Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation

Author Chat with Sharon Draper


Transcript of Live Chat
August 15, 2006

Summer Reading Today, it is our pleasure to welcome Sharon Draper to our final "Books A Treasure!" chat for this summer. Sharon has been recognized nationally as both an outstanding educator and writer. As an educator she has been honored as National Teacher of the Year among many other awards. As a writer her honors include the Coretta Scott King Award and the Parents Choice Award. Her books have appeared on the American Library Association's Best Books for Young Adults list and the New York Times bestseller list. She is the author of Tears of a Tiger, Darkness Before Dawn, Romiette and Julio, We Beat the Street, Double Dutch, The Battle of Jericho, Teaching from the Heart and the series "Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs" among others. Her latest book is Copper Sun.

maple77 In your book double dutch which character is most like you?

sharon_draper Probably Yolanda. She's fun and high spirited

BluesBaby You have traveled all over the world, do you have a favorite place that inspires your writing?

sharon_draper Ghana, West Africa. It was the inspiration for Copper Sun. I'd go back in a heartbeat. I loved it there.

maple77 For your first two books how come you wrote them based on hazelwood high?

sharon_draper The first three books are about Hazelwood High. I like the idea that I can write about the same kids in the same school, bur focus on a different character all the time.

artist Did you like to read when you were a kid?

sharon_draper Absolutely. I read ten books a week. I still read every single day.

pattycake340 I just finished tears of a tiger and i didn't want the book to end the way it did

sharon_draper I know. It was awful. But that ending made the book memorable.

mai77 Are all of your books about real life problems?

sharon_draper Most of them. Copper Sun happened a long time ago, but the story is very, very real.

mai77 what do you like to do when you have free time?

sharon_draper I like to walk on the beach.

artist Do you plan your books out before you write them?

sharon_draper Yes, but I don't do a formal outline. I think about it, plan the ideas and the plot, then the characters take over. Books rarely end the way I think they will.

Nakia As a child did you always want to write?

sharon_draper Not really. I was a good writer, and I got good grades in English, but I never even dreamed I could be a real writer of books. But I was a reader, and I think a good writer needs to be a good reader first. That gives me material to draw from.

venuss01 hi... umm i was wondering what genre of book do u like the most?

sharon_draper Hi. I like mysteries. And stories about real people that are written so well they make me cry. Those are hard to find.

booya Where do you get your ideas from?

sharon_draper From past reading. From people I meet. From readers who write to me with suggestions for book ideas. From events in the newspaper. Every life event is a potential story.

Nakia Do you enjoy writing these books?

sharon_draper Absolutely! There is nothing more exciting than watching a good book come together. It's like magic.

mai77 What did you want to be when you were little?

sharon_draper Probably a teacher. Or a movie star. I should have a talk show like Oprah! That would have been a cool job.

BluesBaby Will you add more books to the Hazelwood High series?

sharon_draper Not soon. The Battle of Jericho is book one of a new trilogy. New high school. Lots of trauma and drama. Book two is coming out next year.

queensteens how old were you when you started writing?

sharon_draper I've only been writing for about 15 years.

artist Who is a mystery writer you like to read?

sharon_draper Dean Koontz is a good author to read on the plane. And I'm always on a plane. He keeps my mind occupied during long layovers.

RichmondHill In Tears of a Tiger, when you were writing the book, did you find the story more hopeful than sad, or was it just a tragedy?
sharon_draper It was sad. It was tragic. But I hope that readers get the idea that Andy made the wrong decision. Everybody else had a life to continue. Andy didn't. Life goes on. Andy lost out.

booya in the book "tears of the tiger" there was a question in the ending that said "Will stupidity keep him out of heaven?" Will it?

sharon_draper I suppose that's for the reader to decide. What do you think?

ChitChatQueen What's your favorite thing about New York City? What's you favorite thing about Cincinnati?

sharon_draper I love New York. It's such a strong, powerful city. I like the crowds and the nose and the life. The theater district, when I can afford to see a show, is just plain glorious. Cincinnati has nothing like that. But it does have a nice, home-town feel.

BluesBaby After you write your books, who is the first person that gets to read them first, a family member, your best friend????

sharon_draper My husband reads them first. Then my children. Then friends. My family are my best supporters and my worst critics.

Big_R In Tears of a Tiger: Why did Andy die? Why didn't therapy help him? Did everyone fail him, or what? Is this some sort of commentary on suicide or something else?

sharon_draper If the story had ended happily, you would have forgotten the book as soon as you had finished it. It's the tragedy that haunts you. What might have been...

pattycake340 How did you come up with the title Tears of a Tiger ?

sharon_draper The school is the Hazelwood Tigers. Andy certainly has lots of tears, and good reason to have them. And there's a line in there from Monty who talks about tears on his tiger and dragons in his jungle.

ashley how old are you kids? do you spend time with them?

sharon_draper My kids are all grown and live in Florida. I visit them as often as I can because they live near the beach. And I love the ocean. Unless it's hurricane season.

maple77 What was your favorite book to read when you were a kid?

sharon_draper I probably read every single book in the elementary school library when I was a kid. So I don't have a favorite. I read them all.

libraryfun Did you have an objective when writing Copper Sun?

sharon_draper I wanted readers to understand what it was like to be a slave. It's hard to write about such a big topic as slavery. By narrowing it down to one person, the story can be very, very real and personal.

pattycake340 why did you put forged by fire as the second part of the trilogy? bpl

sharon_draper Let me explain. I wrote Andy's story first. That was Tears of a Tiger. When I was asked to do a second book, I decided to take a minor character from the first book and develop him as the major character of the next book. That ended up being Gerald in Forged by Fire. Forged by Fire seems to come before Tears of a Tiger because it begins when Gerald is just three years old. He grows up to go to Hazelwood High School with Andy and Rob and the others. So those two books meet in the middle as companion books. The third book in the Hazelwood trilogy, Darkness Before Dawn, was written to answer all the questions I received about what happened to the characters in the first two books. Each book can stand alone and be read without the others, however. If I had known I was going to write three books when I started, I would have written them in order. I hope this helps.

lauren77 Have you ever been a member of a book club?

sharon_draper Yes, when I was in college.

annie Do you enjoy your own books?

sharon_draper I don't read them every day, but when I do, I feel proud that I wrote the book. I still cry whenever I read the end of Tears of a Tiger.

maple77 What is your favorite season

sharon_draper Spring. It's full of hope and possibilities.

I_go_moo___ what is your favorite book you wrote?

sharon_draper Probably Copper Sun. It's because it's the newest, and the freshest on my mind. I'm really proud of that one. I worked for ten years on that book.

mai77 will you write another sequel to double dutch?

sharon_draper Probably not. sorry.

artist Do you live on the beach?

sharon_draper No, but my children do. I visit them often.

pattycake340 any of the stories you wrote are they based on actual events

sharon_draper No, I made them up. Honest. I have a very strange imagination!

Treasure Are you going to do a book signing in New York anytime soon?

sharon_draper I might be at some of the NYPL branches in the spring. Nothing is set in stone yet.

ChitChatQueen Which African-American writers would you recommend that I read right away?

sharon_draper It depends on how old you are and what your tastes are, but I'd start with Sharon Flake, Angela Johnson, and Walter Dean Myers.

67th_street Are there really underground railroad tunnels in Cincinnati? Have you ever been in one like the one in Ziggy & the Black Dinosaurs book, lost in the tunnel of time?

sharon_draper Actually, there are. Not like in the book, but there are lots of hiding places here that were used back then.

annie I love your books I think their awesome

sharon_draper Cool! thanks!

Leslie What are you working on now?

sharon_draper The sequel to The Battle of Jericho. It's called November Blues.

queensteen Is andy based on anyone you know?

sharon_draper No. I made him up.

annie what do you think would make me a good reader?

sharon_draper Find books that are so good you can't put them down. Everybody has different tastes in books. Find what you like and read a million of them.

maple77 What about the BPL library? are you going to come visit?

sharon_draper I don't know yet. It's not until next year, and these things take time to plan.

RichmondHill Was it your experience working with teens as a teacher that led you to write so much about them, or would you have focused on teens anyway? Do you have plans to write about adults or kids in the future?

sharon_draper I think because I worked with teenagers it was easier to write for them. And I have no plans to write an adult book. I like writing for young adults. They're lots more fun than grownup readers!

LittleMissIt Can you give us a preview of November Blues?

sharon_draper If you've read Jericho, you'll know that November was Josh's girlfriend. It's her story, but Jericho is in it as well. He quits the trumpet and joins the football team. And November runs into unexpected trouble. That's all I can share right now.

maple77 Do you visit libraries often or once in awhile?

sharon_draper Once in a while. When I'm asked to come by the librarians.

zori what is your most favorite place to be at?

sharon_draper If I'm not on the beach, I want to be home. Because I travel so much, it's wonderful to be in my own house.

booya How long do you usually take to write your books?

sharon_draper Between six months and a year. But Copper Sun took ten years.

maple77 Do you have any siblings?

sharon_draper I have one brother and one sister.

LittleMissIt Do you visit with kids in other countries? Are you books available in many languages?

sharon_draper Tears of a Tiger is available in German. It won a big prize in Germany. They sent me the award, but I couldn't read it!

artist How often do you get to NYC?

sharon_draper At least once a year.

queensteens Why did you write Romiette and Julio?

sharon_draper I wanted to show that Shakespeare was really a cool writer. That story is eternal. So I made the two lovers meet on the internet and it takes place today. I made sure younger readers understand the dangers of meeting people on the internet.

maple77 How come Andrew Jackson felt guilty that he killed his friend Robert washington?

sharon_draper He was a nice kid. Of course he felt guilty. Robbie was his friend. It was very painful.

ashley have you got people coming up to you talking about your books?

sharon_draper Only when I visit schools. When I walk down the street, most folks don't know who I am.

ChitChatQueen Do you do anything special before you begin writing?

sharon_draper I take a deep breath and begin. I get up very early in the morning and I write all day long.

LittleMissIt Have your books ever been banned? Were you shocked?

sharon_draper Tears of a Tiger was banned in a small town in Michigan. I don't know why, but when the principal told the kids they couldn't read the book in school, they all went out and bought a copy!

maple77 Were you popular when you were little around your friends?

sharon_draper I had friends, but I wasn't Miss Popularity.

LittleMissIt How did you meet the guys of We Beat the Street?

sharon_draper They called me and asked me to come to NY to meet them. I interviewed them and then wrote the book on their lives. They're cool people.

MissThang Do you have offers to turn your books into movies or television series?

sharon_draper Not yet. But I sure wish somebody would do that.

queensteen If you made copper sun into a movie, what actors would play Amari and Polly?

sharon_draper I think they should go with unknown actresses--they need to be young and fresh and believeable.

I_go_moo___ i think that you should keep writing the Ziggy series because they were catching my interest.

sharon_draper So far, there are six ziggy books. I'm working on more.

artist Is it hard to write when you travel?

sharon_draper Yes. When you get to a hotel room, all you want to do is crash, not write. It's very hard. Sometimes I do edits in a hotel, but I rarely write fresh new material there.

MissThang Which one of your characters is most like Sharon Draper?

sharon_draper Probably the teachers in the books!

booya Which was the quickest book you ever wrote?

sharon_draper None of them are quick. The ziggy books are easier because they're shorter, but all books take time to make them good.

I_go_moo___ do you wish to go back to teaching?

sharon_draper Nope! I teach wherever I travel. I visit lots of schools. That's fun and I don't have to grade papers!

ChitChatQueen Do you ever dream about the characters in your books?

sharon_draper Sometimes. When I'm in the middle of their story.

Summer Reading Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share with our "Books A Treasure!" readers Sharon?

sharon_draper I've really enjoyed chatting with all of you. It's been a wonderful experience, and the time went so quickly. Keep on reading, and have a wonderful school year! Thanks, Sharon Draper

Summer Reading Thank you for joining us today Sharon. It has been great chatting with you.

If you would like to find out more about Sharon Draper take a look at her website: A transcript of this chat will be posted at: in the near future. Ask your librarian about other upcoming special events with authors. Visit your library online at: