Author Interview: Julie Abery

This month, we’re featuring author Julie Abery. Learn what inspired her to write the biography in rhyme, Yusra Swims.


Q: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

A: Probably that writing picture books is much harder than it looks. Take your time to learn more about your craft. Share your writing with a critique group, listen to what they have to say, and have the courage to revise. But most of all be persistent and patient, because perfecting your story may take longer than you think.


Q: What was the first book you read that made you cry?

A: I cried at lots of books! Books, children’s television … you name it. But I think the first book I remember making me cry was Charlotte’s Web. Our teacher read it to us in class story time, and who was the girl sniffling back tears when Charlotte died? It was ME! I felt for poor Wilbur.


Q: What was your favorite thing about school as a kid?

A: It was French. I loved the French language from the first moment I heard it, and my 11-year-old self never dreamed I would end up living in French-speaking Switzerland!


Q: What inspired you to write Yusra Swims?

A: In the spring of 2016, overloaded refugee boats appeared on the news on an almost daily basis. It was heart-wrenching to see so many men, women, and children on the move, looking for safety and a better future, and in the process, placing themselves in perilous danger.

The sea scares me. It is dark and deep. It dragged up my own profound fears and, as a result, images in the form of sparse rhyming stanzas started to flow. I wrote them down, not knowing what I was going to do with them, but they nagged at me and wouldn’t let go.

When I read of Yusra Mardini’s remarkable journey from her beloved Syria to Europe, I realized that my words had found a home in her story. A story of courage, resilience, and hope in the face of adversity.


Q: When you’re not writing (or reading), what are your favorite things to do?

A: I love walking and jogging with my dog in the forest, puttering around in the garden, and baking.


Posted May 30, 2022

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