An Exclusive Video Interview with the Coretta Scott King Award–Winning Author of Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
by Traci Swain
“Something I had to do if I was going to write about a harmonica player—or a blues harp player—was I had to know what it felt like to play a harmonica!” —Rita Williams-Garcia
After reading the beautiful way music is described in Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, you might think that Rita Williams-Garcia was a musician herself. But actually, Rita found her way into the story from a different direction: research and dancing!
Whatever she may be writing, the beloved author—who has won a Newbery Honor and three Coretta Scott King Author Awards, among other accolades—loves diving headfirst into research and then letting the story become an outward expression of her emotions within, which is an idea she picked up from her love of dance.
Watch her Scholastic Book Clubs–exclusive interview to discover more about Rita’s inspired process in conceiving and developing Clayton Byrd Goes Underground and her other popular novels.
Were your students inspired by Rita Williams-Garcia’s love of research? Check out the free downloadable activity and discussion guide in Cooked Up from a Book to encourage your students to conduct research on a blues musician of their choice!
Rita Williams-Garcia’s Newbery Honor Book, One Crazy Summer, was a winner of the Coretta Scott King Author Award, a National Book Award finalist, the recipient of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and a New York Times bestseller. The two sequels, P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama, were both Coretta Scott King Author Award winners and ALA Notable Children’s Books. She is also the author of Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (a National Book Award finalist) and six distinguished novels for young adults: Jumped (a National Book Award finalist); No Laughter Here, Every Time a Rainbow Dies (a Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book); Fast Talk on a Slow Track (an ALA Best Books for Young Adults); Blue Tights; and Like Sisters on the Homefront (a Coretta Scott King Honor Book). Rita Williams-Garcia lives in Jamaica, New York. You can visit her online at ritawg.com.