Transcript: Children Chatting With Julie Berry

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.Transcript by

Children Chatting: Discussion between Julie Berry, and Children Chatting members

DANIELLAYou are listening to another episode of The Studio City Podcast People. Today, we are going to be joined by award-winning author, Julie Berry of the book, Wishes and WellingtonsHi, my name's Daniella and my question is why did you choose for Maeve to attend a British boarding school and why is that central to her story?

JULIE BERRY: Well, thank you Daniella for that question. I think boarding school stories are so much fun. And one thing that is neat about them is that they give young characters a lot of independence. When a kid goes to a boarding school, they have adults watching them some of the time, but not all of the time. And because those adults are not their parent, it's possible that the young people might be able to get away with more shenanigans than they could if they lived at home because parents tend to take a little more care and time to look after their children, then potentially people who are paid to do it. So, boarding schools give kids a lot of freedom to come and go and do things and they also give those kids a common enemy, right? That the headmaster or headmistress at the school might be someone that you just don't like.

JULIE BERRY: Like if you think about Snape in the Harry Potter books. For much of the time, we don't think we like Snape. Of course, we learn a little more about him later on, so those are some of the things that make it fun to have a boarding school in your story. But also it's very realistic because a lot of kids in Victorian Britain did go to boarding school. Certainly the kids from the middle and upper classes, a lot of them did go to boarding school. So it's something that we find pretty rare in our time, but it wouldn't have been rare back then. That's a great question. Yeah, who's next?

SEBASTIEN: Thank you.

GABE: Hi, my name is Gabe and my question for Julie is, did you ever in your childhood experience the story of Maeve? How she was never perfect. Did you ever feel like you experienced that?

JULIE BERRY: Well, that is a great question, Gabe. Thank you for that. Did I feel as a kid that I was like Maeve? I think in a way that all of the main characters I write about in all of my books, have a little piece of me in them. So although main characters are very different from each other, they all have a little piece of me and I think, how shall I say, Maeve is a person who is impulsive. So, she sometimes acts without thinking and sometimes she speaks without thinking and sometimes she gets into trouble and she cannot resist a challenge from a bully. She's feisty. She has a little bit of a chip on her shoulder, which is an expression that means someone who's looking for a fight. Now, I don't think I was that way so much as a child.

JULIE BERRYI was maybe a little more shy, but in my life, I think I have a bit of a feisty side. And I think that as I've grown up, I've learned how to stand up for myself a little bit more. So it was fun to write about Maeve. Certainly I got into trouble as a kid. I mean, I wasn't always nice. I got into arguments with my sisters. One thing Maeve has three older sisters. I actually have five older sisters. So, I know a lot about having older sisters and being the youngest and feeling misunderstood. So those are some things that I could relate to in Maeve, but I just enjoy Maeve so much because she's so sassy and saucy. And she often gets herself into big trouble with the words that come out of her mouth. But I think we've all said some words that maybe get us into trouble now and then. I think I could really relate to that. Thanks Gabe.

GABEThank you, Julie.

CHARLIE: Hi, I'm Charlie.

MALIKA: Hi, I'm Malika, and we were wondering what inspired you to write your own story about a genie.

CHARLIE: In Aladdin, there's a genie, and that's kind of the main genie story? Who inspired you in sharing stories of genie. So what inspired you to write one of your own?

JULIE BERRY: I grew up reading a lot of fairy tales and folk tales and legends. I had a big book, a collection of children's folktales, fairy tales and myths and tall tales. And I read it over and over and over and over and over again. I just loved it and I loved the magic of a genie story. There's something just so fun about that wish fulfillment element, and that question of what would you do if you could make a wish, then what? Sometimes we play that game today when we say, "Well, what would you do if you won the lottery?" Right? We like to imagine what if our wishes could come true. So it leads to fun stories. I think I just felt like the world could always use another genie story and in particular, I thought it would be cool to have a girl as a genie because in my mind it's always Aladdin, as you say. I think in the Arabian nights, there are many genie stories, but Aladdin is definitely the one that is the most famous in our world today.

JULIE BERRY: The way that I did..began... it's kind of funny, sort of began by accident. I was on an airplane and it was late at night. It was a red eye flight. Meaning that, excuse me, you fly all night. And the two words popped into my head, sardini, genie. Just because they rhymed. I don't know why, but those words just happened. And I thought, "Well, now, that's funny sardini genie. What would that mean? Would that be a genie that was a sardine. No, I don't think so. Hmm." And then I just kind of imagined, "Well, who's to say that a genie has to always appear in a lamp or a vase or a bottle. It could appear in anything." In fact, if they were showing up in a more modern time, we would show up probably in a more modern container.

JULIE BERRY: And so I thought, well, when were sardine tins modern containers, and I thought, well, in the 19th century, and then of course, as I said, I just love the Victorian era and I thought it would be cool to have a girl find it. And then we were off and running. So it began with just two words popping into my head. So that's how I came to write a genie story of my own. Thank you, Charlie, Malika, thanks for that question.

CHARLIE: Thank you. It's cool that you decided to use a girl [inaudible 00:09:00] story.

JULIE BERRY: Thank you. Where did I get the ideas for the friends...Well, as you can see from the cover already, we have Maeve, she's the main character. Her two friends are Alice, her roommate, and then Tommy, the orphan boy that she meets. So where did the idea for them come from? Well, it makes sense that that Maeve would have a roommate so that was one logical friend for her to have. And then now we know that early on in the story Maeve finds this sardine tin with the genie in it and it just so happens that Tommy, who lives at the orphanage across the street or across the alley from the girls school, where Maeve attends, he sees her open the sardine can and sees the genie come out. So he knows that something really amazing has happened and he wants that genie.

JULIE BERRY: In fact, maybe he wants it more than Maeve does because he is an orphan and he's living in this, they call it Mission Industrial Home And School For Working Boys because when you were an orphan back in Victorian times you weren't necessarily placed with a loving family. You were sent to work at a factory as soon as you were old enough. And then until you were old enough, you were taught how to work at a factory. So that wasn't a good life for children. And Tommy was afraid that he was soon going to be sent to the factory and he wanted a better life than that. So he really wanted Murmeros the genie for himself. So he and Maeve became rivals competing for the genie until eventually they became friends. So, that's how the idea for their friends characters appeared.

SPEAKER 7: So have you ever, I know it sounds really weird, but have you ever discovered yourself almost like completely like fangirled out about the Victorian age like ... have you ever... When is your interest most tuned in like the Victorian age? When are you really into it? When did your interest spark in that age?

JULIE BERRY: Hmm, that's a good question.

JULIE BERRY: Yeah, probably I became interested in the Victorian era around, I want to say, well, I would've been maybe middle school age when I read some Victorian children's books, like A Little Princess, things like that, but it was probably high school and college when I started reading books by Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte and Charles Dickens. And so those were the books that really made the Victorian era come alive for me. So I always believe that we get our inspiration from the books we read. That's where the magic starts. And so that's why I encourage young people to read a lot because it feeds your imagination. Just like a good movie does sometimes it's fun to watch a movie set in the past. Have any of you seen the Enola Holmes movie that recently came out on Netflix? That's set in the Victorian era and that's really fun. It's fun to go there in our minds, but I think it's probably high school and college age when I was reading those Victorian novels, that I really fell in love.

SPEAKER 7: Thank you.

JULIE BERRY: You bet. Thanks for the question.

EVA: How did you decide to make the female lead the way she is especially set in the time period?

JULIE BERRY: Well, Maeve Merritt just showed up when I started writing this story and I thought about a girl at boarding school, finding a genie, she immediately appeared in my mind as that feisty scrappy girl who gets into trouble. And then I kind of thought, "Well, what if she was sent to boarding school because she's always getting into trouble? What if it's a school that's supposed to reform her behavior?" And that idea just sort of spiraled and I thought, well, what if she's a girl who hates that, who doesn't want to behave like a proper lady should, but who wants to play sports and do fun things and kind of... Well, when I was kid, we might've called that girl a tomboy. I don't think we use such a term like that anymore, but I, as a kid who loved sports and I love doing things, I didn't feel, how shall I say, I didn't feel very girly.

JULIE BERRY: I did not like Barbie dolls and I didn't like makeup and I didn't like pink things. And I felt like I identified more with stuff that boys liked to do. And so I could imagine Maeve being somebody who hated being forced to behave like a young lady in the Victorian era, because that was a time when, what girls and ladies were allowed to do, was very limited. And I love that the world today is so much more open and flexible and free and allowing people to do what they want to do and not be quite so boxed up in these false opposites of these are boy things and these are girl things. I think that's nonsense. And I think it's very limiting. Thank you.

SPEAKER 9 : But this is really weird, but it's about as a character, Tom. So at school, in language arts, we had to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and I thought that the character Tom, I was going to ask you, is he Tom Sawyer? Because Tom Sawyer is an orphan. He's right here and his name is Tom, so.

JULIE BERRY: That is a great question. Those are very comparable Toms aren't they? I wasn't thinking about Tom Sawyer when I wrote Tommy as a character or gave him that name. But then later on, I can't remember if it's in book one or book two, because I've been working on book two even this week. I have Tom read the adventures of Tom Sawyer, or maybe it's Huckleberry Finn. I know that I have him encounter those books. So one of the things that's fun about writing a book set in this era is I can have my characters read some of the books that I love, but in their world they're brand new books. It would be like you guys talking about, oh, what are you guys talking about today? Well, Wishes and Wellingtons, I guess you're talking about today, but books that are really popular right now, like Dog Man or something. That's a little young for you guys, but you know what I mean? So that's one of the things I really enjoy. So that is a great connection, right, these sort of rascally Toms. They're just delightful characters.

SPEAKER 9 : Thank you.

SPEAKER 9: Stella wrote her question in the chat by the way.

JULIE BERRY: Got it. Stella says, when did you start writing and know you wanted to be a writer? Well, I loved reading as a kid. I read and read and read all the time. That was my favorite thing to do. And so I think I dreamed of being an author because I just thought that books were magical. So it would be so cool if I could write one of my own, but I didn't believe I really could because I thought only geniuses could write books. So it was sort of a wish more than a goal or a plan for most of my life. But when I was about nine years old, my mother gave me a journal or a diary for Christmas and I wrote in that diary every day and I loved it. And I wrote in my diary for most of my young life until I was about 20 years old.

JULIE BERRY: But I wrote every day and I still write in a journal today, well not every single day, but I still keep a journal. So I think that that journal writing that I did was actually really helpful to me in becoming a writer because it just taught me how to be comfortable writing about my experiences and my feelings. And the stuff in my journal, if you look back on it, it's not a work of art at all. My handwriting is sloppy and my spelling is weak and just rambling on about this and that. But I do think it made me comfortable with words. And I think that that stayed with me and I wrote in high school and in college. I majored in technical writing, basically, technical communication and then I got jobs in software companies where I wrote stuff for them.

JULIE BERRY: So I was learning how to put words together for whatever purpose. And then finally I decided to try to put words together to entertain young people. And I think that those experiences of writing in my journal, working in my language arts class, taking college writing classes, I think those experiences all helped me to write for kids. So thank you for that question. I would say it wasn't until I was about 30 years old though, that I really started to think seriously about trying to write a book for young people. I think up until that time, I had thought it just wouldn't be possible, but it was possible. And I'm so glad that I tried.

LAUREN: My name's Lauren and my question for you, Julie, is when I usually read books, there's the main character, the protagonist and then there's always a group of friends supporting that main character or one friend, two friends, multiple friends. And when I read Wishes and Wellingtons, I found myself as interested in Maeve but just as interested in Tommy and Alice, her roommates. I had the same level of caring about their choices and what their actions and what they were doing and that doesn't usually happen. Usually I have a deep care of the main character and what's going to happen to that person, that character, but I had so much affection for Alice and Tommy I was wondering, you just said that you were writing book two, will we see more of Alice and Tommy in book two?

JULIE BERRY: Absolutely. They will be back in full force. I love them too. And I appreciate you saying that you care about them as much because that's something I really feel strongly about. I feel like we have two books where the main character is the only one that feels real and the other characters around them just seem like they're, I call them cardboard cutouts. They're cardboard cutouts there to do whatever the main characters story wants them to do. And I feel like that's not how the world works, because the reality is, I am me and I'm human. I have a brain and hopes and wishes and feelings and experiences. And you are you. You have a brain and you have feelings and experiences and hopes and wishes. And everyone on this call, Stella and Gabe and Daniella and Malika and Charlie, and all of you, you have your own life, your own experiences, your own wishes, your own hopes, your own sadness's.

JULIE BERRYYou are all just as human as I am. So I want my stories to reflect that. I want my stories to show that there's not just one important person in the middle, one prince or princess, but we are all just as human. So that means a lot to me. I really appreciate that comment.

MILES: Thanks for listening to the Children Chatting with Authors podcast!

[Music outro]

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.Transcript by