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Author Chat with Gary Soto


Transcript of Live Chat
July 20, 2006

summer_reading It's our pleasure to welcome the award-winning poet, playwright, novelist and biographer, gary Soto to our first Books: A Treasure! Summer Reading Chat of 2006. The author of Crazy Weekend, Too Many Tamales, Chato Goes Crusin', Taking Sides and Neighborhood Odes, his most recent books include Accidental Love, The Afterlife, Marisol, and Worlds Apart. He joins our online chat from his hometown of Berkeley, California. Gary has his own website:

summer_reading gary, welcome!. We are thrilled that you can join us today!

joe Any plans for a new Chato book?

gary I have three Chato books and the last one is Chato Goes Cruisin' It's out there, sailing the seas. But I don't forsee another Chato title for a long, long time.

poiuytrewq What inspired you to choose writing as your career?

gary I was no good at math. But seriously, I felt that writing was my path when I wrote my first love poem, age 17, and it hooked this girl I liked in high school.

Dakara_Rugby_branch What was your first book you made?

gary It was called THE ELEMENTS OF SAN JOAQUIN and it was published in 1977. That was, like, last century.

Dakara_Rugby_branch what was your least favorite book written?

gary It's a secret.

joe Do you ever make author appearances in New York?

gary Yes, I was at the Spence School this past spring. Great, beautiful school filled with really smart young women. Smarter than me, in fact.

julie How did you come up with the idea for the Afterlife? That's my favorite book of yours!

gary Thanks for the kind comment. I really dug writing THE AFTERLIFE. It came so effortlessly. This novel is the sequel to BURIED ONIONS. I really don't believe in sequels, except in the Star War movies, but I thought I should expand on the novel. Thus, THE AFTERLIFE.

jack Hi gary--who are the writers that inspire you?

gary I got so many writers--W.S. Merwin, Pablo Neruda, John Galsworthy, Edward Field, Thomas Berger, etc. I read everything. In fact, I'm rereading Lorrie Moore, a genius.

khomali Do you plan on making movies?

gary Me, no. But BURIED ONIONS has been signed up to become a major-motion picture, and this was six years ago. I'm waiting to be FAMOUS!

htr-GSfanclub what was the hardest book you ever wrote?

gary I have a novel called NICKEL AND DIME, published about six years ago. This is one of my favorite works. Man, I worked on this novel nine months, day in and day out. The poor novel did not sell!

whiskers Do you have a children's and an adult book you think is really special and we should read?

gary Yes, my novel NICKEL AND DIME. It's an adult book worth a few select readers.

Ann Which is harder to write - picture books or fiction for teens?

gary Young adult fiction. You have to be there for days, while picture books (provided a story hits you) can be written in a few days. But I prefer YA fiction. My new novel next spring ('07) is MERCY ON THESE TEENAGE CHIMPS. It's muy funny.

summer_reading Who is your favorite Latino writer?

gary He doesn't write much, but I'm in awe of Victor Martinez, author of PARROT IN THE OVEN. Masterful piece of writing.

AClarke We're just curious--are you writing from home, and where is that? California?

gary I'm writing from Berkeley, CA. But my wife and I have also have a place in Fresno, California. We were there yesterday, and it was major hot. Like 107 in the shade. And we stayed in the shade a lot.

Jamie_Mississippi You've written in a diverse number of formats: poetry, picture books, chapter books, novels, plays. Is there a format you still want to try?

gary True, I have written in all genres. At heart, though, I feel that I'm a poet, my first passion. My new book poetry this year is A FIRE IN MY HANDS, an expanded edition that was first published in 1990.

joe What are you working on now?

gary I'm working on a collection of love poems for middle-grade students. Please visit my website and you'll see three poems from this collection, tentatively called PARTLY CLOUDY: POEMS OF LOVE AND LONGING.

htr-GSfanclub what is the best book you have ever written?

gary It might be JESSE, a novel set during the great grape boycott of 1973--here, think of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. The setting is my hometown of Fresno.

summer_reading How does your Mexican heritage inspire you?

gary Everything I think of my heritage. I look down at my arm and see that I'm brown, brown, brown.

poiuytrewq Was the after life based on any of your beliefs on what happens to people after they die?

gary THE AFTERLIFE is book of fiction that could have happened. But I've seen such scenes in Fresno--lots of hurt there but strength as well.

jackie what stories do you recommend with action?

gary With action? Hmmmm, I don't know. For action I got to Elmore Leonard or Walter Mosely, both masters of the detective novels. But, hey, I have a little novel called CRAZY WEEKEND. There's action there, I think. One of the characters, I recall, trips and hurts his knee. Poor guy.

jackie i love your book baseball in april

gary Thank you, Jackie. I wrote that book on typewriter. Can you imagine that? My favorite story in that collection is called "Two Dreamers," which is about the relationship between a Mexican grandfather and his Americanized grandson.

mark___rudy_Rugby_Branch how many books did you read in your whole life?

gary A zillion

mark___rudy_Rugby_Branch how long does it take to make a book?

gary Depends on the book. If it's a middle grade or YA novel, I usually write about three pages a day, or four, or five. But not much more. My favorite time to write is in winter--I'm locked inside and no one bothers me. It makes the day go quickly.

whiskers Do you plan on visiting any of the New York Public Branch Libraries in the future?

gary If I'm invited.

joe Who is your favorite author?

gary John Galsworthy, an English writer who did his magic around 1910.

poiuytrewq What inspired you to write the book "Accidental Love"?

gary Ah, a question about my new book, AC. I don't recall anything specific, except I wanted to write about a loud Latina who goes around shouting, SHUT UP, STUPID! Of course, we like her quite a bit because she defends her best friend. In short, we learn about loyalty among friends.

jackie do you have famous friends?

gary Famous friends? You mean, like, J-Lo or Flea from the Chili Peppers. No, but there is a dog that circles around my neighborhood and he's pretty famous. He can shake paws and stand on his hind legs and bark out of the corner of his mouth. Seriously, I don't know anyone, just regular folks.

AClarke What are some of the worst obstacles you've faced as a writer?

gary Fatigue. I get really tired at the end of the day. I mean, I start about 8:00Am and am at it until about 2:00PM. True, I stay at home and get to take breaks. Still, it's exhausting.

crafty_girl Do you have a favorite recipe that you cook for your friends?

gary I'm beginning to bake. Last week I made my first pie--it was apricot and apricots from our tree in Fresno. And today I made hand-made flour tortillas. They were misshaped but fairly tasty. However, I don't have a favorite recipe.

pam So where does the inspiration for your tough characters come from?

gary Good question. I don't know if I have tough characters. If we look at BURIED ONIONS or THE AFTERLIFE, we'll see that the characters are sweet, but tested by people around them who are mean at heart. But my MAIN characters tend to be decent kids caught in the crossfire.

Dakara_Rugby_branch When you r writing a book can u hear the characters voices in your head?

gary Yes, sometimes I speak their lines. In fact, I move my lips a lot when I'm writing. I get to say their lines and be them for a brief period.

summer_reading Are you going to write another book about Marisol?

gary No, Marisol, the American girl doll, was a one-time novel. It's a sweet little story about moving. I moved around a lot when I was a boy and wanted to write something about living in a different part of a city.

jackie do you have kids?

gary Yes, one daughter and she's twenty-eight tomorrow! She's a vet, as in one who helps dogs and cats, plus other furry animals.

summer_reading How do you keep in touch with what teens are thinking and feeling?

gary I play basketball with them. I'm the O-G at a park I hang out at. At age 54, I can still tangle with the youngsters.

summer_reading Who is your favorite comedian?

gary Steve Martin. However, his last few films have not been well reviewed. My wife adores him.

ami i like your book, i read it when i was 12 years old

gary Thank you. It's a fine feeling knowing that someone likes my books.

summer_reading Since you write biographies, too, which person would you like to write about next?

gary I have written two biographies, one on Jessie De La Cruz and the other on Cesar Chavez. I would like to write one on Lorena Ochoa, the young golfer who's doing very well on the course. I like her attitude.

ami what is your favorite part in the story to write about?

gary The ending. That means I get to go outside and play! Seriously, I like to get the novel on the page and then go back and tweak the writing.

xxamericangalxx Do you envy any other authors?

gary Envy? No, but admire other writers. Again, I think Lorrie Moore is the best. And Thomas Berger, who was overlooked for major literary prizes. The shame.

joe Did you go to the library when you were a kid?

gary Yes, I loved going to the library, and in all kinds of weather--rain and extreme heat. I had to walk three miles to get to the downtown library

summer_reading Thanks so much for joining us today, gary. It's been terrific chatting with you! Do you have any final thoughts to pass along to our Books: A Treasure! readers?

gary I want to thank everyone for being me this hour. Cool questions. I wish we could sit down and talk more. But time is up. I wish all the best. Please, if you can, check out of my new novel ACCIDENTAL LOVE. It's funny!

summer_reading A transcript of this chat with gary will be available at very soon. Join us for our next chat with Kate DiCamillo on Wednesday, August 2, 2006 @ 2:00 p.m. Kate is the acclaimed author of The Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn-Dixie. Her most recent novel is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Visit Kate DiCamillo's website at

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