Thursday, July 15, 2021

SAVING LADY LIBERTY: An Author Interview with Claudia Friddell--Part II

Two former posts in this mini-series include my review of Saving Lady Liberty: Joseph Pulitzer's Fight for the Statue of Liberty and Part I of this author interview. 



CAROL: When you were researching Saving Lady Liberty, how did you know what information would fit into your story and what you should leave out? Similarly, how did you know what to save for the back matter? (I can’t believe Carolyn Yoder gave you 8 pages for all your information. Lucky you!!)


CLAUDIA: Well, that’s a great question! Usually, I figure that out along the way. I always start out by including too much information, and as I whittle my story down, I decide what goes to the back matter and what gets left behind. It’s like starting with a block of wood and chiseling away to find the shape of the story. I know I can only keep the facts and details that help move along my plot. Of course, I find all kinds of fascinating nuggets while treasure hunting that I can’t wait to share. I save those for the back of the book. As a former teacher, I want my back matter to be as interesting as my story. I want teachers, librarians, and students to find lots of extra fun facts and enriching material at their fingertips. Fortunately, Carolyn Yoder understands and values the importance of back matter!


Claudia at her writing desk in her river house.
(Does any other writer covet that space besides me?)



CAROL: As a child of 2 German Jewish immigrants, I was touched by the fact that this is an immigrant’s story. Have you received any feedback from teachers or children about immigration? 


The immigration theme to this story is what interested me the most. I was fascinated to find that Lady Liberty’s journey to America parallels that of Joseph Pulitzer and millions of other immigrants in many ways. I chose to completely personify the statue. I always refer to her as Lady Liberty because of her very human story—she was raised in another country, she had a long and dangerous journey, she arrived in America with an uncertain fate, and she found firm footing in a new land of opportunity through the generosity of everyday Americans. I also love knowing that immigrants built the pedestal. The immigration theme has been a great interest to the teachers and students I’ve talked to, and I will never grow tired of hearing their stories of how it’s important to them!



I assume you found lots of other information out about Pulitzer.  Have you thought of writing about other aspects of his life? (ie, The Pulitzer Prize?) 


CLAUDIA: I was fascinated to learn about Joseph Pulitzer’s life from reading James McGrath Morris’ excellent biography, Pulitzer. While there were many different facets to Pulitzer’s complicated and accomplished life, most of them, unfortunately, are not kid friendly! 


He left instructions for the Pulitzer Prizes in his will so I’m not sure if there’s a book there. I think it would be fascinating if someone wanted to write about the history of Pulitzer revolutionizing the newspaper. He was responsible for making the template for our modern-day newspapers to make them entertaining, informative, and readable for all Americans. And he lowered the price to a penny so everyone could afford to read them! 




CAROL: How do you think your book is relevant to children today? 


CLAUDIA: This is the most important question I ask myself.  I think Saving Lady Liberty is relevant in so many ways for kids. Like countless other children, Joseph Pulitzer faced and overcame great adversity and loss as a child. As a Jewish boy in Hungary and a Jewish man in America he faced discrimination his entire life, but he never let any of these obstacles keep him from pursuing his dreams. Through hard work and perseverance Pulitzer not only survived—he succeeded in becoming one of America’s greatest success stories. 


Most children today are familiar with crowd funding, so I was excited to introduce them to the very first crowd funding venture. Pulitzer proved that the small contributions from ordinary folks united by a good cause can accomplish amazing things. He used his newspaper to remind his readers that in a democracy they had a voice in speaking up for liberty. Pulitzer’s passion for a free press inspired him to modernize newspapers to inform and entertain readers of all ages and backgrounds, and his passion for excellence inspired him to create the Pulitzer Prizes. It is timely and relevant for kids to learn that staying educated and informed of facts and events, not only inside one’s community but far beyond as well, can help them find their way in the world. 


Patriotism is the obvious term for Pulitzer’s motivation in Saving Lady Liberty, but for children, I like to describe it as gratitude. Pulitzer never forgot that only in America could he have reinvented himself and lived his rags to riches life. He wanted others to appreciate that it isn’t just a gift to live in a free country. There are responsibilities that go along with keeping those freedoms alive. He seemed to know that people not only need a welcome—we all need reminders, so we never forget and never take our freedoms for granted. I hope, after reading Saving Lady Liberty, kids and adults alike will be as inspired as I am by Pulitzer’s love of liberty and his devotion to democracy, a free press, and equal opportunities for all.


Each time you leave a comment on one of the three posts about Saving Lady Liberty your name will be entered. Giveaway ends on July 16 at 4 PM. Continental U.S. addresses only. 




Danielle H. said...

I am also a child of immigrants from Germany. So this story has extra meaning to me. I love the author's comparison of whittling to find the heart of the story.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Danielle. Something else you and I have in common!

Virginia Rinkel said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and will check it out again. It has so much meaning today in this world.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for stopping by, Virignia. I'll add your name to the giveaway list.

Cathy Stefanec Ogren said...

I love Pulitzer's patriotism and that he encouraged children to help with Lady Liberty. I especially like his appreciation that America provided him with opportunities he would have never had except in America. "Never take our freedoms for granted." Thank you Claudia for writing this book!

Carol Baldwin said...

And thanks for commenting, Cathy!

Terri DeGezelle Michels said...

My grandfather landed on Ellis Island in 1919, it's a very special place for me and my family. thank you for sharing your story.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thank you Terri! I hope you read this book--you will appreciate it!

Rosi said...

I'm looking forward to reading this one. Pulitzer sounds like a fascinating person. Thanks for the post.

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