Publishers' Preview: Spring 2020: Five Questions for Rebecca Stead

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Spring 2020, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Bea has been maintaining her optimistic List of Things That Will Not Change since her parents’ divorce a few years back. Now that she’s older, what does it look like?

1. That tip about “worrying on purpose” is pretty good. Where did you get it?

It is one of many anxiety-management techniques I’ve read about. What I like about it is that you don’t try to suppress all worry (impossible). Instead, you try to gently herd the worry into one small part of your day, leaving the rest mostly worry-free. I like to imagine that a sheepdog is helping me.

2. Fair to call your narrative structure here recursive?

I’ve never fully grokked the meaning of that word, but it’s probably fair. The book opens with Bea, at twelve, introducing a story about the year she was ten, which she calls “the Year of Dad and Jesse Getting Married.” Within that story are other stories. The last chapter is where Bea, twelve again, snaps the last piece of her own understanding into place. But even that it isn’t the final piece, I think, because we are always revising our own understanding of our life stories, through adulthood. Memory itself is recursive, I guess.

3. Did you have a Thing That Will Not Change at ten that hasn’t? (Changed, that is.)

Like Bea’s, my parents agreed at the time of their separation that they would always live within walking distance of each other. I am in many ways the same person I was at ten — kind of sensitive, usually fun-loving. I can still walk from my mom’s apartment to my dad’s. (And now, happily, back to my own.)

4. Have you ever talked a kid into eating an oyster?

No, but I have had to be talked into eating an oyster myself. I liked my second oyster better than my first.

5. Have you ever regretted sending a letter?

No, but I have regretted not sending a letter. I should have written back to a nice artist who once sent me a package. I should have written to a friend of my grandmother’s. Both times, I worried that I would not live up to expectations. Now I’m over fifty, and I try to answer my mail.

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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