Robin Yardi


Joining LitPick today for an Extra Credit interview is author Robin Yardi. Robin is the author of They Just Know: Animal Instincts and The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez. At the end of the interview, you’ll find the link to Robin’s website. Her website includes free bookmarks and printable activities.

Once you’re finished reading Robin’s interview, you might like to enter her LitPick giveaway for The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez by using this link:

Do you have a solid outline before writing, or do you usually get ideas as you go along?

When I get the spark of an idea, I write what I hope will be a compelling first page (or two) of a story. Often a character, an event, and a setting rush onstage (or onto the page) all together. After that rush I do slow down and write a rough outline along with some character studies. I break events down into ten crucial events, and as I write I try to string those events together. I’m always surprised at some point along the way, when my characters take matters into their own hands and veer away from my carefully mapped plan. Mostly, I think the plan gives me courage to charge into a new project!

Has someone you knew ever appeared as a character in a book (consciously or subconsciously)?

People I’ve known do get swirled up in my brain and when new characters emerge in my writing I can recognize where little bits of them have come from. In THE MIDNIGHT WAR OF MATEO MARTINEZ the school librarian, Mrs. Deetz, bears some resemblance to my elementary school librarian, Mrs. DeFermian. And Mila, Mateo’s little sister, shares traits with several irrepressible and adventurous little girls I have known, including my own little sister. For me, these similarities are unconscious at the start—I can see them most clearly in revision.

What do you do when you get writer's block?

My life has a routine. I have time penciled into my day to write. Sometimes, often when there is a pause in dialogue and I don’t know what is said next or I don’t know how to get my characters from one event to another, I sit down and nothing gets written.

But I still sit down.

I also have several projects cooking at once, so if I get stuck in one project I will work on another, or revise a picture book, or write a synopsis. But while I’m doing all those other things, while I’m picking up my kids or taking a walk or cooking, my brain is working away on whatever is on the backburner.

If you could live in a book's world, which would you choose?

Well, I’m going to insert a condition here. As long as I could go back and forth freely from my own world, which I love, and Narnia, that’s where I’d go.

What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?

I have two favorites, Matilda and Holes. Both of those movies stayed quite true to the spirit of the books, were filled with extraordinary character actors, and had compelling visual atmospheres. Plus they are funny and my kids and I get to watch them together.

If you could have lunch with one other author (dead or alive!), who would it be?

I have so much trouble with questions like these! I would probably be too nervous to go out to lunch with a dead author, so I will stick to reading their books and imagining what they were like. I have a pretty great imagination—I like it in there.

Wild Card Question: You’re a Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Naturalist. Do you think it is important for children to spend time outside, and if so, why?

There are all sorts of studies that show outdoor play is linked to building healthy bodies, improving coordination and problem solving skills, but my number one reason to get kids outside as a teacher and a mother is… it makes kids happy. Happy in the moment, happy overall, happy for life!


Robin, thank you for joining LitPick for an Extra Credit interview! You give a great reason for getting children outside!



Joining LitPick today is Robin Yardi. Robin is the author of nonfiction picture books and absolutely-not-nonfiction middle grade novels. A former classroom teacher, Robin now leads school groups through her local natural history museum, helping kids handle snakes, frogs, and stink bugs, while sneaking in learning about zoology and an appreciation for the natural world. She lives in California, but thanks to Skype she can go anywhere. For more information, visit:!

How did you get started writing?

I wrote a twelve page story, filled with spelling and grammatical errors, as an eight year old. It was about a boy who dives to the bottom of the ocean on the back of a sea turtle (I was plagiarizing a Japanese fairy tale). Anyhow, I was so discouraged by all my mistakes that I stopped writing. Long after that, I saw my fourth grade teacher, who asked if I was still writing such amazing stores. All I could say was, no. Over the years I worried that no over and over in my mind like a polished rock. Finally, after a few years as a teacher, and a few more as the mother of young kids, I decided to set my worrying aside and begin.

Who influenced you?

This particular book is absolutely influenced by Beverly Cleary (THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE), and Daniel Pinkwater (LIZARD MUSIC), and Louis Sachar (Holes), and Sara Pennypacker (CLEMENTINE).

Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?

My favorite setting from the book is STINK BASE, the secret lair of the skunks. It’s absolutely as cool you’d think the secret hideout of two talking-trike-riding skunks would be. I can’t tell you where it is (I’m sworn to secrecy), so you’ll just have to read the book to find out what it’s like!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?

Let your curiosity and creativity run wild, follow them wherever they takes you, and believe that what you are writing can be as important to some kid as books have been to you.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I always write at home. In my secret lair. It’s not stinky. Swear.

What else would you like to tell us?

I’m so excited for THE MIDNIGHT WAR OF MATEO MARTINEZ to be out there, to be a real thing, to have kids reading it in classrooms, and under their covers, and maybe way out in the left corner of the softball field. Recently a class of fourth graders decorated their door just like the cover. I feel like that door could be a magic portal between snowy Michigan and sunny (but certainly midnight) Santa Barbara. A book, especially a children’s book, is more than just words on paper. When kids read it, it becomes magic. (Editor’s note: You can see a picture of the decorated classroom door, below. Credit for the wonderful artwork goes to Alicia Bos' 4th Graders from Hudsonville Christian School!)


Robin, thank you for spending six minutes with LitPick! How cool that you have a secret lair! Does that make writing your super power?








Robin Yardi

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