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Q: Why do you write books for children?
A: Children’s books are the creative medium that speaks to me more than any other. I can’t
really explain it much beyond that. I don’t plan to grow up and write grownup books – I am
already doing the thing that is most satisfying and meaningful to me.
Q: Where do your ideas come from?
A: I spend a lot of time thinking, probably way too much. I have very clear memories of
childhood, school, the thoughts I had, and the powerful emotions I experienced. Of course, when I recall them now it is with an adult’s perspective. Sometimes I try to go back to a
memory without that perspective and feel what it was like for me as a child in that moment. I think it lends authenticity to my child characters, plus it’s fascinating for me to put myself in the place of someone whom I am not. I love people watching – people give me ideas I could never dream up on my own. My son and other children in my life do wacky things that inspire me. Sometimes an idea comes in a dream or daydream.
Q: Where do you write? When do you write? How do you write?
A: Anywhere, but mostly at home because I like to be comfortable. I don’t have a schedule. I am resistant to routines. I usually use my computer, but if I’m stuck it’s sometimes helpful to write stuff out longhand.
Q: What are your favorite children’s books?
A: There are more than I can name. I have an insufficient list of some of them here.
Q: What kinds of lessons do you try to teach kids in your books?
A: I don’t. I write to tell good stories, and good stories often raise good questions, and good questions often lead to good thinking, curiosity, and exploration, and good thinking, curiosity and exploration usually lead to learning and understanding new things much more deeply than if one were simply taught a lesson. And if none of that happens, it’s still a good story.
Q: Why did you write about a kid who shows off her underpants? Isn’t that setting a bad example for children?
A: First, I wrote it because it is something real kids do and I thought it would make a great, fun story. Second, children receive so many mixed messages. People in thier family, school, or religious institution may say one thing, and then they see something entirely different reflected in the media and the real lives of the people around them. It’s not just
underpants, it is everything, and It is VERY confusing. I had lots of
inspiration to make the story funny because the way adults reason and contradict themselves can be simply outrageous. Really, why would anyone give a kid super fun or fancy undies and then expect said child to keep them all to him/herself? It doesn’t seem fair. Lily is not at an age where she is capable of fully understanding and embracing this paradox. I wanted to validate and honor the experience of kids like her. I trust that when she’s a little older she’ll figure it all out. I realize that some adult readers may be concerned that I don’t teach an explicit lesson about the possible dangers and social consequences of underwear exposure. I understand that. I did consider addressing the issue, but it didn’t make a good story. As a writer I don’t make or enforce “the rules” as Lily’s sister Marigold calls them. However, a story I write might raise questions about the rules and provide an opportunity for kids and adults to discuss them together in whatever way is best and appropriate for their own family.
Q: Have you ever danced in your underpants?
A: Yes. Have you?
Q: Have you ever been in trouble for underpants dancing?
A: No. Unlike my character Lily, I have always known to underpants dance in places where no one will be offended. Sometimes I wish I had been more bold as a kid. Though when I was about 7 years old I got a pair of Wonder Woman Underoos. They were SO AWESOME. So one night when I had a babysitter I decided to put them on, tie my bathrobe around my neck as a cape, and run down the street to thwart evil villains. The babysitter was not pleased. But that wasn’t dancing, it was crime fighting.
Q: Do you have kids?
A: Yes. My son Marcus loves math and football, and reads nonfiction almost exclusively. He’s awesome.
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: Not right now. Our dog Paulo, whose nickname was Rooney (long story), passed away. He was the sweetest boy ever. He lost a hind leg in an accident and it had little effect on him other than that he became more fearful than usual of traversing shiny hardwood floors. He never, not even once, growled or snapped at another living creature. The embodiment of peace and kindness, he loved the mailman and everyone else he met. We could all learn a lesson from him. Also, he was very cute.
Q: I have a great idea for a children’s book. How do I publish it?
A: Good question! See my Writing Resources page.