Longtime fans probably already know about the Ann M. Martin Message Board, where you can go to
make friends with other fans and talk about all of her books. But if you
especially love Baby-sitters Club books, then we have a couple of cool new features on the STACKS. In honor of the newest Baby-sitters Club book, The Summer Before, we have a new BSC website and BSC Message Board.
The Summer Before is a prequel to the
Baby-sitters Club series and will be in bookstores starting today. You can read the first chapter online right here!
If you have ever read any Ann M. Martin books, then you know she is a
beautiful writer, but I had the chance to actually talk to her and
discover that she is also a beautiful person! Read on to find out more about the Baby-sitters Club, Ann's advice for writers, and how she deals with her shyness!
Sonja: There was a Message Board petition to convince you to write another Baby-sitters Club book. Why do you think The Baby-sitters Club is still so popular after all these years?
Ann: I think the books resonate with kids because, although kids today are very different, I think what kids relate to is still the same. The Baby-sitters Club characters are very easy to identify with. The main thrust of the series is family, friendship, school. . . those things haven't changed. They still affect most kids today. Kids today may have iPods, computers, and text messages, but the themes of the Baby-sitters Club books are timeless.
Sonja: Why did you decide to revisit these characters in your new book?
Ann: A lot of readers wrote to me and asked for a sequel to the series describing the girls when they were older. But I wanted to write a prequel because the slightly younger age group appeals to me. I wanted to delve more deeply and go back in time to think about what led the girls to come together and form the Baby-sitters Club. What was going on with their families? Where were they in their lives, and where were they literally because Stacey hadn't moved to Stoneybrook yet.
Sonja: Are the characters based on real people? Did any of things that happen to them in the books happen to you in real life?
Ann: Most of the characters are made up. But Kristy is based on my best friend, Beth, and Mary Anne is based on me. Growing up Beth and I were complete opposites. I was the much shier, quieter one, and Beth was much more outgoing. Yes, a few of the incidents that happen in the books are real. One of the most horrifying babysitting incidents I ever experienced happened when the kids I was babysitting asked if they could wash the car. By the time I got outside, they had already started, but they were washing the car with brillo pads, and they scratched all the paint off the car!
Sonja: Which character do you relate the most to?
Ann: Of course I relate most strongly to Mary Anne since she is based on me, but Kristy is the most fun character to write about. After all, the Baby-sitters Club was her idea!
Sonja: Do you have any advice for kids who want to write?
Ann: It is important to be a reader and become familiar with all kinds of writing. I also recommend that kids keep a journal. Kids think they have to have some incredible experience to write about, but keeping a journal is a good way to keep track of the everyday experiences that can make your stories more real.
Sonja: I read that you are very shy. It can sometimes be difficult for shy people in a world of outgoing people. (I know because I'm shy too!) Do you have any suggestions for other shy people?
Ann: Even some people who don't seem shy are really shy underneath! My advice is to become familiar with the situations that make you uncomfortable. I do better in small groups — 2 or 3 instead of 10 or 12 so I try to avoid being in big groups of people if I can. I hate public speaking but I realized that I feel more comfortable doing
it when I have a PowerPoint presentation to work from. You have to know what makes you feel more comfortable and try to put yourself in those situations instead of the situations that will make you feel worse.
Sonja: You are so loved by so many readers. That must be such an amazing feeling. Do you get lots of fan mail? What are some of the most moving things your fans tell you?
Ann: It is a wonderful feeling. I love hearing from readers. It helps me feel more connected with them. The most moving thing is hearing about kids who were not into reading until reading one of my books. . . and now they are avid readers. It's wonderful to hear from adult readers who read my books when they were kids and were inspired to become writers, librarians, teachers, editors or bloggers. That is very gratifying.