Tuesday, August 9, 2016

#MGGetsReal A Chat With Shannon Wiersbitzky

Hi Shannon! Thanks for chatting with me about Middle Grade books in general and your novels in particular. 

Thank you! Happy to be here.

What book or books from your childhood left a lasting impression and why?

I was always a reader. One of those kids who spent hours in the library and poured over the Scholastic Book Club list hoping my parents would buy me all the titles I marked. My bedroom was always riddled with books. There were a few that really stuck with me from childhood.

The first is The Tripods series by John Christopher. Probably the first sci-fi I remember reading. About these walking machines who controlled humans and prevented creativity and curiosity.

The second is Z is for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien. A teacher read this to us in elementary school and it practically seared into my brain. It is about the aftermath of a nuclear war and a young girl who believes she may be the only person left on earth. Looking back, it seems like an intense topic for an elementary read-aloud, but I’m so glad she did.

Why did these books stick with me? Perhaps because they were absolutely about life and death. I’m not sure I’d thought much about my own death before reading these books. They made me think about what I would do in such dire circumstances. And they made me root for the main character.

Years ago, without recalling the titles, I went into a bookstore and described them. Kudos to the knowledgeable librarian who knew exactly what they were. I bought them and reread them again. They were just as powerful. That says something about great writing.  

What book or books served as mentor texts when you were writing your own book?

WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER is a companion novel to my debut title, THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS. As I wrote FLOWERS, I did have to refer back to the first book more than a few times. I had to ensure I didn’t inadvertently give characters some different trait or physical feature. And I wanted to ensure I kept the same tone to my writing.

FLOWERS also deals with the topic of Alzheimer’s. While I’d had my own experiences with the disease through my Grandfather, I wanted to be certain that what I’d seen with him was typical. So I did research online to determine signs and symptoms and typical behaviors.

A few of the sites that were helpful:

I definitely learned a lot more about the disease that I wasn’t aware of through that process. I tried to incorporate some of that in the book so that hopefully anyone dealing with Alzheimer’s could relate their own experience to Delia's. 


  1. I'm eager to read Summer of Hammers and Angels! Also Z is for Zachariah.

    1. Since you are writing a series yourself, I be you'll find Summer of Hammers and Angels interesting.

  2. Hello! Good luck with this idea for letting readers know about your realistic books. I've read two books by each of the Shannons and found all four compelling. And I read Z IS FOR ZACHARIAH as an adult and won't forget it. Now I want to read the other middle-grade, realistic novels that are being featured by #MGGetsReal. I'm looking forward to meeting some new characters!

    1. Hi Sheila, thanks for reading and your good wishes. I think you'll like the other books featured in #MGGetsReal.