When I visit schools and libraries, I always try to leave time for questions. Here are some of the questions that I’m asked most often. You can always email me if you have other questions.
1. Did you want to be a writer when you were a child?
I wanted to be many different things when I was a child, including a librarian, teacher, bus driver, and detective. I especially wanted to make TV commercials, and I often practiced making them when I had to dust the furniture or clean the bathroom mirrors. Eventually I became a copywriter, the person who writes advertisements, commercials, and website content. I still work as a copywriter as well as a writer of books.
2. What inspires you to write?
Most often, it's a question. It could be a question that starts with "what if...?" Or maybe I ask, "How did THAT happen?" I love the process of writing, from researching information to exploring ways to move an idea in my head to paper.
3. Why do you like to write the kind of books you do?
I write many different kinds of books, because I’m interested in so many different things!
4. Where is your favorite place to write?
For intensive writing, I like my office, which my husband built just for me in our basement. I can focus on my work there.
5. When did you first know you wanted to become a writer?
I’ve always liked to write. I didn’t know I could make a living at it until I was in college.
6. Are you happy with your work?
I have one of the best jobs in the whole world!
7. Do you plan on writing more books?
8. How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends on the book. Samuel Morse, That's Who!, John Deere, That’s Who!, and Noah Webster’s Fighting Words each took more than five years to research, write, and revise.
9. How much do you write a day?
I write something every day, but I don’t write for a set number of hours or to fill a certain number of pages.
10. What was the first thing you ever wrote?
The first work I had published was a weekly article in the local newspaper when I was in ninth grade. My first book was published in 1995 about the city of Macon, Georgia. My first four children’s books about dance were published in 1997. I’ve loved writing for children and young adults since then.
11. Do you think you could write a different genre than you are used to?
I don’t have a genre that I’m used to. I love trying new forms and writing for different audiences, such as toddlers and young adults.
12. Do you think that other people like your books?
I hope so! I want to write books that people enjoy reading, even if they think they’re not fans of reading at first.
13. When you look back at your books do you ever feel like you could change something?
Always. I think that’s part of the artistry of writing. Artists want to make their work reflect a little about their world; at the same time, their knowledge, observations, opinions, and experiences continually grow—so what they want to reflect in their work also changes. And sometimes, it’s simply that they have a better idea later!
14. Do you plan on writing a series or have you?
My nonfiction books for schools and libraries are typically part of a series. I don’t have plans for a fiction series. Not yet...
15. Which of your books is your favorite?
The ones I haven’t written yet. Honestly, I like all of them for one reason or another.
16. Who is your favorite author?
Theodore Geisel probably tops the list, but I’m a fan of anyone who takes the time to put ideas onto paper.
17. Do you read books when you are in the process of writing?
Absolutely! Other writers’ work helps inspire and inform my own writing.
18. What is your favorite book that you have not written?
This question makes me smile. At first, I thought it meant: of all the books you want to write but haven’t done so yet, which is your favorite? (The answer is that it’s a toss-up, because there are some fun ideas in that pile of books-to-be-written!) I finally got it: what are some of your favorite books by other authors? Among picture books, I learned to read with Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, so it’s my first choice. Among middle grade books, Robot Dreams (a wordless graphic novel) by Sara Varon and Orbiting Jupiter, Wednesday Wars, and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt are amazing. For young adults, I love everything that M. T. Anderson writes (Feed, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, etc.) and I read and re-read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (but I’m not so keen on Go Set A Watchman, if you want the truth). Honestly, there are so many good books out there, it's not fair to name favorites.
19. Does anyone else in your family write?
My daughter has published a poem and she writes terrific short stories. My mother was an English teacher. She had a poem and several newspaper articles published. My grandfather wrote poetry. His mother also wrote poetry in Swedish and English and published lyrics to a song during one of the World Wars.
20. If you could not write which job would you want?
I would probably want to be a school librarian and spend all day with kids and books. That sounds good to me! I wouldn’t mind being a detective, either. I probably wouldn’t make a good bus driver, because I like to see new places instead of traveling the same route over and over again and because I’m often running late. None of my bus riders would ever get home on time!