36 Books Blog: Mary Casanova

Each day leading up to the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony, we’ll be featuring an exclusive interview with one of our 36 finalists. Learn more about these incredible local writers and gear up to see the winners announced live in person April 6.

Interview with Mary Casanova, author of Hush Hush, Forest, woodcuts by Nick Wroblewski

Category: Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books for Africa

How does if feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?

In the land of 10,000 amazing authors and illustrators, I’m thrilled to learn that Hush Hush, Forest is a finalist. Our Minnesota Book Awards are a bit like the Oscars in Hollywood. It’s no small thing!

Tell us something about your finalist book that you want readers to know.

I am in awe of Nick Wroblewski’s intricate woodcut illustrations. The story started with my carefully chosen words as I tried to convey the change of seasons from fall to winter, with a forest’s inhabitants bedding down as winter comes on. But Nick’s illustrations bring the words to life. I know that we both hope this book instills a greater curiosity for the natural world and inspires families to trek outside and explore, no matter the season.

Let us know a little bit about your writing life. What brought you to a writing career and how did you become a published author?

I fell in love with the power and magic of writing when I was in high school, and somehow decided I wanted to someday be an author. Writing, I discovered, was a way to have a voice. As one of ten children, I grew up in a camp-like atmosphere on the edge of St. Paul, with parents who regularly packed the station wagon to capacity–ten kids and the family dog–and headed “up north” to a family cabin. These treks instilled in me a love of wilderness that eventually led my husband and I to move to the edge of northern Minnesota after college; he dreamed of running a small business, I dreamed of writing. After hundreds of rejections on my early writing attempts, after eight rejections on my first book for young readers, my middle-grade novel called Moose Tracks was published. That was in l995, 23 years ago–and I was sure I didn’t have any more stories in me. But one idea led to another, one risk after another, and I’m proud to say that with great courage, I have been fortunate to have published 38 books with a variety of major publishers. I’m still amazed at the power of a single dream and where it can take a person.

Minnesota is often ranked highly as a state that values literature and reading. In your experience, what is it about our state that makes it such a welcoming place for writers and book creators?

I’m proud to live in a state that values education and the arts. We are blessed with an incredible community of readers, writers, illustrators, and publishers. I love that Minnesotans voted to support the arts (and libraries and environment) through the Legacy Fund, which has allowed small libraries and schools to bring authors such as myself into greater Minnesota to share our work and passion with communities. Not every state is as generous and nurturing to artists and writers as is ours.

What is something you are good at that few people know about?

I had a horse when I was a teenager and loved to ride bareback. For years, I didn’t think that horses would ever be part of my life again, until our youngest child went off to college. That’s when I decided to get a horse and board it out. Soon my husband was showing interest in riding with me. Long story short, we bought 60 acres, built a barn for our three horses. We love exploring the woods on old logging trails as well as trailering our horses to go “horse camping” around Minnesota and sometimes as far away as the Black Hills. It’s been wonderful to share this hobby together.

What do you love about libraries?

Libraries are sanctuaries. As a child I loved going to the library and leaving my noisy big family behind. I remember getting my first library card and feeling that I had entered into a life-long commitment to books. I love that libraries are for everyone, no matter the income level or education level, no matter if you’re a three-year old or a 93-year old. They invite us in to explore, stretch, and grow.

About Mary Casanova
Whether it’s a historical novel or a picture book, Mary Casanova’s connection to nature comes through whatever she writes–and she’s written plenty, with 38 books published and more in the works. Her awards include the ALA  “Notable,” Aesop Accolades by the American Folklore Society, Parent’s Choice “Gold” Award, Booklist Editor’s Choice, and two Minnesota Book Awards, both in 2001. When she’s not traveling for research or speaking, she’s “up north” on the Minnesota-Canadian border with her husband, Charlie, snowshoeing, paddling a canoe, or riding their horses down old logging trails. She dedicated Hush Hush, Forest to their first grandchild.