Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Monday, July 3, 2017

An Inside Look #24 - Season #2 (AUTHOR Interview)

An Inside Look - With Dusti Bowling
(Author of The Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus)

*This was a new feature I added to the blog during the summer of 2016.  It was a shot in the dark that it would work, but much to my surprise; it took off and over the last year I conducted 22 interviews with a variety of authors.  

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" about their novel, characters, and thoughts about the story.

*I didn't have time for interviews during the school year, but I'm excited to be back for "SEASON #two".  

*I'm hoping to run this feature at least once a week.  There is nothing more satisfying than sharing and promoting a book/author/character that I have fallen in love with.  

*Thank you to Dusti for being the second author of this new season.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first TWENTY-THREE interviews…

*This novel has been making the rounds in my #bookexpedition Twitter group.  When I got it, I knew nothing of it and wasn't sure what the story was about.  I was blown away by how good this story was.  I could not put the book down and absolutely LOVED it.

*Here is a link to my review of the story...

My Book Review

*Thank you Dusti for writing this novel for middle-grade readers and taking the time to share your thoughts with us here on the blog.  

*Here are the responses she shared with me and I'm thrilled to share them with you...

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus 
by Dusti Bowling (Released September 5, 2017)

How did you come to know Aven?

The character of Aven started forming in my mind after I saw a video of a young Barbie Thomas (who would go on to become a bodybuilder) taking care of her baby, driving, and working out. She didn't have arms. I found it so interesting that she could do everything with her feet, and I couldn't stop thinking that would make a wonderful children's book character. I thought about this character for over a year, wondering what she would be like, getting to know her, and learning about people with limb differences, before I finally put Aven down on paper.

What do you think is Aven's most admirable quality?

That's a hard question because I believe Aven has so many, but I think Aven's openheartedness is probably her best quality. She has such a heart for others, especially those who seem isolated or are being bullied in any way. She knows how it feels when you think you don't fit in, and she genuinely empathizes with and cares about people who feel outcast.

Is there anything you wish Aven would have changed or done differently in her story?

I don't think there's anything I would change, but I do think she could have handled her conflict with Connor better (and subsequently with her mom). Then again, it provided a good learning opportunity for her.

What do you think Aven can offer to other young people that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?

It's always been my hope that the young people who read Aven's story will finish it with feelings of empathy and empowerment. No matter what they're going through, someone else is also having a hard time. Sometimes the best thing we can do when we're feeling down is to reach out to and help others. By lifting others up, we lift ourselves up. 

How did you research Aven and the circumstances she found herself in?

I found a woman on YouTube who goes by Tisha Unarmed and makes interesting videos about how she does everything without arms. I watched all her videos while writing my story. I was so inspired by Tisha and her amazing sense of humor. When I was finished with my manuscript, I reached out to her and asked her if she would be willing to read my story for accuracy. She thankfully did and was a great help to me in making sure I portrayed Aven as realistically as possible. Barbie Thomas read my story as well and gave it an enthusiastic stamp of approval. Having these sensitivity readings was crucial to ensuring the authenticity of Aven's story.

Do you and Aven share any similarities?

Maybe a few--I definitely have a bit of a temper and get angry when I see others being mistreated. I also like to think I'm nearly as determined as Aven (though probably not quite as determined). And our senses of humor are pretty similar.

What was the hardest scene to write about Aven?

The scene I probably worked on the most was the scene when she and Connor get into a fight. I wanted to capture the pain and anger and defensiveness just right, and it was challenging to figure out how the kind of sadness it started from could devolve into mean words and anger toward someone you care about. I really wanted the reader to understand and empathize with both sides without getting angry at either character. 

Who do you think was Aven's biggest supporter and why?

That would have to be a tie between her mom and dad. I knew when I created Aven she would have had to have amazing, supportive parents to be the way she is. No matter what is going on, Aven can depend on her parents to stand by her and encourage her, but not in an overbearing way.

Why do you think some young people can handle their “disabilities” while others have such a difficult time of it.  Why do people call others with disabilities “freaks”?  

As an able-bodied person, I don't feel like I can speak to this as well as someone who lives with a disability, but maybe I can speak to the differences between Aven and Connor. Aven was born without arms. She accepts who she is (most of the time) and has a positive outlook about life. A lot of this comes from her parents' endless encouragement and support. Connor, on the other hand, has only had Tourette syndrome for a couple of years. He hasn't gotten the support he needs and has not yet accepted that this is a permanent part of his life and who he is. So I think a lot of it comes down to having a positive attitude about yourself, accepting yourself, and also receiving the support you need from loved ones and others in your community. 

I think, a lot of times, the reason people act mean-spirited toward others with disabilities is the same reason people act mean-spirited toward anyone who is different from them: fear. The only way to overcome a fear of others who are different from you is to make the effort to listen to them and learn from them and try to understand their perspective. I think it becomes much harder to hold any sort of animosity toward another person once you've made the sincere effort to understand them. But, of course, not everyone is willing to put in that effort. And that's why there will always be bullies, but also, thankfully, people who are willing to stand up to them.  

What do you think Aven is doing as the present time? 

I think she, Connor, and Zion are eating Cheetos and playing Mario Kart. Later they're planning on going to the mall (Connor's getting out a lot more!), where Aven is going to pretend her arms got torn off in the escalator. 

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