Meet Gail: award-winning author talks about dreams, “characters being characters,” and storytelling

“Writing novels has always been the real dream, but for my “day job,” working in a library—connecting other authors with readers—is a dream job, too.”

PPL’s own Gail Donovan started at the library as a substitute before accepting a permanent position in her favorite department, Interlibrary Loan (ILL), in 2011. She was overjoyed! This critical library service manages statewide and nationwide sharing of books and other materials. When Gail is not helping borrowers from all over the country track down a resource, she is an award-winning children’s book author.

We caught up with Gail to ask her a few questions about being a writer:

When did you publish your first book?

In the late 90s I was lucky to land a job as a “writer for hire” on the Rainbow Fish & Friends picture book series. That was fun but it meant working on someone else’s story, and I still hoped to publish a novel that was all mine. It took a few more years, but in 2009 my first novel for young readers, In Memory of Gorfman T Frog, came out.

How many books have you published?

I’ve written fourteen picture books and with the release of Sparrow Being Sparrow, five novels for young readers.

Have you always written books for children?  If so, what about this age group resonates with you as a writer? 

When my kids were young, I began rediscovering the books that made me fall in love with reading. At that time, I had written a few unpublished novels for grown-ups. I decided to change tack and try writing for children, and found that I had a gift for remembering how it felt to be eight, nine, or ten years old. I love the idea of writing something that could be that special book for a kid, the one that makes them fall in love with reading.

Sparrow Robinson loves to dance, she loves cats, and she is not afraid to ask questions – who inspired this dynamic character? 

In September of 2018 I was asked to speak at a PPL Smart Girls Read book event. As I talked, I was watching the dozen or so girls watching me with bright, intense, curious faces. Something about their expressions stayed with me. Shortly after that, Sparrow’s character began to come into focus for me. She would be a girl who gets too “carried away,” in her parents’ opinion. The cat-loving part came about because for years I’d thought a cat lady would be a good character. I put Sparrow next door to the neighborhood cat lady, and Sparrow Being Sparrow was born.

What advice would you give young writers who dream of publishing their own work?

My advice to any writer is to imagine and respect your reader. Does every chapter ending tempt them to go on? How about every paragraph, or even every sentence? Try to give the reader a good reason to stay up past their bedtime, or to beg for “just one more chapter, please.”

 Sparrow Being Sparrow (Simon & Schuster, 2023) has been chosen as a “Best Book of July for ages 6-8” on Amazon.

Thank you, Gail, and congratulations!

posted: , by Heather Wasklewicz
tags: Adults | Teens | Teen Reads | Parents & Teachers | Kids & Families | Discover Portland | News | Readers Writers
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