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Sydney Taylor Blog Tour: Sofiya Pasternack

It’s the first day of the 2021 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour (click here for the full schedule) and I’m honored to talk with the author of Sydney Taylor Middle Grade Honor winner Anya and The Nightingale, Sofiya Pasternack

Travis: How did you find out about winning a Sydney Taylor Honor? What was your reaction?

Sofiya: I was trying to get my son out the door, so I was wrestling him into his shoes. My phone rang and I checked it—I’ll always check my phone to see who it is, because I’ve worked in disaster response for a long time, and you get into the habit of at least looking at the caller ID to make sure you’re not getting called in for something—and the name on the screen was the STBA chair. And I thought, “WHAT?? No way!” and answered it. So I had the phone under my chin and I’m trying to get my son’s shoes on with both hands and I’m out of breath, and she’s like, “Hey! Great news!”

I was absolutely thrilled that my second book got the STBA Honor! I didn’t expect it for the first one and I really didn’t expect it for the second one. I’m so happy that the committee connected with Anya’s story a second time!!

Travis: What was the initial inspiration for the Anya series?

Sofiya: It has a lot of inspiration that got poured into it. The story itself is based on a Scandinavian fairy tale that I really loved as a kid, and I tried to tell it as an adult story for a long time, but it just didn’t work. So I aged everyone down and then… there we go! It worked! I mixed that story with some Russian byliny and Jewish folklore, and sprinkled some goats on top, and that’s what the books really encapsulate!

Travis: Say you’re making a pro/con list about writing fantasy. What’s the first thing on the pro side? What’s the first thing on the con side?

Sofiya: I think the first thing on both lists is the same thing: Unlimited choices! You can do anything you want within fantasy, and that makes it incredibly fun and versatile. But the endless possibility can also be overwhelming. One of the reasons I like historical fantasy so much is that it gives the fantasy some boundaries. I can’t just go buck wild and do whatever I want, which is great for me!

Travis: Last question: What snack puts you in peak creativity mode?

Sofiya: I drink coffee or tea, and then I’ll snack on shortbread cookies when I’m in the mood for something sweet, or popcorn if I’m in the mood for something salty. Lately I’ve been practicing making baklava, because a character in my next novel is obsessed with baklava. So of course, I have to make it! And there’s lot of tasty phyllo treats in my house at any given time, and the combo of the flaky phyllo and the pistachio crunch and the sweet syrup with rosewater is A+++!

Travis: Thanks for taking my questions, Sofiya! The Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour is going on all week – click here for the schedule.

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.