Saturday, September 11, 2021

Wait Until I Grow Up: An Interview with Celeste Parsons

Wait Until I Grow Up: An Interview with Celeste Parsons
with Gina McKnight

Ohio author Celeste Parsons lives in a log house built on a former dairy farm with her husband Jim, her Westie dog, Spook, and a revolving population of deer, turkeys, chipmunks, hummingbirds, and other wildlife. She has written poems, plays, technical documentation, and newspaper articles since childhood, and is the editor of Nelsonville from A to Z. Her first children's book, Wait Until I Grow Up, was launched earlier this year.

Welcome, Celeste!

GM: What is the premise for your new children's book?
CP:  Children, as they grow, naturally want to be able to do more and more "grown up" things, and their point of view keeps them from seeing why adults make the restrictions they do.  But they can also appreciate the pleasures of being a child.

GM: The main character, Mandy, is endearing. Is her name and characteristics from someone in your life, or is she a fictional character?
CP:  I have no idea why I decided my main character was named Mandy--I didn't even know anyone named Amanda until a few years ago.  And she is not based on any single person in my life.  I just like feisty, smart kids, and I tried to imagine what a childlike that would do if she was really frustrated about not being allowed to do things she believed she was capable of doing.

GM: What would you like children to learn from your story?
CP:  I would like children to feel a kinship with Mandy, and I would like them to ask themselves why her parents think what they think.

GM: Take us on a journey through your typical day...
CP:  I usually get up between 7:30 and 8:00 (later during the winter and earlier during the summer--I think it depends on the amount of sunlight coming into my bedroom). Breakfast is tea and cereal with some kind of fruit--this summer it has been home-grown berries. While we have breakfast, my husband and I work a cryptic crossword puzzle to stretch out our brains. We will take a ride on our tandem bicycle for two or three hours and spend some time in the garden. I check email and do "office work," which might be writing or revising a manuscript, drawing, finances (church treasurer), or going over something about a community theater play.  During the past year, we began working jigsaw puzzles, so now there is usually a puzzle in construction on the dining room table. It's hard to pass that without trying to put in at least a few pieces! Right now I am directing a play, so I have to have supper ready by 5:30 so that I can be at Stuart’s Opera House in plenty of time for rehearsal at 6:30. I'm home by about 8:45 and try to calm down from the theater high by having some dessert and watching an episode of a TV series. I'll climb into bed about 10 and read for a while before shutting down. It's a pretty busy schedule--I've tried hard to pull back from some activities, but I enjoy doing too many different things to be able to have much success at doing less!
GM: As a poet and writer, how do you maintain thoughts and ideas?
CP:   If a phrase or a story idea comes into my head, I write it down as soon as I can find pencil and paper. Although I love word processing capabilities, I prefer to do first drafts by hand, with pencil. I also think things over while I'm doing work that doesn't take much mental attention--like weeding, or housecleaning, or sometimes while I'm bike riding. I can walk around with the vacuum cleaner, stopping every couple of minutes to scribble an additional few lines of a poem or story, or repeat something over and over in my head to keep it from drifting away while I'm gardening or biking. I have a whole story in my head about a woman and her grandson picking berries (composed, of course, while I was picking berries), and I'll write that down as soon as I get a minute. . .

GM: What are you currently reading?
CP:  The Lamplighters, by Emma Stonex. It's a novel based on a real mystery involving three lighthouse keepers who vanished from an offshore lighthouse tower leaving no trace.

GM: Who are your favorite children's lit authors?
CP:  Maurice Sendak.  A. A. Milne (the Winnie the Pooh stories and two volumes of poems). Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising series).  T. H. White (The Sword in the Stone and Mistress Masham's Repose).  All of these writers can tell wonderful stories set in worlds that are almost ours but not quite, and make the reader feel perfectly at home there.
GM: Do you have advice for novice writers and those looking to publish their first book?
CP:  Love language, listen to it carefully, Whew!!  and relish using it in unusual ways. Enjoy the act of writing, and polishing, and polishing. And remember that it's never too late to try something new.

GM: In your travels, where on earth is your favorite place to be?
CP:  I've traveled a lot, seen some wonderful places, and had some amazing experiences, but my favorite place to be--to stay for long periods of time--is still my own home. We built our log home ourselves, on land that gives us plenty of privacy and space but is still close enough to town to see those we are close to. And I never get tired of looking out the windows.

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