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Kids Q&A
1. Why did you write a book about Antoni Gaudi?
2. How did you go about writing Building on Nature: the Life of Antoni Gaudi?
3. What was the hardest part of writing Through Georgia's Eyes?
4. Did you always want to be a writer?
5. Where did you grow up?
6. Is your name Rachel or Raquel?
7. If you could live anywhere, where would you live?
8. Do you have children or pets?
9. What is your favorite food?


1. Why did you write a book about Antoni Gaudi?

I don't remember every studying Gaudi in school - perhaps since he wasn't an American, but rather, an important historical figure from another country, Spain. I was aware that he was an architect who lived in Barcelona. I also knew that many people loved his works and that others had strong reactions to his buildings. Knowing so little about Gaudi made me curious to learn about his life as an architect.

What was his path to becoming an architect? How did he come to create such daring works still celebrated today? What inspired him to create such unusual buildings? How did he figure in the larger Art Nouveau or Modernisme movement of design in his time? One thing was certain: His creative whimsy and playful designs seemed perfect to share with young readers. And Gaudi turned nature into art, and in the process he revolutionized the world of architecture.

On a personal note, my family tree sprouted in Spain. My father's parents moved from Puerto Rico to New York. But before that in our family tree, my ancestors came from Spain in the 1800s - from Villeta del Duque, in la provincia de Castilla. Writing about Gaudi has given me a wonderful chance to connect to my family's Spanish culture and roots.

2. How did you go about writing Building on Nature?

With Gaudi as a subject, I got to play detective and investigate the life of a great architect celebrated around the world. I liked the challenge of discovering what details of his life might enchant young readers. How could I translate the life of a legend into a story kids would enjoy? I began my research and was fascinated by Gaudi's life, his talent for design and building, and his sources of inspiration - nature, his pride in Catalonia, and his religious faith. He had a unique creative spirit as an architect in his time - and he was part of a larger movement that was Art Nouveau or Modernisme.

Publishing this book has been a wonderful way to contribute and share in the collective admiration and enthusiasm so many feel for Gaudi. He sparks the hearts and imaginations of people even now. His works symbolize the eclectic, creative spirit of Barcelona and pride in Catalonian culture and heritage. Each year, countless visitors pay homage to Gaudi's boundless imagination and daring originality.

3. What was the hardest part of writing Through Georgia's Eyes?

Reading books about American artist Georgia O'Keeffe and taking notes on her life was easy. I practically grew up in libraries and like research.

The hardest part was turning all those neat details about a long, long life (Georgia lived to be 98!) into a short, short story for kids. I had to figure out the structure of O'Keeffe's whole life. I needed to paint with words a portrait that conveyed the essence of the artist accurately yet dramatically. As I wrote and rewrote, months went by.

Accepting that my first draft was not the final story was often painful. Ouch! My wonderful writing groups held my feet to the fire as I revised, cutting words, phrases and whole paragraphs. I added others as I rewrote the story again and again. I had to surrender to the writing process, which is really rewriting over and over.

That whole process took nearly two years to complete. Very humbling! But the end result is deeply rewarding and meaningful for me.

4. Did you always want to be a writer?

It was one thing I dreamed of becoming someday, and I started keeping a diary when I was nine years old. I also thought it would be neat to be an artist, or an archeologist who uncovers ancient ruins, like Machu Picchu in Peru.
machu picchu 2
I'm glad I became a writer. But I did enjoy taking art classes all through grade school. And after college while living in Argentina, I did go hike into Machu Picchu. It's worth visiting!

5. Where did you grow up?

I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan where my parents met at college. After first grade, we moved to Austin, Texas. From there we left for Greeley, Colorado and then Jonesboro, Arkansas. Then it was back to Colorado (Boulder this time). I spent my senior year at Lowell High School in San Francisco.

I could tell you we performed "The Flying Rodriguez Family Trapeze Act!" in a traveling circus. But we didn't. My father was a law professor who took posts at different universities...and so we moved.

6. Is your name Rachel or Raquel?

Both. My family is Puerto Rican and Slovakian American. My given name is Rachel, which most people call me. But some family and friends also call me Raquel. My nephew and niece know me as Tia Raquel ('Aunt Rachel' in Spanish).

I like both names equally; they celebrate my diverse heritage. So use whichever you like. I respond to both!

7. If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

When I was a kid, I daydreamed of living in a bookstore. I thought it would be cool to eat, breathe and sleep amongst millions of books. Naturally, I'd have worked (uh...reading books? ) to earn my keep. The closest I got to that dream, though, was being a voracious reader. I happily visited libraries and bookstores all through childhood.

Now, I live in San Francisco, a vibrant, multicultural city. Like Georgia O'Keeffe and Antoni Gaudi, though, I feel drawn to wilderness and nature. Someday I imagine having a big garden, and living in a more natural setting.

8. Do you have children or pets?

I don't have children or pets. I have a wonderful nephew (Ramon) and niece (Sofia). And I especially like cats.

9. What is your favorite food?

Most of my friends know me for eating fruits, vegetables and a mostly healthy diet.Book Cover

But secretly? I adore Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch. I've been known to devour an entire box in under 24 hours. (SHH...don't tell anyone!)

 
 

art © Julie Paschkis | published by Henry Holt | web design by Nicole Roberts Creative