Each month Austin SCWBI features an interview with one of our members, and this month we are fortunate to have Susan Kravlanosky join us. She has just about the best office in the world, and a furry co-worker that keeps her in line. She is talented and passionate, and loves to share her work with kids everywhere. Now she shares with us, and we are so grateful.
Where did you grow up, and did that place (or those places) shape your work? If so, how?
I grew up in central Indiana, the youngest of three girls. We were the only girls in the neighborhood and spent our days climbing trees, playing cowboys and army. We built dirt forts in the summer and snow forts in the winter, and used our imagination to design the scenario, the combats, and our weapons. We were possibly a little obsessed – even our afternoons at the swimming pool followed some storyline of saving someone who was behind enemy lines.
If I wasn’t outside with my sisters, I was at the Public Library. I loved books, and reading, and our librarian. During the Summer Reading Program, I set up an office in the Children’s Room where I quizzed kids on their books before allowing them to report to the librarian. As an adult, I have no idea why she allowed this, but as a kid – that was just one of the reasons I loved her.
Did you always want to be a writer, or did that come later?
As I said, I loved books, but it never occurred to me that I could become an author.
My parents lived on our same block and saw our daughter daily. When she was two, they moved to Texas. Sunny asked for them constantly, where they were, why they’d left, when they’d be back, etc. Finally, I wrote a story for Sunny and myself, called MOVING DAY. I sold that story to Children’s Magic Window Magazine and realized I had many more stories to tell.
If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?
When my kids were home, I adjusted my writing schedule to their schedule. Now, I’ve done the same thing with our dog. My writing day begins after I’ve taken Madeline for a three-mile walk and then to the Dog Park. At 10:00, I get down to business. Unfortunately, my office is not in my office, but in my bed. When Maddie was a puppy, I trained her by putting her in bed with me while I worked. When she woke up, she’d go out and do her business, then we’d hop back in bed and get to work. Now, two years later this fifty-pound standard poodle is running the show. If I’m at my desk or out on the patio, she sighs dramatically in dog-speak, ”Hey, we don’t work out here. We’re supposed to be in bed!”
How does your everyday life feed your work?
Before deciding to write full time, I was a school librarian. Every idea I have is related to something my students or a teacher said. Once a student asked for help finding the fish books because she wanted to do a report on whales. Our conversation on whales and fish became the first page of THIS OR THAT? WHALES OR FISH? A Pre-K teacher asked for a Texas/ informational/counting book. Not being able to find what she needed gave me the idea for TWELVE COWBOYS ROPIN’.
Tell us about some of your accomplishments that make you proud (work and/or otherwise).
Being proud of my two kids is a given. As far as writing, I love doing school visits and talking to kids about being “that kid”. In kindergarten, my teacher spanked (at every visit, at least one kid asks what a spanking is) me for going down the slide when she stepped out of the room. I was sorry I got spanked (caught) but, I thought, “Honestly, only an idiot would put a slide in a kindergarten class room!”
In addition to talking about the writing process, I tell them about being ADD, ADHD, and Dyslexic. I explain that everybody has something, their goal is to not let those things get in the way of their dreams.
What surprises you about the creative life?
I had no idea that after my first book, there was still lots of work to be done. Thanks to our wonderful SCBWI village, and especially Cynthia Leitich Smith and Jeanette Lawson for leading me through book releases, school visits, signings, etc.
Your work is like a gift for your readers. When they open it, what do you hope they find?
I hope they find my books interesting and funny. I love it when kids look at my illustrations, try to pick up the pieces, and say, “How did you do that?”
Bio: Susan spends her time doing her three favorite things; writing books, illustrating books, and talking to children about books. Susan resides in Georgetown with her husband and her two writing assistants – Madeline, a standard poodle, and Lynx the Cat.