Though Ann Haywood Leal's career as an elementary school teacher helped her craft the detail-rich characters in Also Known As Harper (Holt), her touching debut novel for middle-graders, it was what she observed at her local soup kitchen that actually inspired them.
"When I first started volunteering there, I didn’t expect to see all of the families with children," she says. "The character of Harper" – an aspiring poetess faced with homelessness – "developed out of the feeling I got from those children at the community meal center. So many of the adults look dejected and resigned to their situation, but the children still have innocence and hope in their faces."
Leal shares how she crafted her warmly realistic characters, completed a submission-ready manuscript, landed a book deal, and now balances her dual roles as teacher and author in my June children's market column at Authorlink.com.
To learn more about Leal, read the first chapter of Also Known As Harper, and check out a handy discussion guide, be sure to stop by her website.
Causes Susan VanHecke Supports
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
National Trust For Historic Preservation