Book Nerd Interview
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
That’s a great question.
I suppose the answer is different for different people. But for me, storytelling is a few essential things: it’s a way back to old friends and places, a way to make sense of things, a way to connect with other people and to feel understood. And it’s not just telling my own stories; when I listen to (or read) others’ stories, my life is further enriched.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I’m a lawyer. (I surprise myself with that one.)
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My sister and I used to staple blank pages together, sit on the couch, and write “books.” The first really long story I remember completing was when I was in fifth grade. It was called “Through Dara’s Eyes,” and it was about a girl whose older sister runs away. It was 50 typed pages! I was so proud!
My first published book, My So-Called Family, came out in October 2008 when I was 31 years old.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
Sugar aids digestion, so there’s always room for dessert!
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Loyal. Neurotic. Forgiving.
In your book; Stella Batts a Case of the Meanies, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
This is the fourth book in the Stella Batts series—Joshua, the meanest boy in Stella’s class, is having a birthday party at Batts Confections, the candy store Stella’s parents own. He’s invited everyone to the party; everyone, except Stella!
I hope the book is a fun read, and I also hope I conveyed a couple things that I think are important to know, both as a kid and as an adult: 1) Not everyone is going to like you, no matter how nice you are; and 2) It’s still better to be nice than to be mean, even to the meanies in your own life.
For those who are unfamiliar with Stella, how would you introduce her?
Eight-year-old Stella Rae Batts lives with her parents, her younger sister Penny, and her new baby brother Marco. She has a good group of friends, and is occasionally picked on by the class bully. She’s sweet and imaginative. She wants to do the right thing, though she doesn’t always—especially when it comes to Penny. She could be a kid in your class. She could be you.
If you could introduce Joshua to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Hmm, maybe the three-headed dog, with three sets of fangs, from Lauren Oliver’s The Spindlers—not to hurt him, but to scare him a bit.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
This one is easy: Mary Gordon. She is one of my favorite writers (for adults), she was my college advisor, and she was the first non-family member to take my writing seriously.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
I read a lot of Mary Oliver’s poetry, and here’s a little piece that I love:
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
I think that’s pretty good advice for anyone.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
The summer I turned fifteen, I spent six weeks volunteering at the Santa Monica, CA office of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (www.pedaids.org). It changed my life.
What scares you the most and why?
Losing the people I love—for obvious reasons. I’m also pretty scared of getting lost, particularly when I’m driving alone. It makes me feel like I’ll never find my way home again and I’ll end up in a black hole of lostness; though I’m not sure why, because that’s actually never happened.
What is your greatest adventure?
I live in New York City, and I’m such a city girl that my idea of a great adventure is driving out to visit my stepsister in Pennsylvania—by myself (see the above response). Sometimes I stop halfway, at my friend Regan’s house in New Jersey. The last couple miles to her is off-GPS, which makes me feel like the most intrepid person in the world. I always expect her to break into applause and throw confetti when I walk in the door. So far, she hasn’t.
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
About five minutes ago.
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
I have a list of “first people,” including my sister Alyssa, my stepsister Laura, and a number of friends. It’s the same list I turn to when I’m having a good day—and to me, that’s the mark of a really great friend: someone who can commiserate with you, and also celebrate with you.
When was the last time you cried?
This morning, singing along to the score of Les Miserables.
Where can readers stalk you?
Oh, so many places!
Or email me: Courtney(at)CourtneySheinmel.com
Readers will instantly fall in love with the story. Although there are many times it went wrong for Stella, readers will rejoice during her moments of triumph. Older readers will love how author Courtney is able to transport their minds back to a time when things were much simpler. Her writing style is appreciative to how it reminds us how it was like to be a kid and just how big the world is.
Stella’s predicaments can be a metaphor to a lot of adolescent problems. Her reactions to them felt like the inner workings of an eight-year-old. Courtney has delivered a very cute and fun story that was the perfect setting for laughs and giggles. Although it is intended for middle graders, there are a lot of elements that are enjoyable for all ages. Courtney’s storytelling technique is amazing and puts a smile on your face. Stella Batts: A Case of the Meanies is another great addition to the series and I’m sure subsequent installments can only be better.