On Writing, with Rona Arato
Rona Arato talks to Open Book about teaching, writing and the designing of everyday things. Her newest book, Design It! The Ordinary Things You Use Every Day and the Not-So-Ordinary Ways They Came to Be (Tundra Books) lifts the hood and shows young readers what's really at work in their toasters, toilets and tubs.
Tell us about your new book, Design It!
I wrote the book because I thought kids would enjoy learning how products are designed and developed. My husband is an industrial designer so I’ve learned a lot from watching him work.
What was your first publication?
My first two books were non-fiction. They were The World of Water and Fossils. Then I wrote my first novel, Ice Cream Town, which is the story of a boy who moves to New York from Poland after World War I. I based it, in part, on my father’s experiences.
How has your experience as a teacher influenced your writing?
My teaching experience taught me what kids like to read and how they learn. It also showed me the type of books that teachers use to help children learn and to encourage them love reading.
What was your research process like?
I read books on design and the history of design. I looked up articles about famous designs and designers. I interviewed industrial designers about how they conduct research and what factors they consider, such as safety, cost, appearance and materials, when they design a new product. For example, how does a toy designer make sure the toy will be safe? What considerations go into choosing the materials, such as wood, plastic or metal, in which to make a product? How has the use of computers changed the product design process? All of these factors go into the design process.
What inspires you to write?
I love telling stories and I love to learn. When I research, I learn new things. I enjoy working with kids and introducing them to times and places and events. The process is fun and rewarding. My best inspiration is when a kid tells me they love my book and have learned a lot by reading it.
What is your next project?
My book On a Medieval Day is coming out this fall. It is nine fiction stories of kids around the world during the Middle Ages. I’m working on a sequel, On an American Day. I’m also working on a book called Michael’s Journey, which is the true story of a boy who was rescued by American soldiers during the Holocaust.
Rona Arato was born in New York and grew up in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in magazines and newspapers in Canada and the United States. She taught elementary school in Los Angeles and Toronto, adult creative writing for the Toronto District School Board, and she has conducted workshops in business writing. She was an interviewer for Steven Spielberg's project to record the histories of Holocaust survivors, Survivors of the Shoa. Rona Arato lives in Toronto with her husband. Visit her at her website, www.ronaarato.com.
For more information about Design It! please visit the Tundra Books website.