Write in Time
Summer is here. You need a book list. None would be complete without titles by a few of our local literati. From Pushcart Prize winners to poet laureates, Delaware’s pedigree is rich with folks who run the gamut in the world of letters. (Find any of the titles mentioned here—and more—at amazon.com.)
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Lisa Ann Sandell
Growing up in Wilmington, Lisa Ann Sandell wasn’t allowed to watch television. It was a small restriction that would shape her life in some very significant ways.
“No matter what, the one thing I could always get were books,” says Sandell, 33. “It was a really accessible medium for me, and I read constantly because, really, there wasn’t much else to do. I don’t know if that was the direct intention of my parents, but I know they definitely wanted me to be a reader. It was always considered an important activity in my house, and there were always books around.”
Sandell’s mother took her to the local library once a week, where she was allowed to check out as many books as her arms could carry. Without the distraction of a flickering screen—and often plagued by extreme shyness—Sandell would go home and spend countless hours absorbing book after book. She couldn’t get enough.
Then, through a series of whispered revelations, it occurred to Sandell that she should try creating her own stories.
“I don’t remember having a light bulb go off in my head or anything. It was just something I always knew, for as long as I could remember, that I wanted to write,” she says. “At some point I realized, after reading so many books, that I could try to create my own adventures.”
The stories started appearing in a spiral-bound notebook, where Sandell would scribble tales about a cat named Alley Cat and his junkyard friends. As a teenager, Sandell expanded her thematic horizons, writing about the angst of youth and the fear of possibly missing out on the excitement of life unfurling around her, using her writing to work through her questions and insecurities.
After high school, Sandell attended the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied medieval and Renaissance English literature with a focus on the legends of King Arthur. It was through those classes that Sandell got the inspiration for her first book, “Song of the Sparrow,” a teenage coming-of-age story told through the eyes (and verse) of Elaine of Ascolat in 490 A.D.
“I always knew I wanted to write for children, but I didn’t know I would be writing for teenagers until I was an adult myself,” she says. “The books I read as a kid meant so much to me—and still do—that I knew I wanted to try and do that for other kids.”
Sandell is inspired by the excitement with which her audience devours her work. “They are so engaged and passionate about what they read. And teenagers want to interact with me. Hearing from a kid who says she never liked to read but then she read one of my books and now wants to read more, that’s just incredible.”
In addition to working on her own novels and stories, Sandell helps other writers as an editor at Scholastic in New York City. Her most recent book, “A Map of the Known World,” was released in 2009. She just started working on her next YA novel.
“I think there is definitely an awkward, geeky 14-year-old still very much alive inside of me,” she says. “And I think she is constantly speaking to me when I’m writing. And even when I’m not.”
“A Map of the Known World”
“Song of the Sparrow”
“The Weight of the Sky”
Page 6: Maribeth Fischer