Three Questions With Evan Wolkenstein

In each installment of "Three Questions With" we ask a different PJ Library author or illustrator questions about their work, their process, and their interests. Today we're chatting with author Evan Wolkenstein. Read on for a special announcement about our friend Turtle Boy plus a bonus question and answer.

What are you working on right now?

I'm working on the sequel to Turtle Boy! All creative projects grow and change and evolve, so who knows what it will look like even six months from now, but as I wrote Turtle Boy, I became inspired by Shirah Elbaz - Will's best friend. She is smart and strong and loyal ... but also sensitive and vulnerable and devoted to making the world a better place. I will also mention that I have become fascinated by monkeys. So, how does a story about monkeys emerge in the prairies of Wisconsin? Wait and see...

A boy in a green hooded sweatshirt

Best advice for kids who would like to become authors/illustrators?

Doing anything creative requires a balance of excitement, passion and crazy inspiration...but also patience and a commitment to creating for the sake of GROWTH. And a willingness to make lots and lots of garbage before great stuff emerges. As a kid, I wanted to be a writer but never finished anything because it never came out right. Ultimately, this is like anything: sports, theater, school. You need to learn to fall -- and you need to go through it with a coach who cares and friends who believe in you.

If you could go back in time and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would tell myself to listen. Listen more, listen better, listen deeper. I was so concerned about what people thought of everything I said - with demonstrating who I was - but if I'd taken the time to listen and understand people more, to learn about them, to ask questions and hold the information - it would have helped me to see that other people are people like me. I would have understood the topography of humanhood better.

What books, music, or art inspired you when you were young?

My first three musical loves were J.S. Bach, Weird Al Yankovich, and the Beatles. Bach taught me about majesty. Weird Al taught me not to take myself so seriously. And the Beatles showed me that doing strange things, new things, unheard of things -- could lead to unexplored lands. All through my ears.

More about Evan Wolkenstein

M. Evan Wolkenstein is a high school teacher and writer. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Hebrew University, and the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies. His work can be found in The Forward, Tablet Magazine, The Washington Post, Engadget, My Jewish Learning, and BimBam.

He lives with his wife and daughters in the San Francisco Bay Area. Turtle Boy is his first novel and winner of the 2021 Sydney Taylor Book Award. Evan can be found on Twitter and at Instagram at @evanwolkenstein.