By: AJ Eversole
Spotlight image: Carole Lindstrom and Steph Littlebird present My Powerful Hair at the LibLearnX conference.
Today on the blog we have an interview with Carole Lindstrom. Her picture book, We Are Water Protectors (Roaring Press Books, 2020), received extensive critical acclaim, earning the Caldecott Medal along with many Best of Year awards. Today we are are speaking about her newest picture book, My Powerful Hair (Abrams, 2022).
What is the heart of My Powerful Hair?
My Powerful Hair is about the importance of our hair and how our hair is more than just an accessory to style. Our hair is a connection to the earth and to our loved ones who braid our hair. Our hair is a living scrapbook filled with all the memories of our encounters with family and loved ones. Our hair is sacred and a celebration of our lives.
How do you feel following up We Are Water Protectors? Has it been a tough act to follow?
No, not really. I mean, I don’t think about that as I’m writing new works. I never focus on ‘how will my book(s) do?’ I focus on doing the absolute best I can with the storytelling, and I know that things will fall into place as they are meant to. If I allow myself to think about those types of things, I would drive myself batty.
What do you love most about the creative life/being an author? Why?
What I love most is that I can live in my head a lot during the day. I love to imagine why things are the way they are and then make up stories to explain things. That type of thinking usually results in bits and pieces of new stories that I file away for later. I like working when creativity strikes, which can also be at different times of the day, or night. I love that all these jumbled thoughts and ideas in my head aren’t for naught. Not just my ADD brain working overtime, but they may become actual stories are scenes in stories one day.
So many things I love about being an author. But truly, my absolute favorite thing is to be around young people. They are so full of life and so curious about the world. I love their essence and pure look at the world. Speaking to them about the subjects that many adults think may be “too adult” are often very easy for young people to grasp. They aren’t encumbered with all the baggage that grown-ups are. Young people are mostly focused on equity and fairness and why don’t others have what I have? So, explaining these topics to them is very easy. They feel we are all equal and should all have access to the same things. That is why young people should be President in my book!
What appeals to you about writing picture books? What are the craft challenges of writing for this age group?
I love working with sparse words. One of my favorite parts of writing picture books is whittling down words and getting to the meat of the story without all the fluff. I enjoy picking the right word for the job. Often, I struggle all day just to find the perfect word for the manuscript. That is a challenge for me and one of the things I love about picture book writing. And the age is also so fun to write for. Being around young people keeps me young at heart.
Also making sure to leave room for the illustrator to do their magic. That is always something that I keep in the forefront of my mind with every word I choose. I think, “is this something the illustrator can show?” If so, I delete it. It’s very important that authors of picture books keep in mind that these books are a collaboration between both of you, and the art department. But once the manuscript is in the hands of the illustrator it is now theirs to interpret your words in the best way they see fit. (Of course there may be times when you both need to talk, as I do with illustrators since my work is often culturally specific, and that is certainly an exception to the rule).
What writers have influenced your writing the most?
Louise Erdrich. No question. Her writing is just perfection in every way. I wish I could write like her. I’m just grateful she exists, and we are all fortunate that we can read her amazing work. But in all actuality, all writing influences me. Good and bad. I love when I read a sentence that blows me away. I strive to write those types of sentences for readers. I love being surprised by how humans string words together. I love books. I love writing!
Carole Lindstrom is the author of the New York Times bestselling and Caldecott Award-winning We Are Water Protectors. She is Anishinabe/Métis and is a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe Indians. She was born and raised in Nebraska and currently makes her home in Maryland.