The Kim Wayans Interview

Don't forget! If you live near Dubuque I will be reading there tomorrow.

Today I continue my recent theme of interviewing authors of books for young people. Folks my age may remember today's interviewee from her time performing with her siblings on the show "In Living Color" and her roles in movies like "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka." She's still performing but now is also the co-author of a popular series of children's books about the character Amy Hodgepodge, a young girl from a mixed-race background who's plunged into a new school after being homeschooled her whole life. Wayans writes the Hodgepodge books with her husband, actor Kevin Knotts.

What tips do you have for people who work creatively with your spouse?
Resist the temptation to discuss domestic or other personal issues during your creative time together. Stay focused on the work, and accord your dearly beloved the same respect, patience and openness to ideas you would naturally give a creative partner who wasn't your spouse.

Do you think your experience with comedy and performance helps you as a children's book writer?
Most definitely. Kids love to laugh, and since my background is in comedy, I'm always seeking to bring humor to the stories I tell. And as far as being a performer is concerned, I actually act out stuff as we write, which drives my husband crazy--but I can't help that I'm a big ole ham.

What are some of your favorite books for young people?
I love "Charlotte's Web," by E.B. White, "Grace for President," by Kelly DiPucchio and "Pippi Longstockings" by Astrid Lindgren, to name a few.

What's the hardest part about writing for kids?
Trying to be current, without sounding like an adult trying to be current.

Which writers do you admire? Do you try and emulate them in any way?
There are many writers that I admire...too numerous to list, actually. However, I really try not to emulate their style, but of course, I'd love to emulate their success.

You do lots of visits with schools for the Amy Hodgepodge series--what's the funniest feedback you've received from your young readers?

The children we visit always surprise and delight us with their feedback and questions. One of the most memorable and funny things ever said to us was by a young boy who raised his hand and told us he felt the reason why the school bully "Rory" picks on Amy Hodgepodge is because he has a massive crush on her, but doesn't know how else to get her attention. He went on to suggest that we write a title where Rory and Amy fall in love, get married and have children!

How did you choose which age-range to put Amy Hodgepodge in?
Since the series is inspired by our nieces and nephews, we wanted the books to be in the same age range as them.

When writing for that age range, how do you keep up with what is appropriate for those readers?
We're fortunate to be around youngsters a lot (because of my nieces and nephews), so we get to keep a pulse on what's going on in their world, and we have a wonderful editor whose quick to let us know what is or isn't appropriate for our young readers.

Why did you choose to have Amy be a (previously) homeschooled student?
Because several of my nieces and nephews were homeschooled, and we felt including that really helped add to the "fish out of water" element in the Amy Hodgepodge series.

I was looking at the different impressions you did on In Living Color--what was your process for getting down an impression?
For the most part, I'd focus on the most distinctive and recognizable characteristic of the person I was trying to do the impression of, then build from there.

Of all the shows and movies you've done, which did you have the most fun performing in?
Fortunately, I've had a great time on all the projects I've been able to work on over the years, but "Living Color" will always hold a special place in my heart. Working with my family was just the best.

What are you working on now?
Currently, I'm touring with my one-woman show, "A HANDSOME WOMAN RETREATS" - a poignant and funny autobiographical journey of self-discovery that takes place on a ten-day silent meditation retreat, and I'm writing a humorous blog.

How does it feel to be the 242nd person interviewed for
Like an honor. Thank you!