Edith Tarbescu

Edith Tarbescu
"Annushka's Voyage"

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
August 11, 2004

Q. Who is Edith Tarbescu

A. Edith Tarbescu is the author of four children's books as well as a produced playwright. She's had plays produced in regional theatres around the country as well as Off Broadway. She is currenly working on a collection of short storie for adults titled "Belfast Blues and Other Stories."

Q. What inspired you to write "Annushkas' Voyage?"

A. The Ellis Island Museum was opening, and I decided to learn more about my my roots. With the opening of the museum, I suddenly wasn't ashamed of having immigrant parents. As a teenager, I had tried to hide the fact that I was a first-generation American. My mother came from Russia and my father came to this country from Hungary. I wanted to write a book that would be a tribute to my parents.

Q. How did you come about Tonya and Anya's characters?

A. It was a long process. Originally, the story revolved around two little boys, based on my father and his brother. I decided to change the two main characters to girls. I gradually developed the girls' characters while living with them and listening to their voices. As I listened, Anya and Tonya became more real to me.

Q. Why did the grandfather call Anya, Annushka?

A. Annushka is a nickname for Anya. In the Russian language, as in many others, the nickname gets longer instead of shorter. In English, for example, Elizabeth becomes Liz or Lizzie. In Russia, the diminutive (or nickname) for Anya becomes Annushka. I originally titled the story "Anya and Tonya." My editor at Clarion, a division of Houghton Mifflin, suggested I change it to "Annushka's Voyage." I agreed that was a good idea.

Q. What made you choose to write children's books?

A. I started out writing plays. A friend suggested that since I was good at dialogue I ought to consider writing a children's book, since children like to read dialogue. "Annushka's Voyage," was my first published book, but not the first book I wote.

Q. How long have you been writing?

A. I wrote in love poems to my boyfriend while still in high school--very bad poems. I started to write seriously when I got accepted to the Yale School of Drama, over twenty years ago. Since then, I've written essays, plays, children's books, and now I'm writing short stories for adults.

Q. Are you currently working on another book?

A. I just revised two children's books. One is a non-fiction easy reader titled "Beach Bums: A Book About Harbor Seals" and the other is a picture book called "Graciella's Surprise."

Q. What type of atmosphere do you require to write?

A. I like to write in my room--a small home office I don't share with anybody. I have a gorgeous view of the Sandia Mountains (in New Mexico). My office is filled with framed posters, photographs, several dolls and even a few stuffed animals. It's my sanctuary.

Q. Did you tell this story bsed on your mother and aunt's experience?

A. Actually, it's a blend of my mother and her sister's story and my father and his brother's story. I like to tell students, when I do school visits, that I put my mother's story and my father's story in a blender and came up with the best possible story. Since it has dialogue, it's in the category of historical fiction.

Q. What message would you like readers to receive from reading "Annushka's Voyage?"

A. My father was the story-teller in my family. He loved to regale me with stories about his early life in Hungary, as well as his dramataic crossing of the Atlantic with his brother as they travelled to America in steerage (or third class). He especially dwelt on the storm the ship encountered. I wish now that I had asked more questions, but it's too late. I hope the readers treasure their family memories.

Edith Tarbescu's website