Author Abby Cooper was once a teacher (as well as a school librarian). It was a profession she adored, but she had always enjoyed writing too. It was actually her students who encouraged her to write her very first book: Sticks & Stones! Since then, Abby has continued to write, and write, and write! Her latest novel, Bubbles, came out just last year. We are thrilled that we were able to snag a copy of it for ourselves! Check out our review of it here:
Review of Bubbles by Abby Cooper
Realistic fiction is a favorite of mine, especially when it comes to children’s books. However, I also love fantasy. Bubbles combines the two into one perfect ice cream flavor! It’s like Cold Stone, but for books.
You see, Bubbles is all about accepting this twist on reality when young Sophie Mulvaney starts seeing thought bubbles appear over people’s heads. Crazy as it seems, it totally works as the novel gives us some insight on what it would feel like if you thought you could know what other people were always thinking.
Besides magically seeing thought bubbles appear out of nowhere, Sophie has a lot of things going on (as middle-schoolers usually do). Her mom is going through some things, which leaves Sophie to deal with her own crazy life. Plus, she’s so confused by what the thought bubbles have to say that so many unexpected things begin to occur and spiral out of control.
This novel is the perfect balance of relatability and fun! It’s great for any age, not just for those who might be in middle or elementary school. It’s also a great and consuming read for anyone who has ever felt like they were on the outside looking in. If you ever need a good book to read on a rainy day, this one’s it! Honestly, I think everyone should read Bubbles if they ever have the chance. It’s really that wonderful of a book!
Q&A with Abby Cooper
We also had the lovely opportunity to sit down with Abby and learn more about her, her books, and how much she loves to be a writer. Check it out here:
Can you tell us about yourself and what you do?
I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota with my boyfriend, my miniature poodle, and a whole bunch of books! I’ve always loved reading and writing. I am so grateful to be living my dream of being a children’s author.
What were you up to before you became a children’s author?
I studied Elementary Education in college at Indiana University and spent a few years as a teacher and school librarian, which I loved. My students were actually the ones who got me to start writing Sticks & Stones! Wonder by RJ Palacio had just come out and they loved it so much. I told them my idea for Sticks & Stones, which has similar aspects, and they said “yeah, you should write that.” Then they followed up pretty much every single day to make sure that I was working on it. I couldn’t have done it without them!
What inspired you to be a writer in the first place?
I grew up saying “I want to be an author”, and I think that was because I just loved to read and write so much. I still do! But now I understand more about the incredible power books have. They reflect our own lives and give us glimpses into the lives of others. They show us that whatever we’re dealing with, we’re not alone. They make us more empathetic. Writing is fun, yes, but knowing my words have the power to help people, to encourage more empathy in this world – that’s what keeps me going.
You have two published books. The first is called Sticks & Stones. Can you tell us about this novel and what inspired you to write it?
Sticks & Stones is about twelve-year-old Elyse. She has a rare skin disorder, Cognadjivisibilitis, which causes the names others call her to appear on her arms and legs and stick like temporary tattoos. (Don’t worry – Cognadjivisibilitis is totally made up!) She discovers that the names she calls herself show up, too. She decides she’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of the negative words, but that ends up being a lot more difficult than she plans.
As I mentioned earlier, the book, Wonder, inspired me quite a bit. I think students responded to it the way they did because at this age (approx. 8-12), kids often feel different than their peers in a variety of ways. I wanted to give them another character they could relate to and root for. Not to spoil anything, but ultimately Elyse learns that there’s probably always going to be a pesky negative word on her skin, but she’s the one who controls what she believes is true. The book is about accepting and loving yourself no matter what. It’s about remembering to be kind to others and remembering to be kind to yourself.
Your other novel is called Bubbles. Can you tell us a bit about that novel and how you were inspired to write it?
Bubbles is about twelve-year-old Sophie, who one day starts seeing thought bubbles (like in cartoons and graphic novels) above real people’s heads. These bubbles reveal what, Sophie believes, they are really thinking. Of course, misunderstandings abound! This book came from me wishing we could somehow just KNOW what’s going on with others and that they’d just know what was going on with us. As I explored that idea, I realized that even with the best imaginary thought bubbles in the world, it’s impossible to truly know for sure what someone else is thinking or feeling or dealing with. As Sophie discovers, sometimes the best way to find out is to communicate honestly and openly with people you trust.
You’ve always had a love for reading! Has your literary background inspired you to do other things besides writing?
I love everything having to do with reading and writing. Being an author is so cool because I get to meet so many kids and share that passion with them. I visit local schools all the time and discuss reading, writing, and perseverance with students. I also Skype with classrooms around the world. I recently got to chat with students at an International School in Ghana. It was so fantastic! I’ve read a lot of the same books as the students. Reading truly connects us all.
You also provide creative writing mentoring to kids! What is it like to inspire young writers?
It is the best. The very best. I know how valuable it is for kids to meet and talk to a real author, because I was one of those kids. Growing up, I attended a local Young Authors Conference where I got to learn from published authors. I couldn’t believe they were even talking to me, let alone taking my writing seriously. It encouraged me to keep going, to express myself, to believe in myself and the stories I wanted to tell. It is such an honor to be able to pay that forward to the next generation of writers.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? How do you like to create?
My writing process changes from book to book. Sometimes I know the ending, but not the beginning. Sometimes I know the characters, but not what happens to them. Sometimes I outline, sometimes I don’t. I’m all over the place! That’s one of the things I love about writing, though – there’s not really a right or wrong way to do it. You just figure out what works for you and your specific project. As long as you end up with something you’re proud of, you’re doing it right.
Is there a fun fact about yourself that might surprise our readers if you were to share it with them?
Not at all reading or writing related, but I can make a super strange humming sound out of my nose. I actually won a “weirdest talent” contest like ten years ago through People Magazine. My video was on their website for a month!
Who inspires you the most to write?
My readers! Kids are so funny, smart, and thoughtful. When I get e-mails or notes from students saying my book(s) inspired them to discuss something, or think about something, or take some kind of action, that’s amazing. That’s how I measure success. And it’s not only kids! I’ve gotten messages from adults saying that my books changed their lives. How cool is that? I’m always inspired to write because it’s my passion, but knowing that my words can help someone and make a real difference in people’s lives – that’s incredible. I want to keep doing it as long as I possibly can.
What do you want kids to gain the most from your novels?
My ultimate goal is to create kids who love to read. Of course, I love it when readers take away something from one of my books – a message, a new idea, etc. But it’s most important to me that they have a positive reading experience, and that they’re excited to read more and more and more.
What advice would you give to struggling writers out there who are trying to accomplish their dreams?
I truly believe anything is possible if you believe in yourself, but you also have to put in the hard work. Writing is hard. Revising is hard. Publishing is hard. That’s not meant to be discouraging. You just have to be ready to give it your all. Honestly, I worked harder on my first book than maybe anything else I’d ever worked on my entire life. (Until I started working on my second book, that is!) That being said, I’ve never been so proud of myself, either. Being published is wonderful, but having written a manuscript that sort of blows your own mind – that’s a huge achievement in itself.
Your career seems boundless, especially for how creative and well-written your books are. Where do you see yourself going from here?
Thank you! I hope to have a long career. I’ll keep writing books until someone tells me to stop (and even then I won’t stop, because I’m a rebel like that.)
Do you have any final words of wisdom that you would like to share with our readers?
Eat dessert first. I mean that both literally and figuratively. If there is a scene or character you’re really excited to write (that’s the dessert), don’t wait! There’s no rule that says you have to start at the beginning and go straight through to the end. Write what makes you happy. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have a piece of cake!