I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to had the wonderful Elly Swartz agree to an interview about her newest book Dear Student, we talked about the protagonist Autumn, pregnant snakes, and social anxiety as well as so much more so please take a read and enjoy the interview.
Most of your protagonists deal with some form of mental health condition? What made you decide you wanted to address social anxiety in this book?
The truth is, kids have social anxiety. I want them to be able to talk about it. I want them to know they are not alone. And books are way in. A way to breakdown the stigmas and stereotypes surrounding mental health challenges. A bridge to difficult conversations. And a reminder that we are all working on something.
I also think we are all a bit like Autumn.
We all have moments when we step into a room and wonder if we fit. If we’re saying the right words, wearing the right clothes, doing the right things. Moments where we wonder if we belong. In those moments, I hope kids realize that we are all working on something. That they do belong. They do matter.
They don’t have to act like someone else, dress like someone else, or talk like someone else to fit.
They just have to stay true to themselves. Truly, that’s the bravest thing we can all do.
So what is your favorite pet in this book?
Ha! I love this question. My favorite pet in Dear Student has to be Spud. Fun fact… Spud’s real name is Ajax and he was my son’s guinea pig (pictured below). I babysat for him while my son moved out west and fell in love with this giant baked potato of a guinea pig and knew I wanted readers to meet him.
Every try your hand at school journalism, if so what were the results?
In school, I was a cheerleader, not a journalist. But if I was to go back in time, I’d be all over writing for the school paper. And if anyone wants to hire me to write an advice column now, I’m all in! Just saying!
In the book Autumn is faced with two different people who like her but don’t like each other? Have you ever been in this situation and if so did you deal with it like Autumn did?
Stuck in the middle is something I can absolutely relate to. I have been in a situation where my friends didn’t like each other. For me, always staying true to myself was the way through. But that didn’t mean those moments when I felt caught in the middle weren’t uncomfortable to navigate. But like Prisha reminds Autumn, just be you!
I really liked Autumn’s answers as Dear Student, is there a future for her in journalism or activism? Or would that be telling?
Ha! I love this. Maybe. Keep reading, is all I can share!
Team Logan or Team Cooper?
Wow! Great question. I have to say, I’m Team Autumn!
Oh this isn’t a question for the fans but for me but I really love Sleeping Beauty, how much snake research was involved?
Much research went into all aspects of this book. I had to know about pregnant snakes and iguanas! So thankful to Stephen Ayer of Jabberwock Reptiles in Winchester, MA, who was willing to share his knowledge with me. I also did lots of research on social anxiety. The laws on cosmetic companies testing on animals. And volunteering for the Peace Corps. But the animal research was by far the most fun!
Amazon: Dear Student