An Interview with Maggie Tokuda-Hall, author of Also An Octopus

How did you become an author and how long have you been doing this?
It depends on how you cut it. This is my first book! So in a way, I've only been doing this since today, October 4th, 2016.
 
I was a very long time children's bookseller for the independent bookstore chain, Books Inc. I ran the children's department for the company, and did storytimes for years, and all that wonderful time with kids inspired me to write for them. 
 
I studied writing in college and have an MFA in writing, but the best education I ever got was just reading to kids all the time. They're such savvy readers. They don't feel obligated to pay attention if a story doesn't interest them, and they don't force themselves to like things they don't love. You can learn so much about craft just by reading out loud to kids-- whether you write for kids or not. 
 
So, if doing this refers to reading to kids? My whole adult life. If it refers to being an author more specifically, I think when I won a prize for writing in college was probably the first time I really thought of myself as a real life writer, not just a weirdo with a laptop and an obsessive nature. They gave me a check, and I was like: This is a real thing.

How would you describe your style?
Silly. I don't think I've ever written anything that didn't have a wink in it somewhere. I write this way for kids and for adults in equal measure, but I think writing for kids was what gave me the confidence to look at my world view and realize it was one with a heavy dose of humor in it. I think, sometimes, we're able to grapple with really tough things-- disappointment, disillusionment, disaster-- more profoundly with laughter. Laughter lets it all in.  

What other writers or artists have influenced your work?
Kurt Vonnegut was the author who made me want to be a writer. M.T. Anderson was the author who made me want to write for kids. Oliver Jeffers was the author who made me want to write a picture book. Jon Klassen is the author who inspired me to actually do it. And when I grow up, I hope I can write with the humor and emotional acuity of Kate DiCamillo who is, I think, the greatest kids' author alive right now.

Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?
Right now, I'm traveling South America with my husband in a Toyota 4Runner that's our home. So I'm in an inspiration gathering phase of life, and I'm relishing every minute of it. Recently, I met some flamingos, so I have that going for me, which is nice. 

Do you have a favorite picture book?
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen is formative for me, and is the inspiration for Also an Octopus. I think it's a perfect book. I also love, LOVE The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers, The Dark by Lemony Snicket, I'm a Shark by Bob Shea and Maggie and the Monster by Elizabeth Winthrop. Oh, and Doctor DeSoto, which I remember my mother reading to me over and over again. And Gorilla by Anthony Browne. And Big Rabbit's Bad Mood by Ramona Badescu. And I anxiously await every book Rowboat Watkins has written.
I have a lot of favorites. 

We are so thankful for Maggie taking the time to answer some questions for our Tiny Readers audience and couldn't be more excited about the new release! You can follow along with her on Instagram here, and purchase Also An Octopus from Candlewick Press here!