Three Questions With Pamela Ehrenberg

>Photo by Alexandra Taylor

A drawing of a city

What are you working on right now?

I have a couple of picture books out on submission, and two middle-grade manuscripts that I'm really hoping to have time to dive back into revising this summer. During the pandemic, I found some comfort in getting back to the “wordplay” aspect of writing. I'm enjoying playing with a couple of super-short board book manuscripts - shorter than the answer to this question!

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

Don't be afraid to be different! Whether that means speaking out about something other people don't seem to be paying attention to, quietly taking it all in when other people can't seem to stop talking, choosing a friend without worrying about who's “popular,” or wearing your socks in a way no one's tried before! If you want to become an author or illustrator, it's great to start believing in yourself as soon as possible - really believing that your perspective matters and that the world needs to hear from you.

When did you know you wanted to be an author?

When I was in kindergarten, I wrote a story (well, I narrated the story to a parent volunteer who wrote the words down underneath my pictures). It was about a bunch of people trapped in a house with a witch. I shared it with the class, and at the end a boy named Michael shouted, “because the witch ate everyone!” Which was *not* the meaning I had intended. It gave me my first glimpse that the story in my head isn't the one that matters - what matters is the story that the reader sees on the page. That experience in realizing my classmate heard a totally different story than what I thought I had written set me on a path of wanting to write more stories and keep trying to get better at matching the words on the page to the story in my head.

More About Pamela Ehrenberg

Pamela tells PJ Library, “My life as a writer began at age two and a half. I remember my dad picking me up from nursery school and explaining as we walked hand in hand across the parking lot, that I really should consider playing with the toys there, not just watching the other children.

For four decades, including my time at the University of Pennsylvania and as an AmeriCorps service member, watching and listening played a big role in my development as a writer. I learned how to notice stories and channel them into the world. In any good story, the characters must change, and the same is true for writers. Now I believe we must be more active in determining whose stories are heard, how those stories are told, and who has access to hear them.

With great hope for the future ahead, watching and listening will always be important to who I am as a writer. Though, you'll no longer find me passively by the sidelines. I encourage you to join me in shaping our shared future together.”

More about Detour Ahead

Detour Ahead is a story co-written by Pamela Ehrenberg and Tracy López. In alternating chapters of prose and verse, Gilah prepares for her upcoming bat mitzvah while her new friend Guillermo enters a poetry contest. The compelling dual point-of-view brings readers into the minds of Gilah, who is neurodiverse and attends a special needs school, and Salvadoran American Guillermo, who is finding his voice through poetry. For more, read Detour Ahead's Kirkus Starred Review.