Gearing up for the 4th of July here, and today I’m happy to host Kathy Sattem Rygg, author of the middle grade novel ANIMAL ANDY.
Here’s a sneak peek:
Ten-year-old Andy Ohman is spending his summer working at the Aksarben City Zoo where his dad is curator. There are rumors the city might close the zoo due to budget cuts. An anonymous donor has given the zoo an antique animal carousel, and Andy’s dad is hopeful it will help boost attendance. Andy’s doubtful that an old kiddie ride will make a difference. He doesn’t see what’s so special about it. But when he takes it for a spin, he unlocks the magic that will help save the zoo.
Excerpt from ANIMAL ANDY:
Andy’s knees wobbled and buckled as he stumbled off the carousel’s platform. He thrust forward, collapsing into a heap on the ground. Shaking his head a few times, he flinched when a snort escaped his mouth.
A flash of turquoise caught his eye. He scrambled up as a skinny-necked bird with short legs and a long, plump body strutted over. It stopped a few inches away and let out an ear-splitting squawk. Only a peacock could make that sound.
“What are you doing over here?” the bird asked. “Are you out of your mind? Don’t you know this is the kind of thing that gets all of us into trouble?”
Andy froze. He was sure the peacock had just spoken to him.
“Well, don’t just sit there, zebra, we need to get you back to the pen,” the bird snapped.
Andy whipped his head from side to side. Nobody was around, and he didn’t see a zebra.
“Did you just talk?”
“Don’t get all high and mighty on me,” the peacock said. “It’s socially acceptable for a peacock to speak to a zebra.”
“Why do you keep calling me a zebra?” Andy narrowed his eyes at the bird.
“Well, I don’t see any other escaped animal standing in front of me,” the peacock said. Andy lowered his gaze and saw four black and white striped legs beneath him. He craned his neck and saw a thin, black tail swishing behind him. Puzzled, he glanced at the carousel and saw an empty brass pole where the zebra had been.
He stumbled backward. “No, no, no,” he said, shaking his head. “How…it can’t be,” he breathed.
“There’s just no way. I…I…I’m a zebra!”
ANIMAL ANDY sounds absolutely delightful, doesn’t it? Now let’s find out something about its author, shall we?
1. How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. As early as kindergarten I wrote short stories and illustrated them (often about witches and princesses). I wrote my first “book” in second grade, complete with a cardboard and string cover. I always like to say writing isn’t what I do, it’s who I am!
Me too, and I’ve met a lot of authors lately who have been making up stories…well, since they first learned how to write…I guess it’s something we can’t not do.
2. What made you finally decide to get serious about writing?
When my son was in kindergarten he started reading lots of chapter books, and one day he asked if I’d write him one. I had so much fun writing a children’s book that I decided to try it for real. I joined SCBWI, attended conferences, and a critique group. From there I was hooked!
A good critique group is invaluable and attending conferences get you excited about writing, don’t they?
3. Describe what you consider your ideal writing conditions.
I spend so much time on the computer with my job as an editor that when I write, I like to get away from my home office. I have a netbook and take it into the kitchen, out on the deck, anywhere that I’m comfortable and don’t have a lot of distractions.
4. How often do you write?
I try to write five days a week—Monday through Friday (weekends are devoted to family). I usually allow one hour, and I might only get one page written, or I might write several. My best time of day to write is from 4-5 pm. The kids are usually playing with friends and my husband isn’t home from work yet. Then at five o’clock I start making dinner, my husband comes home, and I can spend time chatting with him before dinner.
Sounds like you’ve worked writing time into your busy schedule so it is part of your routine.
5. Are you a plotter, a pantser or some combination of both?
I always outline each chapter before I begin writing. I like knowing the major plot points of my story. However, I never stick to that initial outline. New ideas pop up as I’m writing, and I’m not afraid to go along with them. But, if I make a change to the story, I go back and change it in the outline too. That way, if I’m toward the end of the book and need to remember what happened earlier in the story, I can quickly refer to my outline.
6. Name one of your all-time favorite movies, the one you instantly recognize when it flashes across the screen, the one you stop and watch no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
That would have to be James Cameron’s Titanic. I saw it in theaters four times, I own the DVD, I listened to the soundtrack constantly, and I would watch it anytime it’s on TV. It came out when I was in my early twenties when I was a single college grad, and I thought it was the ultimate love story.
Yep…touching romantic scenes in a movie…gets me sighing every time.
7. Where do you go for inspiration?
Books! I write better when I’m reading a good book, whether it’s MG, YA, or mainstream fiction (and I read all those genres). I love it when my 9-year-old son finishes a book and wants me to read it then we can discuss it together.
It’s great when something you both enjoy doing draws you together. I love it.
8. Name an author or authors who never fail to inspire you.
My favorite author is Tracy Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring). Her ability to take an obscure piece of history and weave an entire tale about it is so impressive. I love all of her books.
10. Tell us about your current WIP.
I’m currently working on a middle grade series that revolves around the sport of geocaching—a real life treasure hunt with a fantasy element.
Thank you so much for joining me today, Kathy. And have a great 4th of July!!
Kathy Sattem Rygg is Editor-in-Chief for the children’s publication Knowonder! and an active member of SCBWI. She earned a degree in magazine journalism from Iowa State University and has worked for the McGraw-Hill Companies’ business publications division in New York City. She was also the editor in chief of Women’s Edition magazine in Denver, CO. She currently lives in Omaha, NE, with her husband and two children.