The National Book Award winner is working on both fiction and nonfiction

By Isabella Biedenharn
October 30, 2017 at 10:00 AM EDT
Credit: Greg Doherty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson — author of 2016’s Another Brooklyn and 2014’s Brown Girl Dreaming — will head to Riverhead Books for her next two adult works, EW can announce exclusively.

“I’m going to write a novel and then I’m going to write something that is true,” Woodson tells EW of the two new books. “That’s pretty much all I can say because I’m deeply superstitious. I feel like once I say out loud, to the public, what I’m working on, it’s never going to be an actual book. So until it’s close to done, I keep pretty quiet about my next stuff!”No publication dates have been announced for either book, but below, Woodson tells EW why it was the right time to switch publishers, the differences between writing for children and for adults, and what she’s reading now.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why is Riverhead the right place for you right now?
JACQUELINE WOODSON: I’ve had a long-distance crush on Riverhead from my early writing days. They’ve always published great writers. I love Harper/Amistad and am so glad I returned to the world of “adult” publishing via an imprint committed to the voices of Black writers. So glad Another Brooklyn has a home there, and now it’s time go head home myself. Since my other books are already part of the Penguin Family, it felt right and good to continue my work with Riverhead. It’s exciting that so many of my books will be at one house.

Last year you published your first adult novel in 20 years. What was it like coming back to adult lit? What are the pleasures and difficulties of writing for adults vs. for children?
The world of adult literature was kinder to me this time around — it felt like so many were familiar with my work and ready for Another Brooklyn. I think it’s much harder to write for young people than it is to write for adults — you have to go back to that place of being a young person yourself and so many adults have either deliberately forgotten that place (probably because it was too painful a time to hold onto) or they just can’t access it. I feel I live in both places — the worlds of adulthood and childhood.

That said, I love writing for young people. It’s the literature that was most important to me, the stories that shaped me and informed my own journey as a writer. And I love meeting the young people — from the very young to the teenagers. I don’t think I’d be able to have the conversations we’ve had if I didn’t have the vehicle or a novel or picture book to get them talking and asking questions.

Recently, I was in Vermont where a busload of fourth and fifth graders took a two-hour trip to come see me. And they were phenomenal. I have so many of those moments and can’t imagine I’d be the writer I am without them. With adults, the journey is different — we connect in present time on a different level. I can go do a reading and have a glass of wine, which is pretty great. I didn’t know how many independent bookstores had amazing wine lists until I toured with Another Brooklyn. I don’t remember that from 20 years ago.

What are you reading now?
I just finished chairing the National Book Awards in fiction so my brain was blown for a bit but now I’m back and reading Halsey Street by Naima Coster, Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion, and The Place Between Breaths, a young adult novel by Na An who is like my sister from another mother (and father).