PopUp StoryWalk Author Interview: A Conversation with Susan Verde
Born and brought up in New York City, Susan Verde has been writing since she was a child, often prompted by the array of activity and experiences within her bustling city. After having received her elementary education degree and teaching children for many years, Susan delved into learning yoga and mindfulness. Two practices which eventually led her to writing several children’s yoga books and teaching mindfulness to kids. Finding inspiration from supermodel Gerogie Badiel’s childhood journey to find clean water for her home and village, Susan wrote about Princess Gie Gie in her beautiful book, “The Water Princess.” Shedding light on the topics of water conservation and accessibility, this book has taught and encouraged many to learn more about water in the world. Read on to discover more about Susan’s life, upcoming work, and influences.
Tell us a little about yourself. About how you became an author and the moment you knew that this was the path you were meant to be on.
I grew up in the West Village of NYC surrounded by artists and graffiti, music and books. I always loved writing ever since I was a little girl but never thought about it as a career. My first job was in retail at a high-end clothing store in Manhattan and I continued in both the fashion and music worlds until I got a BA and MA in elementary education and reading remediation and ultimately became an elementary school teacher. I wrote and read all the while and by the time I had my own children I had a pile of stories waiting to be shared. With the encouragement of a friend and an opportunity to attend a workshop run by Peter H Reynolds t the Southampton Children’s Literature conference, writing as a career became possible. My first book, The Museum was a poem I shared with Peter who said,“THAT is a story and I want to illustrate it!” and so it began. I continue to be incredibly grateful for that moment.
What inspires and motivates you to write?
I think I am motivated by both my own inner child and the children around me. Everyone has a right to feel safe and seen and to express themselves as individuals. I want to support that and also to celebrate every child’s unique experience. I will continue to try my best to show that in my writing.
What is the best career advice you have received and what advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Write every day. Even if it’s a line. Even if you never look at it again. Make it part of your day to write and be kind to yourself as you do it. Best advice gotten and to share. A lot of writing is observing and thinking. So try to stay connected to the moments in your life.
Tell us the story behind “The Water Princess.” Why did you write this book? Were you involved in how the book was illustrated?
The book was an extremely collaborative experience. Peter H Reynolds introduced me to Georgie Badiel (the inspiration for this story) after meeting her through a friend and hearing her own personal story. He knew I would fall in love with both her and the story and want to help bring awareness to this terrible situation happen all over the world…lack of access to clean water.
Talk a little about water conservation and why it is important for children to know about it?
I have learned a lot about the water crisis around the world through the creation of this book and I think it is especially important for children to understand that water is life and we shouldn’t take it for granted that we have access to clean water. Kids should know that they have the ability to make a difference by conserving water and also raising awareness.
Who are your literary influences? Favorite authors? What is the last book you read?
I have been a reader since I was little and am a fan of so many children’s authors from Ezra Jack Keats to Peter H Reynolds. I love YA novels as well. Elizabeth Acevedo and Jason Reynolds are a couple of my favorites but it’s very difficult to narrow it down. There are so many wonderful new works and authors all of the time. The last book I read was actually an older novel called A Fine Balance. I just recently returned from India and have been reading all things India lately.
Do you have any future projects that you would like to talk about?
I have 2 new books coming soon. In July I have a book called Unstoppable Me which puts a positive spin on kids with an abundance of energy. It really is about celebrating different ways of being in the world. In September Peter H Reynolds and I have the 4th in out I Am series called I Am Love. A book of Compassion. It’s a beautiful look at the power of love in all of its forms.
What is your favorite memory of the outdoors?
I love the outdoors. I am not much of a camper but being outdoors especially at the beach is incredibly important to me. I have so many memories of swimming in the ocean and riding my bike and just playing outside with friends. Being outdoors is good for my soul.
Many children and families will be walking the trail to read your book. What would you like to tell them?
What an amazing way to interact with literature! I want them to know that they are powerful and important and can make a difference in the world. There is hope and their voices matter.
PopUp Storywalk opened May 19, 2018 with our first storywalk installation during
'Kids to Parks Day' at Saint Edwards State Park. From that day on we have been very busy! We debuted our elementary school enrichment program by 'popping up' at two local elementary schools before summer break began in June. By the end of the summer we had 'popped up' at 6 parks while rotating through the three different storybooks we have in our library at this time. Our summer series was a huge success and we have gotten so much positive feedback through our facebook page as well as our field guides posted at the end of each storywalk. All this to say, thank you! Thank you to all the families, educators, tourists and community members who have walked the trails and enjoyed the stories. We are so excited to continue bringing new books to the trails and parks around our community in 2019!