Sandy Stark-McGinnis: Extraordinary Birds
April is here! Wahoo! There are so many wonderful books this month! Are your eyeballs ready?
by Sandy Stark-McGinnis
Eleven-year-old December knows everything about birds, and everything about getting kicked out of foster homes. All she has of her mom is the bird guide she left behind, and a message: "In flight is where you'll find me." December believes she's truly a bird, just waiting for the day she transforms. The scar on her back is where her wings will sprout; she only needs to find the right tree and practice flying.
When she's placed with foster mom Eleanor, who runs a taxidermy business and volunteers at a wildlife rescue, December begins to see what home means in a new light. But the story she’s told herself about her past is what's kept her going this long. Can she learn to let go?
April 30th, 2019
Introduce yourself and your debut novel!
I’m Sandy Stark-McGinnis. I live with my husband and two children in northern California. In my sixteen years as an educator, I’ve taught kindergarten, first and second grade, and now I teach fifth. My debut middle grade novel, Extraordinary Birds, is about eleven-year-old December. December has convinced herself that the scar on her back is where wings once unfolded. When she’s placed with Eleanor, her new foster mom, who is a taxidermist and volunteers at a wildlife refuge, December begins to see what home means. But, can she let herself trust enough to let go of the past and decide not to fly away?
What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?
I’m surprised and delighted about how supportive fellow authors are—there is a whole lot of kindness out there!
Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!
My shout-out goes to Gillian McDunn, whose debut middle grade, Caterpillar Summer, debuts April 2. Gillian has been so generous to me. I am grateful for her support, and Caterpillar Summer is an amazing novel.
What's a cool thing about your book that isn't in the blurb?
December knows everything about birds, and she uses her knowledge about them to navigate her way through interactions with people.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had two inspirations for the book: Students I’ve had through the years, and a newspaper article, reporting an incident where a mother, in a methamphetamine rage, physically attacked her young daughter. With December I wanted to explore how a child could endure an event like that. Where would she find the strength to keep going and find a better place, a place of healing?
What advice would you give to a new writer?
I know this advice has been given many, many times before—that’s because it’s true! Write and read. Write and read. And, try to find a place where you don’t get freaked out about revising something over and over and over, again. You have to learn to be patient with yourself and with the process.
Describe your writing space.
We have a small loft above the living room that is my office. I’m surrounded by books, photographs of my family, drawings my kids have given me, rocks, shells and sand dollars we’ve collected from our many trips to the beach. I also have a couple of stuffed birds we’ve inherited from my father-in-law, a retired zoology professor. The owls greet me every morning when I sit down to write.
Who is your favorite author?
I can’t choose just one. Sandra Cisneros, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich—I really could go on and on.
What book or author has most influenced your own writing?
The book that’s influenced me over the years is The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I’m inspired by the voice and the simple, but layered, poetic prose. To me, it’s the perfect book.
Link us your favorite song!
Link to a favorite song—I have many favorite songs, but this is one of them that connects to Extraordinary Birds: https://youtu.be/pSLruXuStqc
Thanks Sandy! Everyone, go check out her book on 4/30/19!