Thursday, February 11, 2021

An Interview with Anne Ursu 2020 Mythopoeic Award for Children's Fantasy Finalist


Anne Ursu is a finalist for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature for her book 
The Lost Girl. She is the author of several books for young readers and is the 2013 recipient of the McKnight Fellowship in Children’s Literature. Anne’s latest book, The Real Boy, is an Indie Next pick and on the 2013 longlist for the National Book Award. She is also the author of Breadcrumbs, which was acclaimed as one of the best books of 2011 by the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly,, and the Chicago Public Library. It was also on the IndieBound Next List and was featured on NPR’s Backseat Book Club. Anne is also the author of the three books that comprise The Cronus Chronicles: The Shadow Thieves, The Siren Song, and The Immortal Fire.

Anne teaches at Hamline University's MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and lives in Minneapolis with her son and three cats.


Anne Ursu, author of the National Book Award nominee The Real Boy, returns with a story of the power of fantasy, the limits of love, and the struggles inherent in growing up.

When you’re an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark.

Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive, dreamy, and brilliant―and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.

When fifth grade arrives, however, it's decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different classrooms, and something breaks in them both.

Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them, things both great and small going missing without a trace.

As Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.


What is the central idea behind The Lost Girl?

I was really interested in exploring very close relationships between girls, and the way society sometimes finds them suspect. I also wanted to write about how powerful having a community of friends can be, and how absolutely necessary.

How does this book fit in with the rest of your writing? Do you prefer writing one off stories or series?

In my books I try very hard to marry intimate character portrayals with fantastic elements; to me fantasy for young readers is interesting because it can help illuminate the real world experiences and struggles of contemporary kids, whether personal or epic. I am hopeful that that’s what they have in common.

I wrote a trilogy once, and vowed never to write another trilogy. It is not the project for someone who is not a good planner!

What is your philosophy toward writing for children? Do you think it is substantially different than writing for adults?
I don’t. When I’m writing, I don’t think that I’m writing for children. After the initial choice of picking a middle-grade aged protagonist and trying to write the book that they need, I am just focused on telling a story. But writing for children is a responsibility, and I do feel that that is motivating to me as a writer and as a person.

Have you read any of the Inklings books (Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams)? Do you like them?
Oh, yes. I grew up reading Narnia, and am still traumatized by Aslan on the stone table. I didn’t read Tolkien as a kid—I tried when I was too young and couldn’t get into them—but devoured those books as an adult. My iPhone email signature is “Sent from my Precious.”

If you could recommend one book for everyone to read, what would it be and why?
I would recommend A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat. It’s such an exemplar middle grade fantasy, exploring issues of abuses of power and injustice while also centering the emotional experience of its kid protagonists.

Do you have any new books in the works?
I do! I have a book called The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy coming out in fall, also for middle grade readers. It is about a reform school for girls in a fantasy kingdom that is plagued by monsters.

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