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author nikki grimes Author Nikki Grimes (Photo: ©Steve Elliot)

Author Nikki Grimes Exercises

Work that writing muscle to follow this author's success

By Ana Deluca-Mayne | February 4 , 2010

Exercise is a big part of author Nikki Grimes' life, but it's not just any muscle she works out six-days a week.

"Writing is a muscle that needs to be exercised," she told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps in a recent interview.

Exercising that muscle has paid off for this author of more than 40 children's books. Grimes has been writing since she was 6 years old. She is the author of the Dyamonde Daniel series; Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope; Oh, Brother!; and The Road to Paris—just to name a few. She received the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for several of her books—again, just to mention a few.

nikki grime book covers
Just some of the books written by Nikki Grimes.

Although Grimes was born and grew up in New York City, she now lives in California. She said she had a rough start as a child, living in a foster home at one time. None of that stopped her from writing, however. Her first work was penned while living in the foster home.

Her stories rarely venture far from her birthplace, and often reflect her life.

"The urban landscape is always, almost always, the background of the story," Grimes said. "Something about your life always makes its way into your stories. That's just the nature of the beast."

As a teenager, Grimes said she was very influenced by the writings of James Baldwin, a famous author who mentored her. Baldwin taught Grimes to write with her heart and to study her craft.
    
Writing isn't the only art that Grimes enjoys. Her musician father introduced her to the violin, ballet, and visual arts. He often took her to hear authors speak and encouraged her to follow her dreams.
    
Her goal was always to be a children's author. It just seemed to happen, she said.

"Originally I had planned to write just a couple of children's books and then, return the focus on adult literature," she said. "A funny thing happened along the way—I kept having new ideas and then I looked up one day, and 30 years had past!"
    
Grimes' most recent book, Out of the Dark, is different from her usual books. The 56-page paperback is an autobiography. Grimes explained the difference.

"In Out of the Dark, I'm talking about my own life, I'm not talking as a character, or speaking as a character," she said. "I was not as free as when I write fiction."
    
As a seasoned author, Grimes has some important advice for anyone aspiring to follow in her footsteps: read, read, read, and write, write, write.

"Read, because you cannot be a good writer if you're not first a good reader," she said.

Young writers should read about a variety of subjects, not just a few topics of high interest.

"Every genre has something to offer," she said.

Which brings us back to exercising that writing muscle.

"You can't be good at it without doing it a lot," Grimes said.

For more about author Nikki Grimes and her books and awards, check out her official website.

CELEBRATE BLACK HISTORY MONTH

For more on the achievements and contributions of African Americans to U.S. History, return to the Scholastic Kids Press Corps' Black History Month Special Report.

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About the Author

Ana Deluca-Mayne is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.


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