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The Importance of Challenging Yourself (and Snacks): 3 Questions with Nikki Grimes


I was given the opportunity to ask children’s literature legend Nikki Grimes a few questions. This was a chance I jumped at.

Travis: What was it like winning the Wilder Award? What’s it been like since?


Nikki Grimes: Earth-shaking. It took me a while to find my feet. It’s one award I never imagined winning. With the Wilder Medal came a sense of urgency about continuing to produce the best work possible so as to feel worthy of the honor. The Wilder gives me a little extra drive. This last year was wildly busy with travel and speaking engagements, and I found myself itching to get back to work. Now, finally, I have. It feels scary, as always, but it feels good to be working through a new literary puzzle, trying to figure out how to make all the pieces fit.

Travis: You’ve written books in so many different formats—has that been a conscious effort?

Nikki Grimes: The answer is both yes, and no. In general, I approach my work in an organic way, trying to listen for the voice, the tone, the format that feels right for the particular project I’m working on, and then I allow that to guide my choice. Occasionally, though, I choose a new format, right off the bat, because I want to challenge myself, I want to grow, I want to see how far I can push myself, creatively speaking.

Garvey's ChoiceOne Last Word

Garvey’s Choice, my novel in tanka, and One Last Word, my work in the golden shovel format, are two examples of that kind of exploration.


Bronx Masquerade and Between the Lines pushed me in new directions, as well. To be honest, beyond my need for creative exploration, I’d switch formats occasionally anyway, simply because I bore easily!

Travis: What snack puts you in peak creativity mode?

Nikki Grimes: That’s easy! Dark chocolate, preferably with almonds.

Travis: Hard to beat that. Thanks for taking my questions, Nikki! 

Nikki Grimes latest book, Between the Lines, comes out on February 13th.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.