Interview: Charise Mericle Harper

Hi Charise! Thank you so much for stopping by the MG Book Village to share about your recent release, SO EMBARRASSING: AWKWARD MOMENTS AND HOW TO GET THROUGH THEM! Before we get to the book, would you care to introduce yourself to our site’s readers?

Hello Readers!  This is always hard for me, I’m not super comfortable with listing off accomplishments.  When I do school visits, I have a sidekick character to help me explain things.  He’s an animated book, and we give the presentation together.  I guess he’s not going to be much help today.  Okay, so I’m on my own, here it goes. I like to make things. I make picture books, graphic novels, and chapter books.  I the draw pictures and I the write words.  Sometimes I to do both together and that is always my favorite.  I love making comics!

You did great! 🙂 Okay, so: SO EMBARRASSING. Where did the idea for such a book come from?

Well, it really was a collaborative project with my editor, Chris Duffy at Workman.  I wanted to make a book filled with comics and factual information, and wanted the content to be helpful to kids.  This is an unusual book, so it took some work to figure out how all the pieces were going to fit together.  There isn’t a big central story, but reappearing characters and two dedicated narrators helped give it a framework.  Then the fun started – I got to make comics!

Were you easily embarrassed as a kid? Did you ever want to stick a paper bag over your head?

Absolutely!  And I am a blusher!  While I’m not an expert on embarrassment, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of that moment when it happens and the horror of it all.  How you just want to disappear. It’s awful. On the other hand, I’m always predisposed to look for humor in a situation, and this topic has a lot of opportunities for humor. 

Do you think, as we grow up, that we stop doing so many embarrassing things, or do we just stop getting embarrassed as easily?

Wait!  Are you saying that adults don’t get embarrassed? No one told me! I’m still operating at full kid level.  Let me take a second to let that sink in.

I’m pretty sure that no one likes the feeling of being embarrassed, so I suppose that adults might be good at avoiding potentially embarrassing situations. They have years and years of practice. So they know to say, No thanks, I won’t get on that electric scooter while you have a camera pointing at me. Also, perhaps the adult brain can understand that embarrassment isn’t such a big deal, that if you can laugh it off – you win.

Were there any issues or anecdotes that didn’t make the cut — that were removed from the book, say, during revisions?

I don’t think there were any big cuts to the book, but it was good that that we had a limited number of dedicated pages per chapter.  I could have easily made more comics with additional time and pages.  I didn’t include any of my own big embarrassment stories in the book, but inspired by the book, I made some comics about them and added them to my website.  The time my car caught on fire was pretty embarrassing, as was the time I fell in the middle of the street while walking my dogs.  That last one happened only last year. Yikes!

What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?

Well, first off, I hope they will smile and laugh.  There are some facts in the book, so I’m hoping those might be interesting and helpful. Also, knowing that you are not alone is a big help when facing an uncomfortable situation.  No one talks about embarrassment, what to do when it happens, and why it happens, yet it is something that we’ve all experienced.  When I was just starting this book, I was at a school visit with about sixty fifth graders. I told them about the new book I was working on, shared my own embarrassment story, and then asked if anyone wanted to share a story of their own.  I thought two or three brave students might put a hand up, but I was wrong.  More than half the class wanted to talk about something embarrassing that had happened to them. I couldn’t believe it.  It was fun, it was high energy, and it gave me confidence in my subject matter.  Embarrassment equals a good story.

SO EMBARRASSING is a marvelous mishmash — there are comics, lists, charts, facts, and at different points, the book reads like a self-help survival guide, a confession-filled memoir, an illustrated informational text, and a handful of other things besides! How did you come to use this approach? Are there any other topics that you could see making a book about in such a fashion?

You use the word mishmash and that was the exact recipe I used.  I put all the things I like to do together, mixed them up, and then made them fit.  A fair amount of it was not pre-planned, but just appeared as I kept working through the pages.  I’m really thankful to my editor for letting me play around with the format.  Not every publisher is going to be so comfortable with that.  I am looking for new topic right now.  I’m not sure if it’s going to be exactly like So Embarrassing. I might have to invent something new.  I felt very comfortable making this book. I’d love to make more.

Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

My website holds more information than anyone could want.  There’s information about all my books, free comics to read, and free crafts to make.  You can find all this at www.chariseharper.com  Come on by!


Charise Mericle Harper is the author and illustrator of many children’s books, including the Just Grace series, the Fashion Kitty series, and the Next Best Junior Chef series. She lives in Oregon. She can be found at chariseharper.com.

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