Author Interview: Robin Herrara–Hope is a Ferris Wheel (2014)

Is hope a ferris wheel? Robin Herrera’s Hope is a Ferris Wheel releases on March 11th, and you may have recently read my thoughts about it here on the blog. I am privileged to have interviewed Robin about her book, poetry, hope, and donuts! Enjoy this interview with Robin, a 2014 debut author of a fantastic new middle grade novel. If you want to get into the spirit of things, read the novel while on a ferris wheel–you might just be inspired to write a poem yourself!

Bio: Robin Herrera is an aspiring cat lady living in Portland, OR. She has a BA in English from Mills College and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she isn’t writing, she has a major sweet tooth to satisfy, usually with donuts. Hope Is a Ferris Wheel is her first novel. Visit her on the web at www.robinherrera.com.
Robin's Author Photo, adjusted

1. Emily Dickinson is an excellent poet to include in your story—do you think young readers appreciate poetry and if they don’t, how do you think older readers (and writers!) can help them appreciate it more?

I think some young readers appreciate poetry and some don’t, but I think everyone has the potential to. As a kid, I sure didn’t, but I still liked poets like Shel Silverstein and Judith Viorst, and I liked to write my own poems. I think I was similar to Langston in that I didn’t like poems that didn’t rhyme when I was in elementary school. Obviously my stance changed over the years, but that’s something we kind of drill into kids these days: poems rhyme. (I loved the scene in Lois Lowry’s Anastasia Krupnik where she writes a non-rhyming poem and her teacher chews her out for not following directions. To Anastasia, that was a poem! To everyone else, not so much.

I think a big part of poetry is hearing it spoken out loud. You can read Joyful Noise, but you don’t get the sense of how great those poems are until there are two people standing in front of you reciting their parts. (Although I still hate T. S. Eliot’s poetry even after hearing a recording of him reading The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Bleh.)

It’s hard for readers and writers to get kids to appreciate poetry, though. Something I like to tell young readers is that each poem is different depending on who reads it. Star’s poem about her sister, for example, is read differently by Jared, who thinks she’s talking about the season winter. So letting them know that their interpretation is completely valid gives them a sense of power over the poem. It’s no longer a poem, it’s their poem, no matter who wrote it, because they’re taking something away from it that maybe nobody else has.

It is true that a poem’s meaning can vary depending on the reader who reads it. Readers bring so much to the reading process—it’s amazing!

2. Were there (or are there) any books you read as a young person or as an adult that you would describe as spiritual or somehow affecting your own spirituality?

Wow, I’ve never thought about that before. But I actually was very religious as a child, because I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. I had a very strong sense of what I thought was right and what I thought was wrong, so any books that showed a kind of “gray area” of right and wrong really opened my eyes. One book in particular I loved was I Am Regina by Sally M. Keehn, in which a colonial American girl and her sister are kidnapped by Allegheny Indians. There was no real “this side was right, that side was wrong” in the book, and by the end, I couldn’t decide whether Regina should have stayed with the Indians or gone back to her family. That was a huge revelation for me.

Sounds like an intriguing book that would really make the reader think.

3. Were you in any kinds of clubs when you were in school? Did you start any, like Star does in the book?

The only club I was in during elementary school was the Stamp Club. Which sounds boring, but it was super fun! There were quite a few members, actually, including some of the cooler kids. I remember taking a club trip to a local stamp show, and buying stamps from vendors. (Plus the little sleeves they went in, and the little hinges you bought to put your stamps in collection books.)

I never started any clubs, though I was a founding member of an unofficial club in high school called The Movie Crew. Seven of us started seeing movies every Friday toward the end of our Freshman year of high school, and the club eventually grew to include more people. We continued it throughout high school, even during the summers. So many movies!

What a fabulous idea for a club!

4. I notice the reference the Heavenly Donuts in your book, and we at the blog love donuts! What is your favorite donut?

I love donuts, too! I have a serious sweet tooth, it’s a bit of a problem. But I can never resist a good cream-filled. Round or bar doesn’t matter, and sometimes I’m more in the mood for maple than I am for chocolate. But that cream! Yum.

We love maple bars here! Fun answer. 🙂

5. The title of your book is delightful, and I think the cover fits really well. What do you see hope as? Something similar to what your protagonist says? Or different?

I definitely think hope is something that has a range, like a Ferris wheel. I know that when I feel hope, I often feel worry at the same time – worry that something is going to dash that hope. It can be an emotional cycle.

I actually don’t hope for a lot of things, due to past hopes being terribly dashed. I’m the kind of person who won’t get my hopes up very often in order to not be let down. So hope is a little more insidious for me, even when I do have it. But still, it’s a wonderful feeling to have. I would compare it to a deep-fried candy bar, continuing with that fair theme. I don’t go around buying those very often, considering how terrible they are, nutritionally. (Says the girl who eats donuts.) But when I do buy them, they’re so great! I want to eat them all the time! And then I don’t, because they give me heartburn. Sigh!

I love your metaphor for hope here. What a rich and wonderful array of interview answers. Thank you for visiting us, and sharing more about yourself with us!

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