NPR INTERVIEW: Rebecca Stead


The List of Things That Will Not Change is the story of a young girl and her family. After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life changed in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.

When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted–a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be “just like sisters anywhere.”

As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy, and readers will discover why the New York Times called Rebecca Stead a “writer of great feeling.”



I grew up in New York City, where I was lucky enough to attend the kind of elementary school where a person could sit in a windowsill, or even under a table, and read a book, and no one told you to come out and be serious (well, eventually someone did, but not right away). On those windowsills, under those tables, and in my two beds at night, I fell in love with books. (I had two beds because my parents were divorced.)

Specifically, I fell in love with fiction.

Reading books made me think about writing. (The writer Saul Bellow once said that a writer is a reader moved to emulation. That’s me.)

But I didn’t write a lot. Sometimes I just wrote down things I overheard – jokes, or snatches of conversation. You could probably fit everything I wrote before the age of 17 into one (skinny) notebook.

Much, much later, I became a lawyer (I believed that being a writer was impractical), got married, and started working as a public defender. But I still wrote stories (for adults) when I could find the time.

My first child, a fabulous son, was born. A few years later, I had another fabulous son. There wasn’t much time for writing stories after that. But I still tried.

One day, my three-year-old son, though fabulous, accidentally pushed my laptop off the dining-room table, and my stories were gone. Poof.

So. It was time to write something new. Something joyful (to cheer me up: I was pretty grouchy about the lost stories). I went to a bookstore (an independent bookstore) and bought an armload of books that I remembered loving as a kid. I read them. I went back to the store and bought more books written for children. I read them. And then I began to write again.

Some people will tell you that real writers don’t use parentheticals (which is nonsense). The most important thing to know about writing is that there are no rules.

Barbara's Bookstores have been Chicago's independent booksellers since 1963.