Esi Edugyan, best known for her adult novels Half-Blood Blues and Washington Black, is making her children’s literature debut with the picture book Garden of Lost Socks. Esi joins us from Victoria, British Columbia to read from her exciting picture book!

Q&A with Esi Edugyan

Where do you find the inspiration for your books?

Inspiration is a tricky word as it implies being suddenly struck with an idea. For me, it’s more stealthy than that: something you read 2 years ago and thought of only rarely can suddenly work itself through to the surface. It can be coming across footnotes in books, or strange news stories, or old photographs, or visiting museums. You carry away some knowledge and it stays with you. For Garden of Lost Socks, it emerged from a dream I had of my childhood neighborhood, a place that to my young self felt dominated by children.

What were your favourite books when you were a kid? As a young reader, did you see yourself in the books you read?

I read so much as a child – it was my chief pleasure. I loved Ann M Martin and Elizabeth Levy, the mysteries of Betty Ren Wright and Carolyn Keene. I adored Judy Bloom – my copy of “Just As Long As We’re Together” was so dog-eared I had to tape it back together again. I did see myself in the books I read, very much — not so much culturally, but in the way that the best books feel universal, and get at something of your own experience. In the Babysitters Club I saw my friends and myself; I was Judy Bloom’s Stephanie Hirsch.

What’s the most surprising thing you have learned when creating your books?

I’m somehow always surprised at how many drafts they take, though I should have grown used to that. I think it feels in life that things should be easier than they are — the idea of struggle itself is off-putting, of having to go through it. Only when you finish a book are you reminded that all the trial and error was the point – it was the main joy of the thing.

What is a challenge you have faced as a writer?

Every book is a challenge: a challenge to write; a challenge to publish; a challenge to promote. I went through a long period earlier in my career where just to have a book looked at by an editor felt impossible, because no one wanted to publish me. Now the challenges are different, less paralyzing, but still there. At this stage in my life, a big challenge is time. When I was young, I never understood it when people said, “My time is important,” or “That’s not worth my time.” It just felt like some self-absorbed, dismissive thing rattled off by pompous people. Time feels pretty sacred now, and like something to protect. You will never write or finish anything without protecting your time.

What advice do you have for kids who are interested in writing?

Read everything! Read books you think you wouldn’t be interested in alongside those you adore. Open yourself up to being surprised and delighted by others’ words. Keep a journal, and try and make stories of incidents in your own lives.