Ask the Author | Michelle Edwards

Michelle Edwards discusses her latest children’s book, “Me and the Boss,” in this week’s Ask the Author ahead of a reading at Prairie Lights on Sunday, Dec. 11.


Contributed by Michelle Edwards.

Charlotte McManus, Arts Reporter

Michelle Edwards is an Iowa City-based children’s author from New York. She graduated from the University of Iowa’s printmaking program and received her Master of Fine Arts in 1982. She gives readings at elementary schools in the area and writes an author’s column on Modern Daily Knitting called “Knitter’s Notebook.” Edwards will give a reading at Prairie Lights on Sunday about her latest book “Me and the Boss.”

The Daily Iowan: What is “Me and the Boss” about?

Michelle Edwards: In the release, it talks about it as a sibling story, and that’s true. It is. But for me, it’s about the empowerment of making. What happens when you work hard to master something, and you do it. Lee learns to embroider, and it doesn’t really catch on. But something turns, and he figures out he can patch his pants. And that step, from taking a needle of thread, of going in and out, to that moment when you know you can fix something. Fixing is really powerful. When I was a kid, we did a lot more making. It was part of what we did, and I think that gave us confidence.

DI: What inspired “Me and the Boss”?

Edwards: What inspired this book is a conversation from Home Ec. Workshop. The owner Codi [Josephson] and I were having a talk, just chatting, and she mentioned this embroidery class she taught to kids who were experiencing homelessness. The kids were sitting quietly stitching, and all of a sudden one boy stood up — and Codi said she could see the wheels turning in his head — and he said, “I could fix my pants!” And that really grabbed me as the beginning of a children’s story; a story I wanted to tell. And it took me a really long time to figure out how to do that, and even once it was bought, it went through many iterations.

DI: What do you hope children and adults alike will gain from reading this book?

Edwards: Well, you always hope it’s read and somehow finds a spot in kids’ lives, that there’s something they latch onto. In this, I would like them to be able to see that Lee’s not in a gifted and talented program at a magnet school. Lee’s a kid. He goes to the library, he learns, he’s just like every kid. Any kid can do this.

And I like to see that my books celebrate the big and small victories of everyday life. Lee fixing his pants is a small victory, and that’s what I think is one of the wonders of childhood — small victories.

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DI: What advice would you give to someone who wants to publish a children’s book?

Edwards: This comes up a lot. People think, when approaching an author, that we have the secret sauce. But the best thing is, there’s a professional organization called the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and they are the best place to get started. They’re a powerhouse of information and have conferences that are local, regional, national, and international. You can’t get better than that.