Author Chat with K.Ibura (When The World Turned Upside Down), Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we are chatting with K. Ibura, author of
When The World Turned Upside Down!
Read on for more about K., her book, plus a giveaway!
Meet K. Ibura!
K. Ibura was born as the middle child in a family of seven (five kids plus parents!) in New Orleans, Louisiana. When they weren’t disagreeing about everything, K. Ibura and her siblings played competitive rounds of jacks and a card game called Crazy Eights. They also built insane obstacle courses throughout the house involving stacked chairs, sheets, and timers. Her parents were independent thinkers who filled the home with music, culture, and strong principles. Today, she lives in Brooklyn, where she makes art, writes, and does puzzles while her daughter cheers her on. To learn more about K. Ibura and her writing, visit kiburabooks.com.
Meet When The World Turns Upside Down!
What do you do when the world shuts down? A heartwarming story of friendship and overcoming adversity in a time of COVID, When the World Turns Upside Down is about community, giving back, and understanding the world around us through the power of generosity from debut middle grade author K. Ibura.
Nobody expected a tiny little virus to change the whole world in such a big way, especially not Shayla, Liam, Ai, and Ben. But when school closes to keep everyone safe, their lives turn upside down. It is one thing to learn that the outside world isn’t safe, but why does it seem that the virus is causing trouble inside their homes too?
As they each struggle to adjust to life in quarantine, they discover they are not alone: their apartment building is full of people who need their help. Working together, they begin to see that there is power in numbers. When they cooperate, they can ease each other’s challenges and help their neighbors through tough times. It’s a lesson they’ll need when protests explode in the streets. Soon, each friend has to decide what it means to be part of a community—and how much they’re willing to do to make this world safer for everyone.
Set against the onset of COVID, When the World Turned Upside Down navigates issues of race and social justice in a heartwarming story of generosity, friendship, and the power of youth.
~ Author Chat ~
Who is your favorite character in the book?
What kind of parent would I be if I chose favorites? I love all my characters. Shayla is most like me. Not so much in her personality, but in her personal struggles and her frustration with the world. Both Liam and Ai have my heart for different reasons. Liam struggles with anxiety and actively works to manage his panic attacks. At home, he's a loving help to his mom. Within the group, he's a quiet leader, often coming up with practical solutions or taking a step to move the group forward. Ai is an old soul with a rebel spirit and an artist's heart. She just roars on the page with her personality and strength. Finally, Ben was my least favorite character when I started writing the book. He was rigid in a way I didn't understand. Everything changed when I realized Ben loved his family and his friends, and his rigidity is his way of trying to manage change as he works to hold on to a life he loves. The beautiful thing about writing is that even though you might see your characters clearly, you don't truly understand them until you've spent time with them and walked with them through different life situations—and then they flower and you truly understand who they are.
Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel came first. And the title came from the very first line that I wrote when I was pitching the book. The line was something like: Shayla was in school daydreaming when the world turned upside down. The editors chose that as the title. It's basically the DNA of the book—and the backdrop of our lives right now. We're all navigating a world that's been profoundly destabilized due to COVID. The social justice issues that dominated the news last year have been consistently destabilizing to vast communities of Americans since the country's inception. I don't think I realized I was writing about history as it was unfolding until I was almost done with the book. I wrote the book in year 1 of the pandemic at a time where we had no idea we would still be managing this virus worldwide.
Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
I've learned so many things, but I think the most important one is keep going. There will be emotions and obstacles. There are life logistics to navigate, there are family and work responsibilities, and overall exhaustion. Through it all the desire to write remains. The ability to keep going addresses so many issues with writing. Don't have a lot of time? If you write in small chunks and keep going, you can finish a whole book. Just starting to write and don't have a lot of faith in your abilities? If you keep writing, over time you will develop your voice and craft and eventually have more skills in your writers' toolbox. Story not working? Either write around the blockages or put it down and write something else. If you keep going and keep exploring, you will discover a story worth telling. It sounds basic, but writers just need to write—and keep writing—to get where they need to go.
What’s up next for you?
I'm currently writing a young adult book about a girl with mysterious powers and a mysterious family history. She doesn't understand where her powers come from and she doesn't know that there's more to her family history than her grandmother is telling her. When her grandmother gets sick, she has to go live with cousins and her world explodes. She begins to learn what life is like for the average teenager—and she discovers the mystery behind her powers and why her grandmother has been protecting her all her life. It's been an adventure to write. Every book is like entering a new world and spending time in a new life. It's been an exciting world to dive into.
Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
There is a chapter in the book called Horrible History where Shayla's father Kwame discusses the U.S.'s historical issues with racism with Shayla's friends. Racism is a thorny topic to tackle. The gap between mainstream attitudes toward race and what an oppressed group knows and understands about discrimination and race-based violence is huge. The social justice conversations of 2020 brought more honesty and awareness around these discussions. Figuring out how to distill it into a realistic conversation at a level children could absorb and understand was challenging. It's also painful for me to sit with the reality of the profound inequalities we live with in this world. That chapter was a turning point in the book, where the kids find a new space for their voices and a new focus for how they want to be involved in their building. Ultimately it's an inspiring moment when the kids decide to work in community to support more social justice.
Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or revising?
I can honestly say I enjoy both for different reasons. I put less pressure on myself in drafting. Facing the blank page can be mentally challenging. Especially the beginning of chapters and scenes. My brain quickly flips into panic, doubt and shut down. I want the right answer. From the first stroke, I'm looking for the right entry point. That's a completely unrealistic expectation. You often find the right entry point in the editing stage, after you know your characters and you know about any new plot twists or surprise situations. So in drafting, I have to tell myself, it doesn't matter if it's right, just get it on the page. You can fix it later. Leaving "getting it right" for later is a powerful tool that helps me get through the draft.
Revising is like completing a puzzle. I try to cut away everything that doesn't move the story forward and often it's a dance between craft and logic. It can be exhilarating to find the right combination of words, the right scene structure, the right rhythm to the dialogue. That may happen over a few rounds of revisions, but it's a joyful process.
What would you say is your superpower?
I have lots of superpowers! (I think we all do.) One of the superpowers I have been leaning into for my sanity is leisure. It sounds flighty, but when you are a writer you are often writing in addition to your other life. I lead my department, I'm a parent, and I'm writing. That means writing is happening during my rest and restoration time. Since March of last year, I wrote two books. That's a lot of waking up before work and signing on after work for many, many months. As writers, we're like entrepreneurs. We put in a lot of extra time that no one sees and if we don't take care of the person who is writing, we can burn ourselves out.
The other superpower I've leaned into is the ability to focus on completion vs. perfection. In the past, I wanted everything to look a certain way before I shared it with anyone. These days, I share ideas as I have them, let rough drafts be rough and develop as I go along. That's the only way I've been able to complete all the work I have completed in the last few years. By focusing on completion, I remove pressure on myself to make the work be a certain way. Rather than spin my wheels trying to create a specific kind of vibe or quality, I have been trusting that if I do the work, the product will be what it needs to be. Removing the pressure to live up to some imagined standard and letting my talent and skills be the standard has been a game changer.
Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Right now both New Orleans and Haiti are on my heart. Repeated natural disasters—earthquakes in Haiti and hurricanes in New Orleans—are destabilizing. I have a huge family, so I've been spending the past two days keeping tabs on folks and worrying. For the family who stayed through Hurricane Ida, they're dealing with the heat and the power issues. For the family who left, they're dealing with, where do I go? How long do I stay? How can I afford to stay away from home? All I have is my prayers, my anxiety, and my couch to offer my family. It's heartbreaking.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Find a writing group, invest in developing your voice, and believe there's a reason you are called to write. As a beginning writer, being in writing groups was essential in me learning the ropes with writing. Getting feedback on my writing and giving feedback on other's writing were huge contributors to my growth as a writer. Additionally, in two of my writing groups, we had to read the work we were presenting out loud to the group. It was so helpful in helping me learn how to read my work without stammering or hiding in fear. It's an intensely vulnerable feeling to read your work aloud and over time, I gained the skills to do it confidently and effectively.
Being a writer is an investment. It's an investment in you. You invest countless hours of time and energy dedicated to writing. It takes years to learn how to write smoothly, to hone description, to create fully-formed characters, and to build believable worlds. You have to flop around for some time, you have to write clunky stories or books, it's how you learn. If you don't invest the time into exploring all that writing has to offer, you won't get to mastery. The more time you invest, the stronger command you have over the written word.
Finally, you have to believe that there's a reason you are called to write. You have to believe you have something to say. For many years, no one will care that you are a writer. You will write stories that no one asked for, novels that no one is waiting to receive, essays that may never have a home. You have to have a higher purpose for writing, one that has to do with your soul's contract with life. For some of us, writing is written in our souls. And if that's true for you, then you have to write whether you get published or not, whether your efforts are applauded or not. You can't do it for the applause or the publications because you will easily lose your way. You have to invest in yourself and learn what you are here to write, what you are here to say. And then you have to keep saying it, no matter which way the world blows. Not all of us will meet quick success, not all of us will meet any success in our lifetimes, but the written word does not disappear. It has magical powers to heal us and others, to each us and others, to inspire us and others. It's a contribution to humanity and you must know then you are called to contribute that it won't be wasted, even if the impact of it is invisible to you.
When The World Turned Upside Down
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publish Date: November 12th, 2021
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