This year’s Lacey Love to Read author Kashmira Sheth said she’s looking forward to Washington’s early spring-like weather.
“It will be nice to able to get out of this really frigid weather we are having,” Sheth said last week in a telephone call from her hometown Madison, Wisconsin.
As the featured author of the community-wide literacy partnership, Sheth, 62, will visit several North Thurston schools this week and host a “meet the author” event at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lacey Community Center.
In its 11th year, Lacey Loves to Read encourages people of all ages to pick up books by the same author during the month of February. The effort is a partnership between North Thurston Public Schools, the city of Lacey, Timberland Regional Library and several businesses and organizations.
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The Olympian interviewed Sheth by phone about her life and career. Here are excerpts of the conversation:
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I grew up in India, so for elementary school I was in a town Bhavnagar on west coast of India. I went to a Montessori school. I moved to Ames, Iowa, when I was a teenager …For college, I went to Iowa State University for my undergraduate, and then I came to Wisconsin, found a job here and I did my graduate work. I have a master’s in microbiology.
Q: How did you get into writing?
A: When my children were young, I started reading to them. We read the Wilder series (Little House on the Prairie) and Anne of Green Gables. …I read with them for many years, and that’s when I started thinking about writing a story about a young girl who emigrates from India to here. ...I thought even if I don’t get published, at least my kids could see the emotional journey would be similar to mine.
Q: Besides writing, what do you do for a living? Did you end up pursuing work in biology?
A: I teach at Pine Manor College in Boston. (She teaches in the college’s Solstice Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program). … Biology was a long time ago. I worked about 15 years in my field.
Q: Who are your favorite authors, what have you been reading lately?
A: I have always loved reading historical fiction. And growing up in India, there were a lot of (options) in my language. Some of the books I read were stories from 2,000 years ago.
…But right now, I just read a wide variety of books. I read quite a bit of Asian and Indian authors. …My favorite author is probably Hemingway. I’ve probably read all of his books. As for contemporary authors, I read whatever comes out and is recommended by my book club. ... And I love all things by Jacqueline Woodson. Her book “Brown Girl Dreaming,” just won an award.
Q: Have you been a featured author in other community reading efforts, such as Lacey Loves to Read? If so where?
A: In Mattoon, Illinois, they pick 20 books that are on their state award list. …I was fortunate they picked my book out “Boys without Names.”
…I’m also going to Virginia in March. They do a one-city and an adult read.
Q: What’s your advice for people who want to write as a profession, or write their own book?
A: Just sit down and put it on a piece of paper. We are so fortunate to have all of these gadgets with a computer. …I tell (my students) to put those ideas down, and the story you are working on is sort of like the relationship you are in, and there are going to be problems. …Stick to your story, unless you have a really good reason. …I tell myself to just write 500 to 1,000 words a day, and just put it down.
Q: What do you like most about being an author?
A: I love being able to imagine and re-imagine stories, the what, how, why things happen to my characters and how they change. …And another thing I really enjoy is bringing those books and that discussion to children.
Q: What makes it a difficult?
A: When I get busy with other things in life and I don’t get a chance to write, I find myself disappointed and cranky and crabby. …I don’t have too many complaints. It can be freezing in Wisconsin and I can be writing about a warm garden in India where I grew up, and I won’t be feeling it. I love that part of living in my imagination.
Q: Is there anything else to add?
A: Don’t be afraid of revising things. ...That’s part of the job.
I also want to encourage students to take a foreign language. It opens up a new way of looking things.