Talking with a Truth Teller: Our Interview with Margaret A. Edwards Award Winner A. S. King for School Library Journal
My life, my heart and my soul and my everything, changed in May of 2012 when I read Ask the Passengers by A. S. King. I was, at that time, the parent of a 10 year old and had been a teen librarian for about 20 years. But that book . . . it spoke to me. It spoke to me so much that I wrote a letter to its author, A. S. King, write here on this blog. Little did I know at the time what a journey my family would take with this amazing author.
Just a few short years later, my daughter, Riley, would become a teenager and started reading A. S. King as well. She met her once, I think she was 12, at ALA with me. Riley got a signed copy of a book from her. And the rest, as they say, is history. We then began the most amazing journey of our lives where she would read an A. S. King book and then talk to me about it. When I got books in the mail, she would ask me if there was a new A. S. King one yet for her to read. I like to say that A. S. King helped me raise Riley, and it’s not an exaggeration. Her books, and the process of reading them together and talking about them together, molded our relationship. It’s the cornerstone, the bedrock, the foundation, of who we are as mother and daughter.
So when School Library Journal sent me an email and asked if together Riley and I would be interested in interviewing A. S. King to celebrate her Edwards Award, I did not hesitate to say yes. I shot Riley a quick text while she was off in college and she immediately responded, YES!
You can read that interview here at SLJ: https://www.slj.com/story/truth-teller-a-conversation-with-margaret-a-edwards-award-winner-as-king
The interview is profound. It is moving. It is mesmerizing. King is, as always, thoughtful and passionate and a fierce advocate for teens. You won’t want to miss it.
Let me give you a little behind the scenes of how this magnificent interview of A. S. King came to be. Riley and I met with A. S. King over Zoom for this interview. Riley from her dorm in Ohio, me here in Texas, and King from her home office. The interview was turned into a transcript which was over 18 pages long. King is wise, passionate, and full of powerful, emotional and important things to say. We clung to every word. We then had the daunting task of turning that transcript into a 1400 word interview, one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. King herself helped, clarifying thoughts, helping us make cuts, and talking with us even more about topics like why she writes for teens, the mental health crisis in our world, and censorship.
Here are a few things that didn’t make the cut.
On I Crawl Through It
At one point, King mentions that sometimes adults don’t understand her work and she states that I Crawl Through It is one of the books that adults say they don’t get. Riley cries out, that one is my favorite! And it is, it’s the one she has read the most. And then I humbly admit that even though I like it, there were definitely parts that I didn’t understand. It was a joy for me to watch my kid talk about her favorite favorite book with the very author who wrote it.
On The Dust of 100 Dogs
We also had a brief discussion about how even though Riley says this is her least favorite of King’s works, it is also the book that her and I have talked the most about it. Riley sent me paragraphs and paragraphs of texts after reading this one about the mother/daughter dynamic.
King gave us a really detailed and informative look at the history of surreallism and how it informs her works. I have always known that she is passionate and intelligent, you can tell in every book that she writes, but to hear her speak on this topic with such insight and knowledge if something to behold.
On Her Road to Writing YA
King shared with us that although she always knew she wanted to be a writer, she didn’t always know she wanted to be a YA writer. But once she found herself writing YA, she knew that was where she was supposed to be. In the interview you will find her speaking eloquently and passionately about the importance of the teen years. One of the things that I have always admired about her as a writer is the way she understands and embraces teens. And Riley has always said she admires the way she treats teens as intelligent, and doesn’t talk down to them.
I want to thank School Library Journal for inviting Riley and I to do this interview with A. S. King. It seems like a fitting way to close out her teen years, celebrating her favorite author, the author that helped guide her through those formative years.
And I especially want to thank A. S. King for giving so graciously of her time. Not just the time spent doing the interview, which was precious and valuable, but the time she spent after wards working with us to clarify thoughts, make brutal cuts, and making sure that her most authentic authorial self was represented in the interview.
The day the awards were announced, I was listening live and immediately sent a text to Riley. We whooped and celebrated. What a joy and an honor it was to get to more formally celebrate our favorite author, A. S. King, winning this well deserved award. Congratulations Amy! And thank you for every word you’ve ever written. Looking forward to reading what comes next.
For Reference, More TLT Posts on A. S. King
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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