Jacqueline Woodson på Skeppsholmen 2018.jpg Photo: Stefan Tell

"The young people have always been thoughtful and deliberate, have always shown up"

Why does Jacqueline Woodson write about young people? What does becoming an ALMA laureate mean to her and what does she have to say to young aspiring authors?

How was your day after the announcement?

– My day was surreal. And amazing. At many points, I had to stop and say "Wait! I just won the ALMA!" Right after the call came, I had to jump right into Mommy mode and prepare my 10 year old’s lunch, get the sixteen year old out the door and get some coffee into my body! All the while, my phone - which we very rarely answer - was ringing off the hook with various radio, tv and print journalists calling with questions. The thing was - I had not even fully absorbed the enormity of the moment. I think it’s pretty much indicative of life -good things and bad things happen and you deal with them but you still have to keep moving though your everyday. So psyched that this was a 'good thing'. 

You have been awarded a number of great literary prizes in the U.S. What does becoming an ALMA laureate mean to you?

– It means the world has been watching and paying attention and given the state of our country right now, that makes me very hopeful. It also means I’ll be able to get books into the hands of so many more young people who will be able to reflect on what is happening in this country and connect it to their own lives. It feels like the beginning of a much larger conversation and that’s very exciting to me.

In many of your books, you have created unforgettable and strong portraits of young people. Why do you choose to write about them?

– I do adore young people. They’re amazing. They’re going to be the ones to change the world now in the same way that they have done in the past - from the White Rose Student Group to the young people in the Civil Rights Movement to the most recent Children’s March against gun violence. The young people have always been thoughtful and deliberate, have always shown up.

If you had to recommend one of your books to someone who does not know you yet, which would it be?

– Each Kindness for the younger ones and If You Come Softly for the older ones. And of course, Brown Girl Dreaming which is a memoir. But that’s three books so I’m cheating. :)

A lot of children and young people like to write and draw story's. What do you have to say to young aspiring authors?

– Keep doing it. We all have stories and a right to tell them. Our stories matter. Our drawings matter. If we don’t tell those stories, who will? Just remember that writing and drawing are muscles. You have to do it everyday to keep it strong and make it stronger.

This interview was conducted the day after the announcement on March 27, 2018.