An Interview with Scholastic Author Audra Wallace

by Alice Knisley Matthias

Interview with Audra Wallace

Why should you try and have a good attitude?  How does it make you feel?

Interview with Audra Wallace, Scholastic, Bucket Filler, Kids DiscoverA good attitude can fill us up and make everyone around us happy too!

“How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for School and Life: Young Reader’s Edition” by Audra Wallace is the #1 bestselling book designed to talk to young readers about their experiences and concerns.

This special Young Readers Edition of the New York Times bestseller asks kids directly about interactions with other people and how the exchanges make them feel.

Does it seem like other  people “fill your bucket” or “dip from your bucket?” This book explains how every time you share an experience with another person it can affect your relationships, productivity, health and more. An easy-to-understand metaphor is backed by 50 years of research and will help readers make the most of positive moments that happen every day! Interview with Audra Wallace

How did you get started writing?

As soon as I learned what books were, I began making my own. When I was in elementary school, I was the kid who enjoyed crafting a story out of each week’s spelling words. I even won a writing contest for an essay about wanting to be a dentist. Obviously that career didn’t work out!

Favorite author/s as a kid?

Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, and Shel Silverstein

Favorite book/s as a kid?

I read and re-read Pippi Longstocking, James and the Giant Peach, the Nancy Drew series, The Babysitter’s Club series, the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries, Ramona Quimby, A Light in the Attic, and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Strangely, I was addicted to reading the Charlie Brown ‘Cylcopedias that my mom used to bring home from the grocery store too!

What subjects interested you in school?

I always enjoyed learning about history, specifically about people who emerged as leaders. I’m fascinated by the myths that contributed to their glorification and the realities of the circumstances they struggled through. What they were challenged by or failed at, their times of reluctancy, how they overcame adversity and betrayal to succeed, and how they navigated the laws of power and the confines of society at the time they lived. Essentially, the hero’s journey!

What’s a piece of advice/encouragement you got from a teacher or mentor?

My high school English teacher, Mrs. Kennedy, once wrote on a compilation of my poetry to “Never give up writing. You have a way with words.” I still have the paper she wrote that on, and I still do my best to abide by it. Though I’ve replaced the word” writing” to be “creating.”

What do you read now?

I lean heavily toward historical nonfiction, including magazines like BBC’s History Revealed and National Geographic History. Even though I’m an adult, I won’t hesitate to flip through children’s book series like Kate Messner’s History Smashers or Horrible Histories.

How can kids get excited about reading? I think kids forge stronger connections to texts when they can see themselves in a story or can relate to an experience being described. Magazines, like Scholastic News, Storyworks, and SuperScience (now called SuperSTEM), are also fantastic engagement tools because they are high-interest and bite-sized. They feature shorter articles and shorter overall lengths, which can be more approachable for kids who may be less confident or experienced readers. They include visually appealing graphics and images, which help capture and hold kids’ attention. Magazines also focus on topics such as animals, amazing discoveries, inventions, space, and more. They expose kids to a wide range of genres and text features and help build vocabulary and comprehension skills over time.

What do you think about making a movie from a book?

Because I went to college for film production, I am a huge fan of turning books into movies. Movies help new audiences discover books. When I read books, I’m often seeing the narrative play out visually in my head. Seeing how other screenwriters, directors, editors, and actors interpret a book’s words and message intrigues me. It inspires discussion about why they made certain choices about who or what they kept in and who or what they left out. Interview with Audra Wallace

Who is someone from the past, or present time, you would like to have a conversation with?

Too many to count! But the person who first popped into my head after I read this question was Granuaile, also known as Grace O’Malley and Ireland’s “pirate queen.” She was a powerful and influential leader in 16th century Ireland. She was admired and respected for her savvy negotiating skills, bravery at sea, and formidable presence in her community and beyond.

What was the inspiration for “How Full Is Your Bucket?”

Tom Rath and co-author Donald O. Clifton published the New York Times bestselling How Full is Your Bucket? in 2004. The book was designed to support and promote positive interactions and relationships between people in the workplace. It is organized around a simple metaphor of a dipper and a bucket, meaning that we each carry an invisible bucket that can be emptied and filled based on what others say or do to us. The bucket is a symbol for a person’s mental and emotional self. When our own buckets are full, we feel happy and motivated. When they’re low, we feel upset and down. Knowing how full or empty our buckets, and how to fill the buckets of others, helps us improve our health and well-being.

Tom’s book, and its powerful metaphor, have been a huge success, and its messages resonated with people beyond the workplace.  So, in 2009, Tom and author Mary Reckmeyer took the essence of the metaphor and transformed it into an illustrated picture book for kids. In it, kids learn the story of a boy who puts the “bucket filling” metaphor into action, and watches it come to life as the day unfolds.

A Scholastic Book Clubs editor approached me with the opportunity to merge the ideas of the two books into young reader’s edition. The goal was to take the strategies and lessons of the adult book and the children’s picture book and extend them into a chapter book for growing readers.

My experience as a former third–grade teacher and as a writer and editor of the classroom magazine Scholastic News helped me to develop the structure that would be the bridge between the picture book and adult version. It was important to me to spotlight real-life examples of kids embodying the strategies in small and big ways in their own lives and communities.

How do you work with an illustrator to put a book together?

I have not worked directly with an illustrator on a book. I have worked with art directors on magazines who work with illustrators. Together we come up with a concept and the art director finds a select group of illustrators who they think would do the best job at capturing our vision. We review samples and choose one. We review sketches, provide feedback, and finalize. Interview with Audra Wallace

What do you hope readers take away from your book?

I want them to know that they have the power to help make situations better for themselves and others. Right now, we live in a society in which mistakes are often sensationalized and put on display to shame people. It’s created a climate of anxiety, paranoia, and insecurity.

Nobody is perfect. We all have bad moods and disappointing days. We all say something we shouldn’t have said or acted in a way we regret later. We make mistakes, and we need to give ourselves and each other the space to learn and grow from them.

I want kids to use the strategies in the book to instill confidence and trust in themselves, their feelings, and each other, to take the initiative to lift themselves and each other up, and, to bring out the smiles and successes that sometimes get lost in the chaos of daily life.

Ideally, I want them to see themselves as leaders.

What’s coming up next for you?

Right now, I oversee the social studies magazines for the Scholastic’s Magazine + group. But I am really interested in developing books and magazines into interactive multimedia learning experiences. There is so much new technology out there, and I am fascinated by it. How will those tools inspire us to take education to the next level? How do we make sure that those learning experiences incorporate, reflect, and empower human creativity and the human experience?

Interview with Audra Wallace Kids Discover Kids Discover online


Alice Knisley Matthias writes about food, garden, family and education. Her work appears in The New York Times, Allrecipes, Taste of Home, Food Network, Washington Post, Eating Well, The Kitchn, Delish, Birds and Blooms, Woman's Day, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, America's Test Kitchen, Boys' Life and Parade. Her book, "Tasty Snacks in a Snap!" is published by Scholastic for young readers. You can read her work at Home / Alice Knisley Matthias ( and follow her at Alice Knisley Matthias (@aliceknisleymatthias) • Instagram photos and videos and @AKnisleyMatth ( / Twitter (