Interview by Wendy Jackson Slaton
Photos by Quy Tran
HFM was delighted to meet Alex Zhang, the young author of a new novel Spark, a sci-fi fantasy-esque novel about the adventures of a boy named Jack. We were introduced to Alex through the iWRITE organization where they are currently working on the Bilingual (English/Chinese) version of the book.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a 9th grader, currently attending Spring Branch Academic Institute. When I’m not writing, I enjoy drawing and playing music. My favorite places in Houston would probably be City Centre and 99 Ranch Market. I’ve got lots of exciting plans for the summer, most of them involving my books in some form or another. Signings, readings, and, of course, planning out what my next book will feature!
Who inspires you as an author?
I have several inspirations as an author. Authors like Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowling, whose books were present throughout my childhood, are the people who I look up to, but the ones who truly inspire my work are my friends. Not only do they wholeheartedly support my efforts, ideas just seem to come easier when I’m around them. They bring out the best in me, and I’m grateful to them for it. My favorite author would have to be Lev Grossman, author of the phenomenal Magicians trilogy.
How did you become involved with iWRITE?
I became involved with iWRITE by searching around for writing contests which I could attend, in order to foster a competitive spirit. It’s from iWRITE where I found Melissa, who’s been an incredible editor and friend, as well as the wonderful iWRITE Youth Club.
Tell us a little about your book and how you got started?
My book, Spark, is a sci-fi fantasy-esque novel about the adventures of a boy named Jack. This book had been sitting in the back of my head for quite some time now, so it was only a matter of time before the desire to create something struck me. I talked to Melissa about it, who really liked the idea and pushed me to do it, so I did.
Do you have any advice for others (especially young writers)?
My advice, especially to young authors: Never be afraid to take constructive criticism. I can guarantee that it will be one of the most helpful things that you’ll receive throughout the course of your writing career. That doesn’t mean that you should always accept it, but never be so attached to your work that you refuse to listen to criticism.
About the iWRITE Literacy Organization:
iWRITE, a “by kids for kids” non-profit organization founded in 2009 by children’s author, Melissa Williams Murphy, gives kids the chance to build confidence and find their voice through writing. Kids in the 3rd-12th grade have the opportunity to become published authors through the annual publishing contest called, I Write Short Stories by Kids for Kids.
Many of iWRITE’s young authors become public speakers at the organization, join the youth club, volunteer or intern after going through the publishing process. iWRITE also helps elementary-aged kids strengthen writing skills through the “i” The Guy Writing Journal in-school program. The seven-foot mascot, “i” The Guy can be spotted at literacy events and around Houston area schools encouraging kids to nurture a love for writing. This November, 100 new authors and illustrators from all over the world will be awarded at iWRITE’s ten-year anniversary luncheon and book signing in Houston. For more information visit iWRITE.org.