…”
Barely five sentences into this 500-page book and I’m hooked! How does this teen get such powers? What kind of society does she live in? Will this fiery ability be used for good or evil?
I showed Wildfire’s Twin to my 10-year-old daughter and remarked, “Can you believe this book was written by my friend’s daughter who is only 14 years old?” Intrigued, my daughter asked me to “see” the book and wouldn’t you know it, but she was hooked, too! While reading the book, my daughter would often say, “This book is SO good!” or ask, “I wonder who’s the twin?” When the book ended, she would ask in anguish, “What does under siege mean? What’s going to happen next? I NEED to know!”
The idea came to me that my daughter should gather up some questions and interview Hannah Kuo, author of Wildfire’s Twin, for some insights about her story, some tips about her writing process, and of course, any hints about what’s to come in the future. I contacted my friend and we gathered together at our local frozen yogurt store for a very cool and casual interview.
Hannah, Author of Wildfire’s Twin
Hannah’s Mom, Hannah’s Biggest Cheerleader
My 10-Year-Old Daughter, Inquisitive Interviewer
My 7-Year-Old Daughter, Keen Observer
So without further ado, it’s my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Hannah Kuo, 14-year-old author of Wildfire’s Twin. Here’s the conversation that took place between Hannah and my daughter:
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
At times, it felt like the story was getting boring so it was hard to keep going. I tried to push through it. I had my basic story line and I tried to “add spice” like how kids talk these days. I tried to make it more modern and real.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I think I’m a strange person because my favorite part of the book is when the main character gets fatally hurt. When I read these types of scenes in other stories, it causes me to be afraid and excited because I’m already “into” the character.
What got left out from the final draft?
Not much was left out. Originally, one character was not included, but afterwards I added that character into the story to add spice.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Usually, I get ideas from movies I like to watch and my favorite books. I really like the series Keeper of the Lost Cities. I like stories where characters have powers and abilities so I wanted to write a book that I know I would like to read and one that I hope others would like to read, too.
A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain to write this book? Was there a real-life inspiration for them?
I tried to write the villain as mean as possible. You know, there’s always the one character that everyone hates.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I learned that I can actually finish writing a story. I worked through it and took breaks when there was a slump. Sometimes, I’ll set the story down for a while like maybe a couple weeks and when I find inspiration, I would continue writing.
Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?
At first, I didn’t plan a message, but looking back, there is one: Some people look down on kids, but kids can do it if they put their minds to it. They have qualities that adults don’t have.
Oh by “qualities” do you mean like in my writing class, the teacher asked a question of what a paper clip could be and kids were able to think of all sorts of ideas but adults couldn’t come up with any?
Yes, like that. Adults have set ways of thinking, but kids have their minds open to all sorts of possibilities.
What motivated you to keep on writing and editing when it seemed like the process would never end?
The idea that my story would be published into a book made me think, “Wow, that would be really cool!” My interest in writing started as a kid and I always wrote little stories with pictures. I even had a story-writing club with my cousin! I took a writing seminar with the San Jose Area Writing Project and even met Gene Luen Yang. I started Wildfire’s Twin in the summer of 2016. I wrote most of the story during the summer and took my time during the school year to edit it.
Are you working on something new?
Yes, I’m trying to write a sequel, maybe even make it into a trilogy. I definitely think my story is too long for one book, but too short for a series, so a trilogy is just right.
Who is your editor?
I sent my story to some friends but they were too busy so I tried to edit the story by myself.
Are you looking for volunteer editors?
Yes, are you volunteering?
Yes! I really like your story and would love to help. Would you send me the whole book to edit or just a chapter at a time? Maybe a chapter at a time since we have homework and stuff? Can we exchange email addresses?
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Before we left, I had one more question for Hannah. “As you know, my business is Encouraging Literacy. I give workshops which aims to share tips with other parents on how to help their kids with reading and writing. Is there something that your parents did to encourage you on this path as an author?”
Hannah’s reply was deeply insightful into the type of relationship she has with her parents. She said, “My parents don’t fit the stereotype of Chinese parents who expect their kids to get all A’s and I can’t get B’s because B’s are bad. They have always encouraged me to do my best. They taught me to read when I was young and I have loved reading and writing stories ever since.”
Beautiful answer, isn’t it?
Hannah, you are quite an inspiration and it looks like you’ve managed to gain a volunteer editor, an enthusiastic fan, and hopefully, a life-long friend! Congratulations on writing and publishing your first book. We can’t wait to read what’s coming next. May you continue to use your God-given talents to write stories and bless people with joy.
Interested in Hannah's book? Buy her book on Amazon.
Does your child want to get better at writing? Check out the San Jose Area Writing Project.
Would you like some tips and strategies on how to help your kids with reading and writing? Register for my Fall 2017 Workshops for Parents.
Encouraging Young Authors
"How can I help my child improve their writing?" is a question parents ask me all the time. While there are plenty of great resources and learning opportunities out there for kids, the best thing parents can do at home is to model good writing attitudes and behaviors. Need some ideas? Here are several take-aways we can glean from the San Jose Diocese Young Authors Book Event held at St. Victor School earlier this month.
Just like you would take your aspiring young athlete to a basketball game or your budding young ballerina to a ballet performance, take your young author to meet a published author. Look for author book events or signings at independent book stores and libraries. If your child has a favorite author, look on the author's website to see if they'll be visiting your area.
After the author's presentation, ask your son or daughter "What was the coolest thing the author shared?" or "What surprised you the most about the author's writing process?" If you attended the Young Authors Book event, your child might have been challenged to expand their reading repertoire with programs like Gene Yang's Reading Without Walls, or they might have been surprised to learn that Thien Pham wrote stories to accompany his art. Have your child identify with what the author shared and help them adopt an "I can do that, too!" attitude about their own writing.
Encourage your kids to write for fun and acknowledge their efforts. At the Young Authors Book Event, student writing was beautifully displayed. Students also read their favorite part of their book to an audience full of proud family and friends. Similarly, when your child writes a special story or brings home writing they are proud of, display it in a prominent place or take a picture of it and send it to Grandma or Grandpa. Take a video of your child reading their story to capture some precious moments!
School's almost out...are your kids looking for some summer fun? Have your kids try their hand at these writing opportunities and contests. Go for it!
San Jose Public Library's Graphic Novel Making Contest.
Bookley Book Blog Book Review and Recommendations.
Writing contests for kids listed on DogoBooks and Scholastic.
Create and Connect
When working with your kids on writing, focus on the creative process. Talk with them about their interests and passions. What makes them tick? And what tickles their funny bone? One of the activities at my workshop involved creating stories from fortunes found in fortune cookies. One little girl's fortune said her future profession will pay handsomely. When I asked her what her dream job would be, she shared with me that she wanted to be a geologist. If it were your child who received that "fortune," how would they respond? What a valuable opportunity it would be to share that moment with your child to connect with her about her dreams!
Another activity I presented at the Young Author's Book Event involved writing poems using words that can be found in magazines, a type of poem appropriately called "found poems." I really like how this exercise leads kids to find words that interest them while simultaneously exposing them to new vocabulary.
Here are a couple of "found poems" composed by my own kids. I was super fascinated by how my own children interacted with words they found. My 10-year-old daughter worked for a while arranging random words to her liking, finally resting on an upbeat, positive poem. She especially liked the line "bring Your Smokin' hot love. Best bacon." I agree with her - who doesn't love bacon?! My 7-year-old decided to piece together phrases she found. She confided that her original poem ended with "Turn your little one into a well-crafted coffee" but decided it didn't make sense. Yes, I'll take a mini-me-clone over a mini-me-coffee any day. I love how both girls are experimenting with word choice!
As the old adage goes, "Birds of a feather flock together" - find ways for your kids to surround themselves with friends who are also writers. When they are in the presence of other writers and book lovers, it will help them to be creative, learn techniques, and develop ideas for their stories. These opportunities build confidence, provide affirmation and will help fuel your child's passion.
Sign up for a summer writing camp with the San Jose Area Writing Project or Society of Young Inklings. Or try some of these story starters and book club ideas from Raina Telgemeier.
Friends, if you didn't get a chance to come to the Young Authors Book Event, make sure to look for it next time. If you have questions or would like to add ideas on how to encourage your young writer, leave a comments below. Would you like more tips and strategies? Come to one of my workshops in the fall.
Young Authors Book Festival
So. To say that I'm excited for this event at St. Victor School coming up on May 6th is a bit of an understatement. There's so much good stuff going on here, but I'll highlight a couple of the best parts of this event. First, it's a celebration of young authors and a showcase of their writing. Acknowledging a child's writing process and embracing their final product, their very own story, is so empowering for budding young writers! Second, the opportunity for children to come to a young author event and listen to a presentation by their literary hero like Raina Telgemeier or Gene Luen Yang would be truly inspirational.
Friends, there's something for everyone at this event including author presentations, book sales and signings, children's workshops, and resources for teachers and parents. I also have a small contributing role - a workshop promoting family writing activities. Want to know how you can develop writing skills with a magazine and some fortune cookies?
Come on out! This event is free.
For inspiration and helpful tips on parenting, check out my other blogs on GenParenting.com!
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