I met author, Susan Tan, face to face on my summer trip to Boston. Her middle-grade books about Cilla Lee-Jenkins have become favorites of mine to recommend, and she was every bit as fun as I thought she’d be!

She’s also incredibly smart, and she’s writing wonderful books for our kids. On today’s Read-Aloud Revival podcast, Susan Tan and I talk about living a reading and writing life.

This episode is for aspiring writers, those who want to see more kids reflected in literature, and anyone who loves a good story.

(And pssst: If you and your kids love Ramona Quimby, you’re going to especially enjoy getting to know Cilla Lee-Jenkins.)

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • her experience learning to read and how that impacted her future career
  • why kids need books that reflect their reality
  • her writing process … and you don’t want to miss this. It’s… quirky. 😅

I am thrilled to introduce you to Susan Tan, so…

Click the play button below:

Listener Guide

Use the time stamps below to skip to any part of the podcast:

  • 1:51 Meet Susan Tan & Cilla
  • 6:29 Becoming a reader (and then an author)
  • 9:44 Representation in children’s literature
  • 14:39 Why kids need to see themselves in books
  • 19:10 Writing in bed and on the bus
  • 24:12 Two kinds of writers
  • 27:01 A new ‘epic story’
  • 29:45 Let the kids speak

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Links from this episode:

Here’s the infographic Susan mentions during the show:

Quotes to remember:

Cilla is impossible not to love even when she’s being a little bit impossible. I just love her.”  -Sarah Mackenzie

“I began to imagine how I would have liked those conversations to go when I was a child, when people would look at me- a biracial child- and ask, ‘what are you?’ I began to imagine a child who didn’t understand the question, but in not understanding it was able to reclaim it. So, the premise for Cilla comes from someone asking what are you? And her saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know. No one’s ever asked me this question before, but if I have to pick now I guess I’ll be a future literary genius.'” – Susan Tan

“It was in my academic studies as I confronted this gap that I suddenly wondered, where are the books that I wanted as a kid? And my sisters were getting older and my cousins were having children, and I was thinking where are the books that I want them and their kids to read? And that really is what inspired me to start writing. So weirdly, going to Academia led me right back to writing.”

(Download the transcript above for more quotes and pull-outs.)

Books from this episode:

(All links are Amazon affiliate links.)

Episode 114
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire
Ramona the Pest
Thief of Hearts (Golden Mountain Chronicles, 1995)

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