We had the good fortune of connecting with Moni Ritchie Hadley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Moni Ritchie, where are you from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
The daughter of a US Marine and a Japanese mom, we moved around when I was young. By the time I turned twelve, my dad’s job had taken us to California, North and South Carolina, Texas, Arizona, two stays in Japan, and back to California again. Leaving people and places behind became a way of life and prepared me for the challenges of being a writer in ways that I couldn’t have predicted. I learned to leave the past behind and look forward with a mixture of dread and excitement. As a picture book writer, rejection is the norm. Dwelling on the last failure could leave me wallowing, but I believe it’s the transitory nature of my upbringing that propels me forward. The sting of rejection hurts for a time, but I don’t stay there for too long.
Being mixed race and incredibly shy, I experienced culture shock every time I moved. Living in Japan as a child, I stood out as a gaijin or foreigner, attending a school on the military base and spending summers and holidays playing with my Japanese cousins despite a language barrier.
My family’s moved to Southern California right before middle school left me longing for the comfort of the last couple of years I had spent in Japan. Suddenly I was thrust into a culture of Farrah Fawcett wannabees (including myself), a complete one-eighty from my previous life. No matter where I lived, I always felt at home, yet like an outsider at the same time.
Recently, with my mother’s help, I began revisiting my childhood experiences and having her fill in the gaps. Some of these memories make their way into my children’s stories. My debut picture book, THE STAR FESTIVAL, is the first result of this dig into my Japanese heritage.
Today, I live in Los Angeles and blend in among the microcosm of people representing our diverse world. I can only hope that my books travel into the homes of families that celebrate (as my dad used to say) mixed-up kids like me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I began writing children’s books when my daughter was a toddler, and I was working full time as a home/hospital teacher. It took me thirteen years to get published. My journey taught me that writing is about creative problem-solving. The pieces should come together like a giant jigsaw puzzle; only the puzzle keeps changing shape, so the pieces must remain fluid until, for a fleeting moment, they can be locked into place. And if that moment passes, the story might transform again. If that sounds confusing, then it’s a good representation of my state of mind during the revision process. THE STAR FESTIVAL is a polished snapshot of my dedication to becoming a writer and a culmination of who I am.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
These days, my world revolves around food and books. The first stop would be Komasa for sushi and The Last Bookstore (and art space) in downtown Los Angeles.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I dedicate this shoutout to my mom and dad, who always put their kids first.
Other: Order The Star Festival https://bookshop.org/books/the-star-festival/9780807575956