I am happy to share in the excitement of the new
American Girl® -Gabriela McBride™; Girl of the Year® 2017 with this author interview and giveaway!
American Girl is excited to celebrate the New Year with the debut of its 2017 Girl of the Year - Gabriela McBride! Gabriela is a true talent who uses her passion for the arts—specifically spoken word poetry—to overcome personal obstacles and create positive change for her community. Gabriela launches with a beautiful 18-inch doll, plus several performance-inspired outfits, accessories, and toys.Learn more about Gabriela and the development of her character by reading this series of questions and answers with author Teresa E. Harris:Teresa E. Harris
Teresa E. Harris earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Columbia University and an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College, where she won numerous awards, including the Flying Pig Grade-A, Number-One Ham Humor Award. She is the author of the picture book Summer Jackson: Grown Up and the middle grade novel The Perfect Place, which was selected as one of Bank Street’s Best Children’s Books of the Year in 2015. Teresa is a high school English teacher in New Jersey, where she lives with three very bossy cats. She spends most of her time grading papers, writing novels, and wishing she could dance like Gabby.
Teresa, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where do you live? Tell us about your family. What are your interests? I grew up in Teaneck, a town in Northern New Jersey. Now I live just a few minutes away from where I grew up in a town called Hackensack. Unlike Gabriela, who is an only child, I have two sisters and one brother, all older than me. As the youngest, I got away with a lot more than my older siblings. My interests? I read—A LOT—and I try to make sure I read across all genres. I read a lot of children’s books (of course), but I also read a lot of political articles and blogs, blogs about celebrities, adult fiction, and because I’m a teacher, I spend a lot of time reading my students’ work too. As much as I love to read, my absolute favorite thing to do in my spare time is to write.
Please tell us about your writing career - your other books - and how you found your way to writing the Gabriela series for American Girl. I have been writing for so long; I cannot even remember when I began. I used to come home from school and instead of doing my homework, I would dive into the worlds and characters I had created myself. One such story was about Buster and Twinkles, a pair of time-traveling cats. It was the first story I’d ever written and when I decided definitively that I wanted to be a writer.
To achieve that dream, I minored in creative writing at Columbia University and went on to receive a Masters degree in writing for children from Vermont College of Fine Arts. There, I wrote my first ever full-length novel, The Perfect Place, which I sold to Clarion Books. About two years later, I sold my first picture book, Summer Jackson: Grown Up, to HarperCollins. And then, when I was least expecting it back in 2016, an awesome editor at Scholastic, whom I had worked with previously contacted me about writing the Gabriela books for American Girl. I said yes, and wasted no time diving into Gabby’s world.
Tell us about Gabriela.
Gabriela is a triple threat; she’s a dancer, a poet, and comes to find that she is an activist. She stands up for what she believes in, never thinks twice about helping people and works hard to overcome challenges, both external and internal. One of Gabby’s major struggles is her stutter, which sometimes makes her feel like she is at war with her own words. However, when the city of Philadelphia threatens to shut down the Liberty Performing Arts Center, her second home, Gabby is determined to help. She puts her fear of public speaking aside and uses her voice to save the arts center.
How did you develop her character and stories?
This project was a collaboration between myself, Scholastic and American Girl. As I mentioned earlier, an editor who I formerly worked with and who knew my work thought I would be a good fit for this project. From the initial outline, I knew that Gabby was a gifted dancer and poet. Then I was given the amazing task of filling in all the rest – her voice, energy and heart. I spent a lot of time imagining how Gabby – a poet, activist, and dancer – would tell her own story. I knew she’d be confident even in the face of self-doubt, lyrical with her words and have the ability to see the world in a unique way. I spent some time writing and rewriting scenes, until I found Gabby’s true voice.
Did you have any particular inspiration? Because Gabby is a young poet, I conducted my research by reading poetry written by children and young adults and watching videos of children’s poetry competitions. To say I was impressed by the poems I read and the performers I watched is an understatement – I was awed and amazed. Those talented and brave girls and boys inspired me to find the poet within Gabby and, in turn, within myself.
What’s next for you? The second book in Gabriela’s series comes out at the end of April and I absolutely can’t wait! In the meantime, I’m hard at work on my own second novel about a girl who is a witch but really, really, really wishes she wasn’t.
Anything else? Stay tuned!
Thank you Teresa for this insightful interview!
In celebration of the release of the 2017 Girl of the Year, I have the privilege to share a fun giveaway!
To enter to win a copy of the first book in the Gabriela book, simply leave a comment on this post. If your comment is selected by the random number generator, you'll win! Giveaway ends 2/14/17 7:00 a.m CST
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