Friday, December 20, 2013

The Dirt Diary {Blog Tour} Plus! Interview with Author Anna Staniszewski!

"Oh. My. Goldfish."  I loved Anna Staniszewski's The Dirt Diary!

Rachel Lee is in the 8th grade.  Her parents have just split up, and she's still recovering from a fake boyfriend incident the year before (Junior High kids can be so mean!)  She doesn't think her life can get much worse...but then she has to help out with her mom's new business: a house cleaning service!  One that caters to the families of the popular kids in her school.  She discovers, though, that finding her classmates "dirty laundry" (see what I did there?) can be used to her advantage.  What will Rachel do with this information?

When I started The Dirt Diary, I was expecting the typical Mean Girl vs. Outcast story (or maybe even something along the lines of Seven Deadlies).  Burn Book gets found and spread all over the school, outcast girl becomes super-popular, ends up with football star.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Sure, there are some similarities, but the conflict doesn't go so horribly awry you feel sick/uncomfortable (which has happened with the last few Mean Girl/Outcast/Bully books I've read lately).  It was nice in the way Napoleon Dynamite is nice [confession: memorized movie].  There are popular kids, not popular kids, and some conflicts- but none (okay, maybe most) of the characters were completely evil.  It was very similar to my junior high experience.  

First- I loved Rachel Lee.  She captured me with her blurting of "Holy fish tacos" (something I'm pretty sure I've actually said).  She continued to endear me with her fun little quips, and then when she turned to baking to ease her troubled soul? I gave her a mental hug.  Food IS a language all in itself!

Second- I loved Rachel's friends.  Marisol and Andrew are...well, if I could've put Andie and Ducky together in Pretty in Pink, that's how I picture Marisol and Andrew.  And who wouldn't love that?

Third- Red Sox.

This was a super-fun read that would be great for middle grades! And apparently nearly 30-somethings, as I raved about this book to everyone I saw for two days after I finished it.  I'm really excited to see how the rest of the series goes!

Sidenote: I read this while also watching the K-Drama Heirs.  One of the characters is Yoo Rachel (but pronounced Rye-el).  So, in my head that's what I called our Dirt Diary Rachel, unless it was explicitly pronounced otherwise ("Ray-CHUL!")


And now!  I had the privilege of interviewing Anna as part of The Dirt Diary Blog Tour! (HUGE thanks to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, and Anna, for this opportunity!) 

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of My Very UnFairy Tale Life series, published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Look for the first book in Anna’s next tween series, The Dirt Diary, in January 2014, and visit her at

Hi Anna! Greetings from the frigid Midwest :)
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions!

1. Of all the characters in The Dirt Diary, which one do you connect with most? And, if it’s different, which one are you most like?
Rachel, the main character, and I definitely have a lot in common personality-wise. Her extreme shyness, neurotic insecurities, and funny sayings were inspired by my own quirks from when I was in middle school. Luckily, I’ve gotten a little more outgoing and a little less insecure since then!

2. Were any of Rachel’s situations based on your own experiences?
Although I haven’t been in Rachel’s specific situation (cleaning houses with her mom, going through a parental divorce, etc.) I can relate to the treatment Rachel experiences at the hands of the popular kids. When I was younger, the popular kids didn’t go out of their way to make my life miserable, but they usually treated me like I was completely invisible which made me feel like dirt.

3. Did you know from the beginning the direction you wanted her parents’ situation to take? Or did that develop with the story?
I had a pretty good idea early on of how I wanted Rachel’s parents’ story to end up. My goal was to make the outcome hopeful but realistic. I spent a lot of time trying to get Rachel to a point where she’d be okay, no matter how her parents’ relationship ended up.

4. Did you have any teachers who encouraged you the way Ms. Kennedy encourages Rachel?
I was lucky enough to have lots of great teachers when I was growing up, particularly a couple of English teachers in high school who really believed in my writing. I don’t know if I would be an author now if they hadn’t encouraged me as much as they did.

5. What would YOU have made for the bake sale?
I love eating pastries, but I’m not that great at making them. I do have one dessert that’s always a hit: a chocolate chip cookie cake with cream cheese filling.

6. As a children’s librarian, I have to ask: what was your favorite book growing up?                 
I had so many that I can’t narrow it down to just one! Among my favorites were Anne of Green Gables, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Secret Garden, and A Wrinkle in Time.

7. Were any characters based off people you know in real life? Marisol and Andrew would definitely be characters from my life.
I usually weave in characteristics from real people into my characters, but I don’t think there was one person who inspired any of the characters. It’s more fun, somehow, to invent characters from scratch and then sprinkle in traits from real-life people.

Thank you again for chatting! I look forward to reading more of your work! Enjoy the holidays in New England! (I was just that way for Thanksgiving).

Thank you so much for having me!


The Dirt Diary is published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 01.07.2014

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