Ann Ingalls first started making appearances at Johnson County Library in 2009 with the release of her picture book The Little Piano Girl, a biography about the childhood of jazz prodigy Mary Lou Williams. She has another round of appearances coming soon in conjunction with her latest title. Read on to learn more about the book and the author.
This July you are spending a day traveling to some Johnson County Library locations to share your new book, Fairy Floss: The Sweet Story of Cotton Candy. Can you tell us a little about the contents and creation of the book, as well as what attendees can look forward to at the program?
Sure. Fairy Floss: The Sweet Story of Cotton Candy describes the invention of the electric candy-making machine, its inventors, and its introduction at the 1904 World’s Fair.
Your other books—all for young children—cover: a jazz musician biography, an introduction to jazz, conducting interviews, giving speeches, piranhas, bats, and manners. How did that assortment come to be? Do you have any personal favorites among them (topics, not books)?
I am personally invested in each of these books and topics. Once I start to research a topic, I get caught up in all possibilities for instruction and entertainment. One of my favorite topics is the Underground Railroad and the stories of individuals who did their very best to aid those seeking freedom. I have written a book on this topic. It is still waiting for an editor to love it.
The biography on your website includes: “I work as a writer for both children and adults. I write picture books, recipes, poetry, prayers, and lots of other things. I enjoy all of it.” Can you tell us about the writing beyond picture books? Are those things you publish?
I co-authored a book on prayer with my sister, Maryann Macdonald. It’s called Worm Watching and Other Wonderful Ways to Teach Young Children to Pray. It’s based on using everyday items that are familiar to children, attendant activities to better appreciate those things, and formulating prayers of praise, thanksgiving or petitions with young children.
Speaking of your biography, can you tell us more about Ann Ingalls, the person behind the books?
I am a simple person who enjoys simple pleasures: hikes, good tea or coffee, a trip to a museum, a game of cards. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful husband, three adult children and their families, and a collection of great friends.
What do you like least about being a writer?
Probably the toughest thing about being a writer is the number of rejections I get. No matter how hard a writer works, or how passionate one is about the material, no matter how well researched a piece is or who has vetted it, if an editor or agent is not keen on it or doesn’t think it will do well in the marketplace, that work will not see the light of day.
What advice would you offer other writers about the writing process? About the publication process? How distinct are the two—writing and publishing—in your mind?
Writing is one thing. Do it for the absolute love of it. Publishing might or might not happen. That is completely out of a writer’s control. Sure, you can work toward it, study the marketplace, submit to publishers who like what you produce. Don’t get discouraged. Keep a list of as many places as possible who might like your work. When/if it gets rejected, send it out to the next and the next and the next. Oh, and keep on polishing your work along the way. This improves your chances of success.
What is the worst writing advice that you have received?
When I was in high school, an English teacher told me that I didn’t have much talent for writing and ought to give up on the idea. When I attended Michigan State University, a professor there thought otherwise. I’m so glad I listened to that professor and pursued my dream of writing.
Do you have favorite resources that support your writing? Books, websites, blogs that you revisit?
I have loads and loads of good resources. I love Britannica, Google Books, Library of Congress, National Geographic, and about a thousand others. The search is a great joy. Sharing the work is the greatest joy.
How would you describe your author-publisher-seller-library-reader community? Where does your support come from, how have you grown your community, how essential is your network to your success, and what do you do to nurture and continue its growth?
I’ve been so lucky to have been invited to wonderful venues to promote my work. Some of these include local bookstores, libraries, schools, museums, books fairs, and homes of private individuals. I am grateful for each and every opportunity.
What role have libraries played in your life (as both reader and a writer)?
My father took all eight of his children to the library every week. I did the same with my three. I love the look, sounds, smell, and feel of library space. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a library I didn’t like.
What’s your all-time favorite book?
If you could bring one character to life from a favorite book, who would it be? Why?
Inspector Gamache from Louise Penny’s books. He’s wise, compassionate, brave and loyal. I’d love to think he’s for real.
What's your least favorite word?
I am not a fan of profanity with no purpose other than to shock.
If you joined the circus, what act would you most want to perform?
If I were brave or coordinated enough, I’d love to be a trapeze artist. That is not likely to happen, but I’d love to fly. I love ziplines for that same reason.
Which albums, films, and books are you ashamed to admit you love? If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which show would you choose?
Bonus question: Should I have read your book on conducting interviews before attempting this one?
Not really necessary. I do hope you’ll read it to a couple of kids.