Saturday, May 14, 2011


This month, Marimba Books releases Aloha for Carol Ann, a picture book about an eight-year-old who moves to Hawaii and struggles to feel at home in this new place until she discovers the true meaning of aloha, a Hawaiian term that means "hello," "welcome" and so much more.

Meet the Author: Margo Sorenson

Marimba Books: Do you remember when you began writing? What was your first piece?
Margo Sorenson: I wrote my first "book" at age 6, titled LEO AND BO-PEEP, and I illustrated it, too (unfortunately!). I still have it, and it makes me giggle. When I do school visits, the students always ask me this same question, so I show them the tattered and ancient "book," much to their glee!
MB: How did you get started in children's book publishing?
MS: I taught high school and middle school English for many years, and I was lucky enough to have excellent mentoring from writing instructors in the teaching of writing, including the UCLA Writing Project. Parents of my students would ask me why I didn't write, and I always answered that I could teach students to write, but I couldn't write, myself. My mother, also an author of children's books, encouraged me to go to an SCBWI workshop with her. I went — kicking and screaming — and have never looked back.
MB: What was your first published book and how many have you had published so far?
MS: My first published book was one I co-authored with Anne Polkingharn, the wonderful and legendary librarian of the California K-8 school at which I was teaching, Harbor Day School. It was a reading record book with multiple activities for students to report on their reading, titled HOW TO SNEAK UP ON A GOOD BOOK (Perfection Learning), which is now out of print. At the same time, I had just begun working on Aloha For Carol, and I was writing a work-for-hire for Bantam Sweet Dreams series, under my pseudonym Marcie Kremer, titled ALOHA LOVE (Bantam, 1994, out of print), a very "demure" teen romance about two debaters at Aina Hau School (Punahou School, where our daughters attended and where I taught) in Honolulu. ALOHA FOR CAROL ANN is my twenty-seventh published book, but, I have probably eighty to ninety unpublished manuscripts!
MB: You have an interesting story of perseverance regarding the publication of Aloha For Carol Ann Can you share that?
MS: I first began writing Aloha For Carol in 1989, and I would read the various versions aloud to my middle school students, who would make comments, trying to spare my feelings! I began submitting it to publishers, and it was rejected many, many times. When I'd get feedback from editors, I'd revise it again, and I'd ask my fellow teachers for help, as well. I believed in the story, because I'd seen it reenacted so many times during our ten years in Hawaii, and I wanted to share the aloha spirit that our family had found there. Twenty-two years later, I was still keeping an eye out for a publisher that I thought might be interested in the story, and lo, and behold, Marimba Books was founded, the perfect publisher for this story. I queried, was asked to send the manuscript, and the Hudsons acquired it, much to my and my family's joy!
MB: Aloha For Carol is about a girl who is a new student in a new place: Hawaii. Why did you pick Hawaii for the setting of this book? Do you have any personal connections to Hawaii?
MS: Our family lived in Hawaii for ten years, and, so often, I saw what a difference kids could make in welcoming someone new to such a different and unusual place. The aloha spirit of kindness and welcoming others is part of Hawaii, and the multicultural setting seemed perfect for the story I wanted to tell. We return to Hawaii every year, and we still have dear friends there whom we visit and who come to the Mainland to visit us, as well. Living in Hawaii has become an integral part of the fabric of our family's life, and I am so grateful that Marimba Books has made it possible to keep these special memories alive and to share them with young readers.
MB: Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
MS: After we moved from Hawaii, we missed it a great deal. I wanted to keep those memories alive for our family, so I began writing the story. Carol Ann is actually a real person (she gave me permission to use her name!), a young Marine wife we met at our church, who was having a difficult time adjusting to life in Hawaii, and she ended up loving it there because of people's welcoming attitudes. Carol Ann's story seems to span the generations, both young and old, and watching kids exemplify the aloha spirit by welcoming others in our daughters' classrooms and in my own classroom inspired me to share the story with young readers who also might have to move somewhere new and different, or might have someone new come to their school. The acclaimed author Virginia Hamilton once wrote, "Writing is what you know, remember, and imagine," and that's how Aloha For Carol came to be.

Learn more about author Margo Sorenson at her website:

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