Author Feature: Hayley Barrett

Author Feature: Hayley Barrett

All About You!

3 Little Known or Interesting Things About You

  1. Since childhood, I’ve had a strong aversion to raw white onions. I’m still working on it, because I adore every other allium. 
  2. I’m interested in nearly everything. 
  3. I can touch my tongue to my nose. 

Hogwarts House

I’m a Hufflepuff through and through. 

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Daily distractions. Ugh! It’s very easy for me to let random tasks take up my time. When I turn away from the Never-Ending To-Do List and settle into writing, I feel relaxed and happy—like I’m digging in a sandbox. I dream up ways to sift and shape words until the work becomes play. That’s when the good stuff happens. 

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

One of the best parts of being a writer is being friends with writers. The writers and illustrators I know are wonderful. I couldn’t possibly name them all, but they are fun, supportive, and utterly devoted to making great books. 

Their tireless efforts and the resulting successes inspire and encourage me. It’s like having a front-row seat at the Dreams-Come-True theater. 

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

I read Nancy Bond’s A STRING IN THE HARP every year. She was awarded a Newbery Honor for it, and I think it’s brilliant. If you enjoy stories about mysterious objects, time travel, Arthurian legends, and Welsh history, you’ll love it too. 

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

Picture books are interesting, because they often have more than one reader at a time. There may be an adult reader, perhaps a parent, teacher, or librarian. Then there’s the child reader. This could be an individual child, cuddled on someone’s lap and listening to a bedtime story, or it could be lots of children—a classroom full of wiggly, giggly kids. 

As the author, I’m responsible for capturing and holding the attention of all my readers, a responsibility I find challenging and fun. I strive to use my words and my imagination to appeal to and satisfy each kind of reader. For the adults, I try to make the book’s read-aloud experience fun, easy, and enjoyable. For the younger readers, I stir in as much wonderment, wordplay, and delicious, nutritious language as I can. 

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot or avatar?

In true Hufflepuff style, I’ll choose a badger. I wish one would take up residence in my yard. 

About Your New Book, “What Miss Mitchell Saw”

What Miss Mitchell Saw was released today, September 3.

Stars and ships and splashing whales! What Miss Mitchell Saw recounts Nantucket astronomer Maria Mitchell’s amazing 1847 discovery of a telescopic comet. Her find caused an international sensation as astronomers debated her claim to a royal reward. Did Miss Mitchell win gold and glory?

https://hayleybarrett.com/books/

Favorite line or quote from the book.

“Thee must wonder. Thee must watch closely. Then will thee see and know for thyself.” -William Mitchell, Maria Mitchell’s father

Why did you choose to write in a narrative nonfiction style?

As a young reader, I depended on books to teach me. Whether I was reading fiction or nonfiction, I wanted to learn, and my favorite books packed lots of useful information into their fanciful stories. 

Maria Mitchell’s remarkable life and accomplishments were the result of her love of self-directed learning, of truth-seeking diligence, and of nature’s immense beauty. As I did research for What Miss Mitchell Saw, I decided my approach to her story should illuminate who she was and reflect her inquisitive, forthright, appreciative personality. With this in mind, I made sure every bit of the story was true, from the names of ships to the names of shopkeepers, and then I did my best to make her lived truth beautiful. I wrote as if I were speaking directly to the reader, telling the sweeping tale of how Miss Maria Mitchell of Nantucket spotted a comet and captured the attention and admiration of the world. 

Advice

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

You must write with both your head and your heart. 

When I’m writing with both my head and my heart, the work will often bring tears to my eyes. That’s a good sign. It means I’ve touched on something honest and compelling. So strive for a personal reaction to your own work. Trust the tears or the laughter whenever they happen. 

Leave us with some wise words. What advice would you give the readers of this interview?

Keep reading your favorite childhood books. You love them because they speak directly to your heart and imagination. As you grow and change, they will continue to nourish you with new delights and unexpected insights.

Order Hayley’s newest book here.

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I am a middle school English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher.

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