Author Interview: Anastasia Suen on Red Light, Green Light

Red Light, Green Light by Anastasia Suen, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max (Harcourt, 2005). An upbeat and colorful rhyming introduction to traffic for pre-K. Told from the point of view of a young boy playing with an extensive and augmented toy set. Ages 3-up. Read more of my thoughs on Red Light, Green Light.

What was your inspiration for creating this book?

I wrote this book in 1999 when my son was taking driver’s ed. As I sat in the passenger seat I was very aware of the signs and vehicles around us. I wrote most of this book as I walked in the early mornings. The words came as the cars drove by and the traffic helicopter flew overhead.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

The first editor I sent this book to rejected it but two months later I sent it out again to a second editor. She called me eight days later with an illustrator in mind for the book, and two weeks after that, she bought it! It all happened very quickly!

Then the editor left the company, and the book sat. Several editors later the book was taken off the shelf and work on the illustrations began. By this time both of my kids were driving, so when it was time for the dedication I wrote: “For my two new drivers; it feels like just minutes ago that you were driving toy cars.”

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

At this stage of my life I was writing a lot of poetry. At first I wrote this book as a poetry collection about the different types of vehicles on the road, but the market for that didn’t open up for me. Once I saw the book as a journey, then it all came together.

The path taken in the book is my husband’s commute into the city. I moved a few things around to fit the rhyme, but all in all, it’s the same journey. We just wish that our tollway fare was only 20 cents like it is in the book!

Cynsational News & Links

Anastasia Suen: Prolific Non-Fiction Writer for Children by Sue Reichard from

Writing Easy Readers with Anastasia Suen: Workshop Transcript from Verla Kay.

Interview with Tracie Vaughn Zimmer on Sketches From Spy Tree, illustrated by Andrew Glass (Clarion, 2005) from Embracing the Child. See more of my thoughts on Sketches From Spy Tree.

Blogs I’ve been loving lately include Big A little a: children’s books, writing, and life from Kelly Herold. Her recent posts include thoughts on Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park (Clarion, 2005).

See also You Know You Want To Help The Kids: a report from The Divine Miss Pixie Woods AKA author Cecil Castellucci on Colleen Mondo‘s effort with the Parkview Baptist Church of Baton Rouge to put requested titles in the hands of kids affected by Katrina. Includes mailing information and links to wishlists of books and games available for purchase from My picks: Jazzy Miz Mozetta by Brenda C. Roberts, illustrated by Frank Morrison (FSG, 2004); Going North by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by James Lagarrigue (FSG, 2004); Code Talker: A Novel About The Navajo Marines of World War II by Joseph Bruchac (Dial, 2005); Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson (Harcourt, 2005)(2 copies).

Resources To Help Understand and Explain Natural Disasters from the Austin Public Library. Includes links to Web sites and both fiction and non-fiction youth bibliographies. Yesterday I corresponded with the APL head children’s librarian who noted that locally there is a need for books of Africian American authors, illustrators, and themes as well as children’s books and reference materials.