I first noticed Andrea Loney as a fellow member of 12 x 12. I so loved TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! that I immediately knew I wanted to ask her to participate in Writing with the Stars. With amazing works in fiction and nonfiction, Andrea’s someone I know we’ll be hearing much more from in years to come!
TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE!, won the Lee and Low New Voices Award and was recently nominated for an NAACP Image Award. That must be an amazing feeling of accomplishment. Were you shocked when you found out?
Yes, I was totally shocked. I just got back from the NAACP Image Award Nominee Luncheon and I’m still shocked. What an amazing honor.
How did you celebrate?
First I texted my whole family from coast to coast to let them know. Then my guy took me out to Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles to celebrate!
You volunteer with the organization Reading to Kids. What was it like reading your own book to the kids?
At Reading to Kids I usually read the assigned picture books, not my own. I did get to share my BUNNYBEAR picture book with a Pre-K class, a special needs class, and a third grade class, and it was awesome to listen to the insightful conversations the children shared in regards to the book.
What is the most amazing thing you have witnessed while working for this program?
I am constantly amazed by how many girls and boys in the Reading to Kids program tell me they want to go to space someday. This is especially thrilling because the aerospace industry is huge in Los Angeles, with Space X, Virgin Galactic, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and more just a freeway ride away. We even have the Space Shuttle Endeavor here at the California Science Center. These kids are just a 45-minute drive away from their dreams.
What do you think are traps for aspiring writers?
I know that one of the biggest traps I fell into as an aspiring writer was getting too attached to one story, then feeling devastated when that story was rejected. What works for me is to work on multiple projects, submit multiple stories, pass the time waiting for responses by writing new projects, note but shrug off the inevitable rejections, and keep generating more new stories.
Do you have a preference for writing fiction versus nonfiction? Do you think one is easier than the other?
As a history buff, it’s always fun for me to imagine what life would have been like in another era, so that makes writing nonfiction a treat. But I also love writing fictional stories. I’m not sure that one is easier than the other—whether real life or a made-up story is the starting point, all books require some level of world-building, structure, and an emotional hook to create an immersive experience.
Your next book, DOUBLE BASS BLUES, is due out in 2019 from Knopf. Can you give us a synopsis share and how you got the idea?
DOUBLE BASS BLUES is a picture book about a young black boy who plays the double bass in his school orchestra on the suburban side of town and has to transport this huge instrument to the city side of town for a surprise performance. The idea came to me while I was teaching computer classes at an at-risk youth center in the heart of the city. My students had to overcome all sorts of logistical, transportation, and social obstacles just to make it to our little two-hour class. But they made it and I was so proud of them. And they were proud of themselves too.
Thank you, Andrea. Please remember to support our mentors by buying their books, leaving on-line reviews and telling your librarians.