AMS/ER: People say authors write what they know. What do you know about swapping daddies?
CS: LOL! I know that I would never swap my Pop, or my husband. They are terrific dads & get a Lifetime Guarantee. But as DADDY DEPOT points out, no one is perfect. The best dad for you is probably the one you have. (Moms, on the other hands, are perfect in every way. Wink, wink.)
AMS/ER: How did you get the idea for Daddy Depot?
CS: One night, at bedtime, my daughter (who was seven) was mad at her dad. We spun a story about a girl who returns her father to the Daddy Depot and goes shopping for a new one. After bedtime, I ran downstairs and started writing! Nine years later, it’s a book!
AMS/ER: Why do you think your readers relate to your book?
CS: At some point, every kid realizes that his or her parents aren’t perfect. Parents act goofy in public, they tell bad jokes, sometimes they’re glued to their phones. Despite their benign bad behavior, they give us just what we need & more. It’s a story about unconditional love.
AMS/ER: What’s your favorite joke?
CS: I’m not sure I have a favorite joke (or at least not one I can share here), but I can tell you the first joke I remember: “Why is the barn so noisy? Because the cows have horns!” When I was a kid, I thought that was the funniest thing ever. Don’t know why.
AMS/ER: Can you tell us about your own dad?
CS: I’m thinking about writing a memoir about my dad! He’s a retired plastic surgeon and also an artist--he paints, sculpts, and writes stories and songs. When I was about nine or ten years old, we climbed to the roof of my house (it was a single-story ranch) and poured paint onto a canvass just for fun. (Don’t try this at home, kids!) Right now, my dad is running a sculpture program for kids (he volunteers at a school down the road from his house). Throughout my childhood (and even today), he taught us to care for all human beings, stand up for our beliefs, love nature, and show kindness every day. Here's a picture of me picking olives with my dad in Israel last summer.
AMS/ER: What is your next book coming out? Tell us a little about it.
CS: My next non-fiction book is called ANIMAL ZOMBIES & OTHER MONSTERS IN NATURE (National Geographic Kids, September 2018). Each chapter is about different kinds of “animal monsters.” Animal zombies are parasites that take over the brains of other animals. Animal vampires are critters that suck blood. I’ve also included animal cannibals, monsters of the deep, creatures of the night, and many more. The photos will freak you out!
My next fictional picture book is called WAKAWAKALOCH. It’s a semi-autobiographical story about a cave girl who wants to change her unpronounceable name. That’s coming out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2019. I saw the cover by illustrator Mary Sullivan and it’s hilarious. Can’t wait to share it! I have a few other books coming up soon!
AMS/ER: What are you working on now?
CS: I’m very excited to be working on two picture book biographies and a very quiet picture book about dealing with loss. AMS: If you could have lunch with any children’s book author whom would you choose and why? CS: Oh wow. This is a tough one! I have so many favorites. Can I cheat and say KatediCamilloMoWillemsKwameAlexanderPatrickMcDonnellJKRowlingRitaWilliamsGarciaandthelateAmyKrouseRosenthal? That’s just my shortlist. They all have inspired me in so many different ways--to follow my heart, pursue my dreams, have fun, play with words, and keep writing!
Questions our first grade students think all authors should answer:
First Graders: How do you concentrate?
CS: Squirrel! Wait! What was the question? It’s so tough these days to find quiet time to concentrate and write. Last year, I started working in a high school three days a week, so I have much less writing time than I used to. (Did I mention that I’m also the mom of four kids?) The key is to set aside strict times during the day or week, shut off any distractions, and focus. Set small goals and make deadlines: For example, “I need to finish two paragraphs by dinner time.” And then don’t get up from your chair until you’re done! (Unless nature is calling…)
First Graders: How do you think of great ideas?
CS: My ideas come from life! As I mentioned, DADDY DEPOT came from a bedtime story. WAKAWAKALOCH is based on my own hard-to-pronounce name. (It’s a throat-clearing CH like Chanukah +AH +NAH). I also find lots of fun story ideas in the news and in conversation with friends.
First Graders: Why did you become an author?
CS: My third grade teacher, Mrs. Wyman, encouraged me to write. I’ve been publishing ever since! There’s something thrilling about seeing your words transformed into a book. And writing for kids is the greatest gift. My advice is to do what you love and love what you do! (I have that saying on my favorite T-shirt.)
First Graders: How did you get famous?
CS: I’m not! At least I don’t think so. I’m not sure fame is something I want. I enjoy sharing my books with kids, stretching their imaginations, and making them think more deeply about the world around them. The last thing I would want is flashbulbs in my face distracting me from my goals.
Chana Stiefel is the author of more than 20 nonfiction books for kids about exploding volcanoes, stinky castles, and other fun stuff. DADDY DEPOT is her debut picture book. While she would never return her father—or her husband—to the daddy store (she likes their corny jokes too much), she worries that her kids will return her to the Mommy Market. Visit Chana at www.chanastiefel.com and her authors’ blog www.kidlittakeaways.com.