Kathie: Hi E Train, and welcome to MG Book Village! I’m so glad I have a chance to sit down and chat with you today. You’re making a big impression in the middle-grade book world, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to get to know you and your current projects a bit better.
E Train: Thank you so much for having me today, Kathie! It’s an absolute honor to be interviewed for MG Book Village. I try to attend as many #MGBookChat and #VillagePageTurners discussions as I can! I’m excited to share a little of my journey with you and your readers!
Kathie: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
E Train: I’m E Train, a book reviewer, podcast host, and author interviewer. I’ve loved books my entire life, in fact, I’m told I started reading at 2.5 years old and never stopped! Recently, I decided I wanted to do more than just read books, I wanted to review them, and share my reviews with the authors. And thanks to the wonderful writing community, my dream has come true! From interviewing New York Times bestselling authors, to leading local book drives for underprivileged kids in my community, I want to do everything I can to not only inspire kids and adults to read but to help ensure that they have the OPPORTUNITY to read.
Kathie: How did you get started using social media to connect to middle-grade authors and readers? What platforms do you currently use, and where can we find you to follow what you’re up to?
E Train: When I was in fourth grade, I received an assignment to review all the books I read and share them with my class. Soon, I started sharing my book reviews with librarians, booth lovers, and other educators through Zoom book clubs. Eventually, I sent one of my reviews to a Michigan librarian, and she shared it with the author, who happened to be the amazing Lisa Fipps, author of the novel-in-verse, STARFISH! And, much to my surprise, Lisa posted my review on her Instagram page.
That got me thinking, maybe I can share my reviews on social media. At first, I only reviewed books on YouTube, where you can find me @ETrainTalks. But soon, I shared them on Twitter @ETrainsWorld, on my podcast E Train Talks, on Instagram, which is also @ETrainTalks, and on my website at www.etraintalks.com. That’s where you can find my reviews, interviews, and more!
Kathie: Zoom has had a huge impact on your life. Did you use it before the pandemic, and what sort of opportunities has it given you?
E Train: Before the pandemic, I’d never used Zoom, so once Covid hit, it was a big adjustment. At the time, I didn’t even know if I was supposed to use headphones or not, but soon, once I had the techy stuff figured out, my mom scoured the internet, and many, many Facebook feeds, in search of virtual library book clubs for me to attend. Being stuck inside all day meant I needed to find ways to stay mentally strong and what better way than by reading books!
Attending zoom book clubs not only helped me discover some of my favorite reads, like “Starfish,” but also connected me with other kids. It was nice to know that other kids were in the same boat as me.
Soon, I was attending many virtual book clubs and each experience was better than the last. I ended up meeting many authors, whom I’ve stayed in touch with to this day. And without these book clubs, I would never have become a fiction lover and I would’ve never come out of my reading shell.
Virtual book clubs gave me the chance to talk about books and share my love of reading with others during a time when I would have otherwise been stuck at home alone. It’s funny to think that the pandemic is what led me to attend so many book clubs, which also ended up leading me to start my podcast and literacy advocacy journey!
A5: I absolutely love sharing how my interviews got started.
Kathie: In addition to being a book reviewer you also have a podcast focusing on people in the book industry. How did that get started, and how can people contact you if they’re interested in being interviewed for it?
E Train: I absolutely love sharing how my interviews got started. I’d just created my podcast, E Train Talks, and it was a wonderful experience. I was reading and writing and sharing my reviews all the time and I was starting to connect with more and more authors. But, deep down, I knew what I really wanted, I wanted to interview authors and other book enthusiasts. Not just because I’m in awe of them and want to one day work in the writing community, but also because I wanted to help inspire kids to read, and what better way to motivate kiddos to read, than sharing my talks with authors themselves!
Once I made that decision, things moved pretty fast. Much faster than I ever thought possible! On March 18th, I made a post on Twitter asking if people in the book industry would like to be interviewed on my new book podcast. I expected maybe one or two responses from authors I already knew, but in one night, I received 50 inquiries from people in the book world, many were from debut authors, some of them are now my personal favorites, and I was overjoyed!! Like my mom keeps telling me, hard work really pays off, and I know that now. So, I’ve kept on working and have interviewed people like James Ponti, Jerry Craft, and Jarrett Lerner, just to name the J’s!
Kathie: This summer, you’ve been doing a book drive for kids in your community. I’d love to know more about that, please.
E Train: This summer, I started a book drive for underprivileged kids in my community. I don’t know where I’d be without books, and knowing that many kids don’t have access to books made me want to do something, and that’s why I started the book drive. My original goal was to sponsor a Title One middle-grade classroom, and with the help of the writing community, I was able to make that goal, and now, thanks to The Friends of the Sacramento Public Library community, and their generous book donations, I’m able to reach many more kids than I had originally planned! I also plan to continue collecting books to donate to kids and classrooms in need throughout the school year!
Kathie: What do you like to do when you’re not reading?
E Train: When I’m not reading I love performing on stage, whether I’m singing or saying lines in a play. I’m also a huge sports fan, like my dad. Whether it’s basketball, football, baseball, or golf, I will be on the edge of my seat, eating popcorn, and enjoying the amazing world of sports.
I’m also a pianist, I’ve been playing the piano since I was five years old. I enjoy playing contemporary songs like “Vienna” by Billy Joel. And, of course, playing with my friends is another one of my hobbies. When I hang out with my friends, we usually play everything from video games, to sports, to board games, and I always have a wonderful time! I think spending time with my family is probably my favorite thing to do, especially if I get to hang out with my cousins, And, of course, I always find time to read during my busy days!
Kathie: What’s something I didn’t ask you about that you would like our readers to know?
E Train: Well, when I was little, I was obsessed with “The Beatles” and I still am to this day. My mom said I started being totally interested in the Beatles after watching an episode of GLEE with her (she’s also a big Beatles fan too). My mom also recalls that I flipped through page after page of Beatles books and magazines, and I devoured all kinds of Beatles trivia. I know I sound like I’m in my 50’s or 60s when I say this, but I’m not a big fan of popular music today. Past eras of music are awesome. From guitar solos by Eddie Van Halen to hair bands like Bon Jovi. And of course, the one and only Michael Jackson.
I can’t go a day without singing “Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, and “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles.
Kathie: Thanks so much for joining me today, E Train, and I look forward to seeing what you’re up to next!
E Train: Thank you so much for having me, Kathie! I look forward to keeping up to date with all of MG Book Village’s interviews and events! You and the whole crew are amazing, and I’m in awe of all that you do to promote middle-grade literature and everything books!