If you’re looking for a good series about a fun, strong 4th grade girl character, look no further!
I recently read the first two books in the Penelope Crumb series and just LOVED Penelope’s voice. With two daughters of my own, I’m in awe of how Shawn Stout nails the voice of a 4th grade girl and how she manages to stay in that voice without slipping into an adult voice or perspective. Shawn is also a master of writing humor. I can’t remember the last book I read that made me laugh as much as I did reading the Penelope Crumb series. Brava, Shawn!
Read on to learn more about Penelope Crumb and Shawn’s writing process, as well as hear why her brilliant editor (and author!), Jill Santopolo of Philomel acquired this series.
How did you come to create Penelope Crumb? Where did the idea for this character come from?
Shawn Stout: I started thinking about this character years ago and first wrote her story as a picture book. The character has gone through many transformations through so many revisions (way too many to count), but there was one thing that didn’t change: she would discover through someone else that she had a big nose, and her nose links her to a grandfather who she didn’t know she had, playing a big role in reuniting him with her family.
You’ve nailed the voice of a 4th grader, any tips you can give writers in finding an authentic 4th grade voice?
Shawn Stout: It helps to be immature, which I am. I excel at immaturity. And when I’m writing, I try to see the world through that lens. [AOB: I'll interject here that Shawn is far from immature! We'll have to find another way to unveil her secret in creating a 4th grade voice.]
I laughed out loud so many times. How do you approach writing humor? What advice can you give writers trying to instill humor into their stories?
Shawn Stout: That’s a tough one. It’s something I don’t really think about as I write. I don’t try to be funny, and I don’t work hard to make a joke. I think that’s when humor fails, when you can tell the author is trying too hard to get a laugh. I try to look at a scene or storyline from the character’s point of view, and whatever experiences or personality that he or she brings to it. So many situations in life just seem to be ridiculous anyway (hello, immaturity), to me at least, so there’s lots of material.
I’ve been consumed with the process of revision lately, how do you approach revision? Do you have any particular process or steps?
Shawn Stout: I tend to revise as I write. I wish I could be the kind of person that just wrote the whole thing out–beginning, middle, end, done–and then went back to revise. Maybe it’s not, but it seems like that would be an easier way to do things. I write a few chapters and then for some reason can’t move forward until I go back and fix the things that are keeping me from figuring out where I’m going. In general, I have no sense of direction, and I get lost really easy, and revising is my way of staying on the map.
Who is your target audience?
Shawn Stout: The Penelope books are targeted to 7- to 10-year-olds.
When are the next Penelope books coming out?
Shawn Stout: The second book in the series is called Penelope Crumb Never Forgets, and it’s coming out in January 2013. I’m writing the third one now (which doesn’t yet have a title), and I think that one is scheduled for May 2013, I think. There’s going to be a fourth one, too.
Thanks, Shawn! Now let’s meet her brilliant editor, Jill Santopolo of Philomel who acquired the Penelope Crumb series.
What drew you to Penelope Crumb and why did you decide to buy the series?
Jill Santopolo: I was drawn to Penelope Crumb because of Penelope herself. In her, Shawn created a fictional character who feels so wholly three-dimensional, it’s amazing. She’s funny, she’s smart, she’s confused, she’s determined, she gets upset, she does the wrong thing sometimes—though always for the right reason—she’s the kind of kid who could keep the people around her entertained for hours. I also loved that even though this is a fun, young series, Shawn also injects real depth into the conflicts Penelope has with her family and her friends.
What makes Penelope Crumb different from other series?
Jill Santopolo: I think Penelope’s uniqueness as a character sets this series apart, as does her love of art and her wonderful relationship with her grumpy Grandfather.
Jill kindly offered Penelope Crumb ARCS to four lucky winners. Here’s how to win an ARC:
1. Leave a comment on this blog post
2. Share this blog post on your facebook page and tag me. Every time you post and tag me, I will enter your name to win a signed Penelope Crumb ARC.
Two winners will be drawn on September 15th and announced via Facebook and on this blog post. So tag me as often as you like up until September 15th at 8pm PST.