Welcome to Black Rabbit Books' Author Spotlight! This month, we're sharing an interview with Julia Garstecki. Julia is a rockstar author and has written numerous books for Black Rabbit, ranging from superfast sports cars to all-American fighting forces.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
My life now is almost exactly like it was when I was ten, with a few big differences. I cannot remember a time when I wasn't writing. I have piles and piles of diaries dating back to 1980! I was the student that didn't care for recess-I'd beg teachers to give me a library pass instead! I always asked for topics to research and I would write reports. They were never graded, but I didn't care. I also loved school, so it was no surprise that I ended up becoming a teacher and writer!
My career started as an elementary school teacher, then I became a reading and special education teacher. Now, I teach at Bryant and Stratton College in Buffalo New York and I love it! It's fun working with older students that are in the process of starting their careers. It also leaves me time to write.
Mostly I write for the education market, but I have recently started writing picture books that I hope are good enough to publish one day! One reason I love writing for publishers like Black Rabbit is because I get to do the same activity I loved in fourth grade: I get a topic, head to the library, research and learn as much as I can, and then start writing! My only regret was that I waited until I was 40 to start writing professionally. I wish I would have started sooner, but better late than never!
I also have two teenagers that keep me quite busy, a super fun husband, and the cutest toy poodle named Bella. We live in Buffalo, NY, but have family in Texas, Arkansas, and Michigan. We sure travel a lot!
Q: You've written quite a few books for Black Rabbit! Do you have a favorite?
They are all my favorites for different reasons! The Epic Cars Series was special because my son loves supercars, and it brought us closer together. We even traveled to Boston together to see how McLarens are put together, and we got to sit in one!
My daughter and I had so much fun coming up with disgusting crafts, so The Disgusting Crafter series was a lot of fun. She pulled some epic pranks as we worked on those.
I also write to learn, and I learned the most while writing the All-American Fighting Forces series. This series is definitely a favorite because I had heard of the Tuskegee Airmen and WASPS, but didn't know much about them. I can't ever remember reading about Code Talkers, Buffalo Soldiers, the Harlem Hellfighters or the Go for Broke Regiment. This is unfortunate because they were fascinating, brave, and true American heroes. If there is one series I'd love to add to, it's the All-American Fighting Forces. There is a lot left to learn, and so much more to share about these men and women.
Q: You're the mastermind behind our Make Your Own Fun and The Disgusting Crafter series. What can you tell us about writing makerspace titles?
They are an absolute blast! I admit some of the books in the Make Your Own Fun [series] challenged me. I certainly didn't make everything work the first time, so there was a lot of trial and error involved to make sure the projects worked every time! The Disgusting Crafter series was right up my alley, as my kids and I like to pull pranks sometimes. Again, there was a lot of trial and error and some experiments didn't work like I thought they would, but that was part of the fun!
I definitely want to make sure that any makerspace books I write can be done using easy to find materials-parents are too busy to go to the store at a moment's notice, so while there might be something unique (like gelatin) needed for a project, that is rare. And yet, even those are easily found in a store.
I used to make all kinds of concoctions as a child-I was so lucky my mom encouraged my creativity. Writing this series did bring me back to my childhood. I suggest if you think you may want to be a scientist and a writer, start writing these now, even if you don't publish them!
Q: What inspires you to write children's books?
This is a good question, and a hard one! As I mentioned earlier, I've just always loved to write. It's just something I am compelled to do. But, I definitely have specific readers in mind. The ones who are curious, who might be intimidated by certain topics but still want to know more. One reason I absolutely love writing for Black Rabbit is they share that mission. We work together to make sure the information is accessible for all readers, which also includes awesome illustrations and graphics.
Now that I'm older, I'm inspired to write children's books that also honor my family and my heritage. My parents were huge nature lovers, which has been passed down to me and I see that love of nature in my children. I love writing books about nature, and hope to do this more. My mom is an artist, and I'm also working with books about various art forms that I took for granted in my younger years and now I'm so grateful she shared these with me.
And, I'm also learning there is so much history that has yet to be shared in books. I love learning new information that I wished I would have learned in school. So I'm also inspired to write the stories that should be out there but aren't yet. Clearly, there is a lot left for me to write about, and I can't wait to get going on some new pieces!