Meet award-winning author Gigi Amateau.
Gigi has penned seven books for children and young adults and has a heart for telling stories that help youths feel connected and valued. Her most recent novel, Two for Joy, is a three-generational story about family caregiving and about how a child and an elder accept each other wholly. Enjoy her Q&A with LifeUntapped, in which she details her author journey and shares about her books and characters.
What is your primary goal as an author? I hope that my readers will connect with something in their own lives that makes them curious, inspired, or willing to keep going. The themes that I return to tend to be: access, belonging, overcoming trauma, resilience, intergenerational connections, and a sense of place.
What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received from readers about your novels? I recently received a letter from a young man in southside Virginia who had read Come August, Come Freedom. He wrote, “I always hated anything evolving (sic) slavery, but this book expanded my views… Gabriel is kind of like me; he loves his family, he’s strong willed, and he’s physically strong.” He went on to share how he related to the book. I keep his letter on my desk; it means so much that he took the time to write it.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your author journey? Every book takes on a different shape and a different process. When I think I have figured out how to write a book? Wrong!
How do you continue growing as a writer? By following my curiosity – I think curiosity is one of the most important traits of being human. There are so many ways that writing fulfills me. If I limit myself to thinking that I am only a writer if I am publishing or writing books, then I set myself up for disappointment and frustration, because
I believe that my specific calling is to use words and language in the best form for the idea I want to release into the world.
Sometimes, that’s a book. Other times a grant, a letter, a post, an academic paper, or an essay may be the best form. It’s all good.
Who are two or three writers you admire or consider mentors? I admire Judy Blume so much. She’s given me some great advice over the years. The best: Always be working on something new and read your manuscript out loud. Writers I love to read include: Edward P. Jones, Edwidge Danticat, Silas House, and Susann Cokal.
What else are you passionate about, i.e. if you weren’t an author, what else would you doing? I’m passionate about old people, and I’m passionate about growing old with people I love, in a community I love. My favorite tree, out in Cartersville, Virginia is probably 300 or 400 years old. Being near that specific tree energizes me and makes me think of elderhood in new and different ways. I think creation has so much to offer us; my old tree always helps me to think about what it means to thrive and be resilient. I’ve recently returned to VCU in the Master of Gerontology program in order to study resilience and trauma in older adults and the longterm care workforce. I am already writing in new and different ways and I love it!
More About Gigi Amateau: Gigi’s first book for young adults, Claiming Georgia Tate, was published by Candlewick Press in 2005. The Wall Street Journal called the book “an ambitious push into the young adult market.” She is also the author of A Certain Strain of Peculiar, which was named a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, and Chancey of the Maury River, selected as a William Allen White Masters list title for grades 3-5. In 2012, Gigi received a Theresa Pollak Prize for Excellence in the Arts. Come August, Come Freedom, her first work of historical fiction, was selected as a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, a 2013 Jefferson Cup honor book, and the Library of Virginia’s 2013 People’s Choice Fiction Award. In 2015, Candlewick published Two for Joy and Dante of the Maury River. Her first short story, “Good Bean,” was published last November in an anthology titled Abundant Grace, edited by Richard Peabody. Gigi has worked in the health and human services sector for nearly 30 years and is a certified yoga instructor. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Gerontology at VCU. She lives with her family in Richmond, Va. Learn more about Gigi at www.gigiamateau.com or follow her on Twitter: @giamateau.