I recently reviewed author and art educator Amanda Davis’ book 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag, which debuts today. It’s a stunning and unique story depicting America’s recovery from the terrorist attacks of 9/11, almost 20 years ago.
Davis was in high school when the planes crashed into the Twin Towers, but the idea to write a book about the 9/11 flag came many years later. She said she was teaching an art lesson around the story of flag in 2011 and then years after that she still thought about the flag, and so she decided to write a book.
“I feel so honored and humbled that I’m able to tell the story of the flag and make it accessible to children,” she said.
Davis shares the hardest and easiest parts of writing, and her tips for young writers below:
Q: What inspired you to write books, and have you always wanted to be an author?
A: I didn’t always know I wanted to be an author but I DID know that I loved writing and art. Whether it was sketching in a sketchbook or writing poetry, it was something I always came back to. In my work as an art educator, I often hear students and parents say, ‘I can’t do art’ or ‘I’m bad at art and writing’. I truly feel everyone can be creative. It’s a skill. If we practice, we can learn and get better. The more I write and draw, the more I improve. So, if there’s something you love to do, pay attention to that, and stick with it! Most likely, that something is what you will still enjoy doing in your future. No dream is too big or out of reach!
Q: What is the easiest part when it comes to writing?
A: I’d have to say coming up with ideas. I always seem to have too many! I know, it’s a good problem to have.
Q: The hardest part?
A: Having too many ideas, ha! Having too many ideas often makes me feel like I need to be fleshing them all out at once. This overwhelming urgency to do it all! I have trouble narrowing the ideas down and figuring out which ones I should focus on. Ultimately, I end up going with whichever idea seems to be calling me the loudest. The one I can’t get away from.
Q: Do you have any tips for young writers?
- Find your creative community. Surrounding yourself with other passionate and creative people will help you grow and develop in your craft.
- When the going gets tough, keep going! Creating anything—whether drawing or writing, is tough. It takes being vulnerable and putting yourself out there. Some people will connect with your work, and others won’t. That’s the beauty of art. Try not to take it personally and know that you are brave for telling your story.
- It’s okay to make mistakes. Our work is never going to be perfect. What matters is that we enjoy the learning throughout the process of making.
- The world needs your stories! Your stories are unique to you. Sharing your stories gives others a chance to learn more about you and about themselves. It’s an opportunity to connect and feel seen and heard. So,keep at it! We are waiting for you and your words to enter our world!
Q: What was the process in publishing 30,000 Stitches?
A: It was a long process! From the moment, I read and taught about the true story of the flag in 2011, I was intrigued and knew it was a special story. It stuck with me and lingered in my head, but needed time to flourish. After visiting the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in 2014, and being overcome with emotion at the artifacts and the stories, it was another reminder of the importance of telling this story. Once I decided to write a children’s book on the topic of the National 9/11 Flag, I enacted my three ‘r’’s: a lot of research, countless revisions, and creating a refrain that helped me tie the narrative together. Once I had a polished draft, I sent the story off to agents and a few publishers-WorthyKids being one of them. I ended up getting an agent for the story and seven months after I sent the manuscript to WorthyKids, they emailed me with interest. I connected them with my agent, and the rest is history!
Q: Besides writing and illustrating, what do you do for fun?
A: I’ve been known to dabble in a lot of different things like voice, piano, and ukulele lessons. I love to try new things! I also love hiking and spending time with my family and my rescue pup, Cora. The ocean is one of my favorite places, especially during late fall when the summer crowds have dissipated. I love to travel and attend live concerts and musical theatre, too! Can’t wait until we can safely do that again.
Q: Your book is based off of 9/11. What was your experience?
A: I was in high school when 9/11 happened. I can remember being evacuated from the school, and being corralled onto one of the athletic fields. They had us wait there for a while until they were able to determine that it was safe to proceed back into the school. Many schools, business, etc. were nervous that there were other targets for attacks. I’m from Massachusetts and later learning that two of the planes that were involved in the attacks departed from Boston, hit home. We were eventually dismissed from school, and I remember going home and watching the horrific images of the attacks on television. It felt surreal. I think each of us who were alive on that day can remember exactly where we were and how we felt. Since we are now at a school-age generation that wasn’t alive during 9/11, I hope that 30,000 STITCHES can be an accessible way for children to learn about the events of that day and learn how if we come together and unite, we can overcome tragedy and hate.
Q: Why did you choose to write your book about the 9/11 flag?
A: I first learned about the story back in 2011 when I facilitated an art lesson around the story of the flag with my art students for the tenth remembrance of 9/11 While browsing through some magazines, I came across a blurb about a torn and tattered American flag that flew over Ground Zero in the days after 9/11 and later traveled across all fifty states to be fully restored touching many hearts and many hands along the way. Later, it returned to New York on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 as a symbol of hope and unity. I knew I found my lesson. That year, students learned about the flag, and we created our own patchwork flag in remembrance.
Thanks again for the interview, Elena!
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This is a book everyone should read. Shows perseverance and unity. Very well written and illustrated.