If you haven’t read The Lifters yet, it’s Dave Egger’s most recent middle grade novel for readers ages 9 to 12. It's a suspenseful tale that walks the line between magic and real and was inspired by the hills north of San Francisco. It's about community, finding a sense of purpose and being a part of something much bigger than yourself. It’s about being a force of change. And it’s a whip-smart page turner full of peculiar names, clueless adults, enormous, strange sinkholes, endless underground tunnels and some fantastically funny moments.
In the last couple of weeks, following our interview with Dave, we held a special Q&A session with him. Readers were invited to submit questions and his answers were posted on @the_lifters_by_dave_eggers. We’re also sharing them below.
@motherofreaders: What idea are you dying to write about, but you haven’t been brave enough to pursue? Do you have any advice for young writers on how they can find the confidence to write their ideas down, even when they seem too different?
DAVE EGGERS: I’ll answer the second part. Confidence is so key with young writers, and that really comes from the elders around them giving them encouragement for whatever they write as very young writers. We can scare young writers off very quickly by being too quick to judge their first drafts, or their very first attempts at creative or expository writing. If we celebrate those first attempts, and then coach them to a second and third draft, you can make any young writer confident and even joyful in their writing. But you have to encourage those early tries without judgment of their subject matter (because anything is appropriate for a beginner), grammar (they will get there), or form (a creative writer is creative with form).
@ddyowell: We love This Bridge and Her Right Foot. Q 1: You’ve been in publishing for some time now. What trends (for better or worse) are you noticing in kidlit publishing? Q2: From your work with students in writing and literacy, do you notice any critical piece(es) of literacy instruction missing in a lot of classrooms?
DAVE EGGERS: I think this is really the best time ever to be a young reader. There now are more books for kids written each year than any time in history. That’s a fact. So the environment is very rich, and the writers working in the form are very talented. Young people have a lot of choices now, and choice is key. We have to give kids power over what they read. Parents of young boys, for example, have to accept that they might choose comics until they’re teenagers. But that’s okay. It really is. The first book I really chose and read for pleasure was Dune, when I was 14. It floored me. The worst case scenario is if someone had told me that that book wasn’t literary enough or appropriate for my age, etc. It would have sapped me of agency and choice. So the classrooms I’ve seen where the kids read exceptionally well are those where the teachers have filled the room with books and present them almost as if they were selling them — with the covers turned out, with recommendations written by other students, etc, making every book seem irresistible.
DAVE EGGERS: It does glow, doesn’t it? The Fans are extraordinary.
@live_read_write: I have two questions for Dave: 1) Are the hills that inspired the story the Marin Headlands? 2) What are some of your favorite narrative nonfiction books for children?
DAVE EGGERS: 1. The hills, yes, are the headlands, and also the Berkeley hills, Pt. Reyes, Petaluma — basically much of Northern California, the topography of which continues to astound me. 2) I’ve read about 100 of the “Who Was?” books with my kids and I think that series is fantastic. I loved Gombrich’s A Little History of the World. Justin Greenwood and Jonathan Hennessey's book about Hamilton is so good.
@danpaley23: How do you know when you have an idea? There are so many that must come to you. How do you decide to pursue the ones you do?
DAVE EGGERS: Such a good question. I tend to write any idea down, and many don’t really go further than that. But some ideas… I was about to say ‘fester’ but that’s not the word. They stick to the bones. They keep gnawing at you. Then sometimes they’re helped along by some other force, like a wind at their back. You write down “Story about mailperson named Riley," and the next day you happen to get talking to someone who used to be a mailperson, and that talk gives that initial idea layers and momentum. At any given point, I might have an unruly number of ideas in various boxes and drawers, and it’s when a combination of coincidences, unforeseen forces, research and luck that brings one of those ideas to the fore and it becomes The Next Thing.