Interview With Shana Burg!

Shana BurgLaugh With The Moon

Me and Shana

Me And Shana

Hello!  I had the privilege a few weeks ago to interview the wonderful author of Laugh With The Moon!  She actually CAME TO MY HOUSE!  How cool is that?  I had a blast with her, and I did a little interview with her, and you can read it below.  Make sure to hear what we did together (sorry if I embarrassed you, Shana:-) at the end!  Hint: it’s really hilarious!  I will also repost the review after the interview.  Hope you liked the interview!  Man, I need to take a rest after this because I actually TRANSCRIBED all of it from recordings.  It only took me OVER TWO HOURS with a final Word Count of 2920 words!!!

What inspired you to become an author?

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher assigned us to write a book of poetry, and I loved working on that book.  I actually should’ve brought it, I still have it.  Here’s one of my poems:

The world is a wonderful place.

My goodness it takes so much space.

Seven continents it has, and a big mass,

The world is a wonderful place.

*applauds* Thank you, thank you.  So anyway, the next year I had the same teacher, because we had the same teacher for fourth and fifth, I decided to start a school newspaper called The Razzling Dazzling Room Review.  And back then, we didn’t really have copy machines, in the “prehistoric” times.  Have you ever heard of a mimeograph machine?  No.  It was the way they made copies, and they didn’t come out very well but I copied them all, I had the kids in the class contribute articles, and crossword puzzles and jokes and stuff, and then we stapled it together and I put a ribbon through it, and handed it back to everyone and that was our newspaper.  So, that was kind of the beginning for me.

How often do you write?  What is your writing schedule?

I have a full-time job right now so I write at nights and on the weekends, and it depends what part of the writing process I’m in; when I’m working on a first draft I set myself a goal, say, I have to write 3,500 words by the end of the week, 500 words a day, so I’ll do that at night or on the weekend and if I don’t get a chance to do all of my words on the weekdays, I’ll make them up on the weekend so that’s my schedule for doing a first draft.  After that, revising, I don’t as much have a schedule, I like to work in long chunks.  So, my husband and my son will go do something on the weekend, and I’ll get a four hour block to go through and revise.  And now, with my next book I’m working on, I’m at the point I’ve done several revisions and now I’ve printed it out and I’ve given it to several friends of mine, who are either really good readers or really good writers, and I’ve asked them to read it and critique it for me, to write what’s working and what could be better, but now I’m waiting to get that back from them.  Then I’ll take what they say, and again, on the weekends I’ll work on revising.

Playing off of the last question, do you type your books, or do you write the first draft?

That’s a really good question, because I think a lot of people will type, but what I do, I don’t know, this is kind of unusual I think, I like to type the first draft on the computer, then I print it out and revise on it by hand.  I like to be able to see it, and how it lays out on the page, and I can visualize it better if I’m handwriting it.  But then, it kind of takes longer that way, because then I have go back in to the computer and put in everything that i just hand-wrote, and I just feel like it works for me.

This kind of relates to what you just said, but are you writing another book?  Could you give us any details?

I am writing another book, it’s a young adult novel so it’s for an older age group, it’s an alternate reality book, so it’s mostly like our society with one major twist, and I’m not revealing at this point what that is, so you’ll have to stay tuned, but you’ll be the first to know, I promise.

Was Clare in Laugh With The Moon based off of anyone?  Can you relate to her situations?

I can relate to some things about her situation, but one of the most major things about her, as you know, is that her mother had passed away, but fortunately my mother is still alive.  My grandmother had passed away, and I was very close to her, so I kind of drew from that experience but I don’t think having your grandmother die is the same as having a mom.  I did lots of reading about grief and about young women who have lost their mother, and I have some friends who went through that so I interviewed them, and I have some friends that have lost other people in their family so I interviewed them as well.

Are you a big reader?  What is your favorite book?

Oh boy, the favorite book question, that’s a tough one.  I am a big reader, but I like to read fiction, non-fiction, kid’s books, adult books.  So what is my favorite book?  Um, _______________________________________________________(long dramatic pause, deeply and wholeheartedly thinking, thinking)  I just feel like that is so hard to say.  One of my all-time favorite books is The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, it’s set in China, and it’s an epic novel that you learn all about China and the differences in the different parts of the country, and I think the author lived there.  So that’s one of my favorites.  I hate to have to have a favorite because it’s too hard.  What’s your favorite?

(Interviewing the interviewer?  Tough noogies.  😉

The Lightning Thief.

Yeah.

Yeah (weird, double-yeah?), that’s been my favorite for a long time.

I love that book too.

Yeah. (Seriously, what’s with the awkward “yeah”s?)  I’ve read a lot of other books that are amazing too.

Really?

Yeah (AGAIN?), I’m just going to say The Lightning Thief, but Mila 2.0 and Harry Potter are really close.

There’s this book that I love, it’s called Out Of The Dust by Karen Hesse, it’s written for middle-school kids.  It’s written in verse, and it’s about this girl who lives in the dust bowl in the United States, and think, all the dust is blowing, and it’s historical fiction and it’s based on reality, but I think the particular story of this girl might be made up, I’m not sure but that’s an incredible book.  That’s one of my favorites.

What brought you to Malawi?  Can you tell us about your experience there?

Sure, so when I was in Graduate School, I was studying Public Policy, which is like if you want to work in government, or you want to manage a non-profit organization, and we had to do a project with a client from the real world.  So we had to work for an organization, and help them with a problem they were having.  I went to college for this in Boston and I was going to do my project with a group in Boston.    But then, I swear this is true, I had this dream (I do a weird crazy laugh/guffaw), this crazy dream that I wasn’t doing my project for them and I was doing it for someone in some other country, and I was walking through the jungle, it was really exotic, anyway I woke up (I do another  weird laugh/guffaw thing.  Don’t we hate ourselves when we listen to how stupid we sound on recordings?), seriously this is crazy but it’s true.  I woke up and it must’ve been in my subconscious; because you know how something’s in your subconscious, and then you dream about it?  So, I took the bus to where I was going to Graduate School, and as I’m on the bus I reach down to the bottom of my backpack; there was like, a whole bunch of junk there, and I pull out this brochure from, it was called the Institute of International Development that I must’ve picked up and thrown in there and forgotten about it, but it’s this place where professors who are studying problems in other countries, they all work in this building, together.  And it happened to be right next to were I was going to college.  So, instead of going to the building when I got off the bus, that I normally went to, I went next door to this building.  And, I looked on the marquee-thing in the lobby, and it would say the professor’s name and then what project they were working on, so it had this woman’s name, and then it said: Girls Attainment of Basic Literacy and Education, and I thought; “That sounds interesting!” helping girls get education in another part of the world, and it said third floor.  So, I went up to the third floor, and I knocked on the door and the professor answered the door.  Now that I’m talking to you, I’m like: “What if she hadn’t answered the door that?”  There would probably be no book, and I would not have had that experience.  But, she answered the door and I said: “Hi, I’m a graduate student, I need to do this project and just wondering if you need any help in helping girls get basic literacy and education.  She said,”Oh, well, that’s interesting.  Would you be willing to go to Malawi for me?”  I said, “Sure!  No problem!”  I had no idea where Malawi was, so she says: “Well, come back in a week and we’ll talk some more.”  so then I left, I went down the elevator, I ran over to the college building next door, went to the library and got an Atlas, and I was like: “Where’s Malawi?  Where’s Malawi?  Oh, there it is, in Central Africa.”  And so I went back a week later, and she said,”Ok, so what do you think?” and I said,”Yeah, that would be amazing, but what can I possibly do?  I don’t really know anything about it.” she’s like “Well, you’re going to have to do a lot of research, and learn about the education system there-

I bet that helped you with your book.

Oh yeah, yeah, (More YEAHS!  I guess it’s a thing.)I spent a long time doing research.  And then she said,”You know, I’ve been going to Malawi for decades” I think she’d been going for twenty years, back and forth.  She said,”You have something I don’t have.”  I said: “What’s that?” she said,”You have a fresh pair of eyes, you can look at this situation of what’s going on there in the schools differently than I can, because I’m already used to it, and you’re not.  So I want to know what it looks like from your perspective.”  So that’s how I got over there.  Now I forget you’re original question, because I’ve been talking so much.  What was it?

It was: What brought you to Malawi?  Can you tell us about your experience there?

Yeah, so you want me to tell you about my experience there?

Of course!

When I got over there, so I was sent over there because people were worried about whether boys and girls had equal access to the learning materials like books, and pencils and stuff like that.  They wanted me to go take a look and see what was going on.  So when I got there, and I went out to the schools-did you read this in the Author’s Note?

Yes, I read the Author’s Note.

So who had more; the boys or the girls?  Do you remember?  That’s ok, you got a 50/50 chance.

Boys?

Well, people were afraid that it was going to be the boys, and it wasn’t the girls either.  Nobody had much of anything at all.

Oh, yeah.  (hey, you said it was going to be a 50/50 chance!?!)

yeah. (Double-yeah again!) So in the littlest kid class, which was called Standard 1 there would be, sometimes, 200 kids.

That’s crazy.

No desk, no paper, no pencils, or maybe a couple pencils but no paper. And then, the teacher was trying to teach them how to read and write.  When I went there after-school, what I saw was, the closer the school was to the city, the more likely they had some materials and the more you got away from the city, the more likely they didn’t have anything.  And one of the reasons was the trucks the were supposed to take the materials like books, and pencils and paper to the faraway schools, they would get stuck in the roads because they weren’t paved, and it would be rainy season and the roads were all muddy and they couldn’t get past it, and there were hardly any trucks to make the deliveries anyway.

Is that why you had Memory carrying them?

Yeah.  Yeah yeah. (I told you it’s a new thing!) A lot of what’s in the story is based on what I just told you and what I saw.

What genre books would Clare like the best?

Mmmmmmmm, now there’s a good question.  Ok, now let me think.  That’s such a good question.  (THINKING……………………. AHA!)  I think she’s in so much pain right when the story is taking place, that she would probably want to escape from it, and she might be interested in reading fantasy.  What do you think?

Yeahhhh… (I can’t stop saying that!) I agree with you, since her situation-as the blurb says, she’s stuck, and she might want to escape to an alternate world.

(Two yeahs from Shana as I’m talking, and one yeah from me after I’m done talking) I think so.  That’s a great question.

Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world?

I really do want to go to Greece, that’s on the top of my list. (I’m Greek just in case you didn’t know; I speak it, read it, and write it!) Have you been?

Oh yeah, seven times.

Woooooowwwww!

Yeah!  We try to go every year.

That’s amazing!  Do you have family there?

Yes, yes.  My dad is 100% Greek; born in Greece and lived in Greece.

Wow, wow.

Yeah, so half of my family is over there.

Which part of Greece?

In the islands, the Cyclades, on the island of Syros.

Is it gorgeous over there?

Oh, it’s amazing. 

*Whispers* Aw, that’s so neat.  Wow.  Yes, and then I want to go to India.

*Whispers* India….

Yes, it just sounds so interesting, and every time I see pictures it just looks amazing.  So those are on the top of my list.  I would like to go back to Africa, maybe a different country.  What about you?  What’s on the top of your list?

Well, I would like to go to Italy, I’ve been to Venice once for 12 hours; we had a layover, and we decided to see as much as we could, that was really awesome.  It would be really great to go for weeks , may be Rome, Pompeii.  That would be amazing.

Oh, yeah…..  What are you doing this summer?

We’re probably going to go somewhere in the Caribbean, we might go to Florida.  I know we’re going to California in June to see my Aunt and Uncle and Cousin.  I really want to go to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, but sadly that’s already been vetoed.

What type of chocolate do you crave?

Ok, awesome question.  I definitely crave chocolate every day, and I do have a secret stash in my house.  So, I like the dark chocolate with sea salt.

(A surprised smile crosses my face, and I put my hand on my knee rather quickly)

You too?

Oh my gosh, yeah.  

Really?

Lindt?  Lindt?  

Yeah, yeah.  That’s the best.

Uh-huh.

Have you ever had-

I got it in my mailbox for my birthday.

Really?

My neighbors, yeah.

Oh, that’s so cute.  There’s also one, I think it’s a different company, I just got it, it’s dark chocolate with toffee.  Really good.

Hmm.  Sounds good.  I love toffee.

Do you know how to do Gangnam Style?

No, I don’t.  Are you going to teach me?  Why is it so popular?

Yes.  So you’re fine with it being videotaped, right?

Ummmm, will you let me watch it afterward?

Yeah!  Totally, totally.

Bye Shana!  Thanks for the interview!

How did you like the interview?  I bet you’re probably waiting for me to show you the video of me and Shana doing Gangnam Style on Just Dance 4!  That is going to come very soon, I am sending Shana the video and she is going to post it on her Youtube channel, and probably her blog.  As soon as she posts it, I’ll put a link to it on my blog.  I also have news about my next few interviews!  I will do a quick Q&A with SHANNON MESSENGER,  and then an interview with DEBRA DRIZA!  It is going to be awesome!  Check my blog for more reviews and interviews soon!

Here’s my review for Laugh With The Moon.  Enjoy!  When Claire moves to Malawi for two months because of her dad who is a doctor and works for the Global Health Project, she gives her dad the silent treatment.  Her life has become terrible after her mom died eight months ago.  Then Clare starts going to Mzanga Full Primary and feels out of place.  Then, she meets Memory, Innocent and Saidi and becomes friends.  As Claire lives in Malawi, she learns to be grateful for what she has and be happy instead of sad.  This heart-warming story teaches you how to live through loss and to laugh with the moon.  A very captivating story, Laugh With The Moon is full of love, loss, and friendship in these rough times in Africa.

What I thought about it:

Laugh With The Moon was incredible.  It seems so surreal what they do in Malawi coming from America.  We are so lucky to have everything we have.  This book was just very moving.  Shana Burg wrote it very realistically, as far as I’m concerned it could have been a real story.  It makes us think we’re so spoiled, when in Africa they can’t afford many things at all.  I would love to go to Malawi or Swaziland or someplace like that to experience what life is like.  I really liked Mrs. Bwanali, Clare and her dad’s maid.  she is such a character if you know what I mean.  Laugh With The Moon is a must-read.

XanderStars:

Action:7 out of 10 XanderStars

Suspense:7 out of 10 XanderStars

Well-Paced:9 out of 10 XanderStars

Page-Turning:8 out of 10 XanderStars

Overall:9 out of 10 XanderStars

Xander

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5 responses to “Interview With Shana Burg!

  1. Xander, I love the spirit of the interview, I can tell you both had a lot of fun! Also, I love the lessons you learned from Laugh With the Moon, the way it made you realize what we have and that you are thoughtful and grateful for things we take for granted. And, I am up for a trip to Swaziland or Botswana or Malawi, so let me know when you are going!!!

  2. Excellent interview and I have read many. My dad was a journalist and interviewed a variety of people from all walks of life. Your questioning skills were right up there with his! I’ll look forward to more interviews and reading LAUGH WITH THE MOON.

  3. Pingback: Shana Burg Gangnam Style! and other news | Xander's Middle-Grade Book Reviews·

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