KidsOutAndAbout Speaks to Kathleen Blasi About HOSEA PLAYS ON
Kathleen M. Blasi loves to share stories of everyday heroes and foster the curiosity of young storytellers through writing workshops. She is active in our local children's writing community and has served as Co-Director of the Rochester Children’s Book Festival. We talked to Blasi about her newest book, HOSEA PLAYS ON.
HOSEA PLAYS ON depicts a day in the life of street musician/community advocate Hosea Taylor, Jr. With the money folks placed in his saxophone case, he elevated the lives of children in his Rochester, NY, neighborhood.
What inspired you to write this story?
When I read in the newspaper of Hosea’s passing, I was touched by how he was such an integral part of his community. I needed to learn more about this man who played his saxophone all over the city. The more I learned, the more I saw his story as one that could be told in a picture book for children.
Did you ever meet Hosea Taylor?
I never met Hosea, though I’m certain I must have heard his music in the market. I feel, through the research process and through connecting with those who knew and loved Hosea, I have gotten to know him, but I sure wish I’d met him.
Is everything in the story true?
What happens in the story is true, though the telling uses fictional elements. For example, there is a neighborhood boy in the story. He represents the hundreds of children with whom Hosea shared his music.
How has the City of Rochester Public Market reacted to your telling this story?
The administration and vendors of the Public Market are very excited about this project. Over the course of the last couple years, I’ve chatted with some of the vendors. They loved and miss Hosea and are happy that his memory will live on in the form of a book for children.
How was the illustrator, Shane W. Evans, chosen for this project?
Sterling Children’s Books believed Shane Evans’s art would serve the story well. Little did they know at the time that Shane has actually been to the Public Market, as he attended School of the Arts! He no longer lives in Rochester, but he did in his high school years. Readers love the color palette he chose.
My book launch event will be January 11th in the public market. On February 17th at 1 pm, I’m doing an event a Hipocampo Books. That evening, I’m doing a reading at the Arnett Library, located in Hosea’s old neighborhood. Some musicians Hosea used to play with will be playing music! I’ll have more details on my website and on the KOAA calendar as details come together. I will have an event at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble, but we are still working on a date for that.
Do you write exclusively for children?
Yes, because I’m a sucker for hope.
You have two books published for middle-grade readers. How is writing a picture book different?
The biggest difference is that in a picture book, every word counts. And the word count is very limited – there’s no room for fluff. I think the biggest challenge is leaving room for the illustrator. You have to visualize the story but trust the illustrator to carry the weight of that. It feels like you’re under-writing. But the pictures and the words have an equal responsibility in telling the story.