The staff at Free Spirit is privileged to work with many amazing authors. We will be sharing more author spotlights with you, and hope you enjoy learning about these writers who are dedicated to helping kids succeed. The following interview was recently published in our newsletter, Upbeat News.
After meeting in a writing class for kids—she was the instructor and he was a seven-year-old—Nancy Carlson was so impressed by Armond Isaak’s stories about life as a kid with Asperger’s syndrome that, when he contacted her a few years down the road, she agreed to help him turn those stories into one of her signature picture books. Fast-forward to the present: the pair is about to publish their new project, Armond Goes to a Party: A story about Asperger’s and friendship. Read on to learn more about this inspiring duo and their mission to help kids with autism spectrum disorders feel less alone.
Q: Let’s start with the basics: you two met when Nancy taught a writing class for kids at the Loft Literary Center. How did the two of you decide to team up to write this book?
Nancy: Armond really wanted to help other kids with Asperger’s so he wrote a book about his feelings and came to me with it. I thought it was a good idea!
Armond: When I was in the 4th grade, I was watching a news story on TV about parents who just wrote a book about how to parent a child with Asperger’s. Since all the books I’d read when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s never really connected with me, my mom asked me if I wanted to write a book about my life with Asperger’s. I thought that idea was good. I said yes right away and asked my mom to ask Nancy Carlson if she wanted to team up with me because I am one of her biggest fans and especially love her illustrations. She said yes.
Q: Why did you decide to write Armond Goes to a Party?
Nancy: When Armond wrote down his feelings he said when he gets overwhelmed with friends he needs a break. He also wrote he hates things disorganized, and I thought a birthday party would be a great place to set this book.
Armond: I actually wrote a book about my entire life with Asperger’s and going to a party is one part of my life that was really hard in elementary school. Nancy thought a book about going to birthday parties is probably tough for most kids with Asperger’s so she focused on that part of my life.
Q: What has been the best part of working on this book?
Armond: Knowing that all the really hard and lonely times I had in elementary school might end up helping other kids. I didn’t fit in and knew it but thought I was the only one. Now, knowing that the book is published, I hope other young kids with Asperger’s feel connected to me and not alone and sad.
Q: Is there a book that inspired you the most as a kid?
Nancy: The Betsy Tacy series.
Armond: My big sister Emma’s favorite author in kindergarten was Nancy Carlson and she told me all about the funny books. I had my mom take me and my younger sister Mary to the library to read Nancy’s books. She was my first favorite author. I loved her characters, especially Loud Mouth George. I wanted to read every book she wrote and I think I did.
Q: Armond Goes to a Party is about a boy with Asperger’s syndrome who practices coping skills while attending a friend’s birthday party. Describe your perfect birthday celebration.
Nancy: Hiking with my kids and eating a big batch of cookies!
Armond: Helping my dad make my favorite dinner (juicy lucy’s, green bean casserole and cheesy potatoes) and eating it with my family. Eating homemade chocolate cake my sisters and mom usually make for me along with my favorite chocolate ice-cream. Then, opening my gifts and building my new Lego sets.
Q: Nancy, your many picture books are celebrated for their energetic artwork and positive tone. Where do you find the inspiration to constantly create such fantastic work?
Nancy: I doodle every day which keeps my art fresh. I also look at a lot of visual images; whether it’s design, photos or fine art, I just like to see beautiful things!
Q: Armond, do you have any advice for kids with Asperger’s syndrome? Do you have any advice for young authors?
Armond: My advice for kids with Asperger’s is to not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Everybody has something that makes them different, just know what it is for you and be happy with the way you were made. My advice for young authors is to share your stories with the world whatever way you can.
Q: Now that you’ve created this awesome book, what are you going to do next?
Nancy: Work on a book about doodling, I hope!
Armond: Get ready for high school and continue to talk to young kids with Asperger’s if it makes them feel better.
Q: And finally, our favorite question for authors: What makes you a “Free Spirit?” (Besides the fact that you published your book with us. . . )
Nancy: I am never bored and I just love people!
Armond: I am creative and excited about life.
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