When I go to schools and talk to children, I always leave time for questions. Here are the questions that people ask the most often–and my answers:
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?
Sometimes I wonder that myself! Some of my ideas just pop into my head and I’m sure they came from somewhere, but I’m not sure where. Often in talking about a book at a school I realize where I got the idea. For example, one day while talking in a school I realized where I got the idea for my creepy book, TOO PERFECT. I remembered my older son telling me that his goal in life was to be perfect. When he said that I got a chill up my spine because I knew that was an unhealthy thing to aim for–you could never meet that goal! Then I started thinking about how sometimes grown-ups do wish children were perfect and that I had joked about that with my own children. So the eerie TOO PERFECT was born.
If I had to make a list (which I have just told myself I had to do) I would say that I get my ideas from:
»» Incidents in real life–either mine or someone else’s.
»» My children and pets (remember Tinka?)
»» Children in schools.
»» Editors who call me up and ask me to write a book about a certain topic.
»» Teachers! I get a lot of ideas from my own children’s teachers and from teachers in schools I visit. Teachers, send me ideas!
»» Newspaper articles.
»» The idea fairy.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK THAT YOU WROTE?
I have to admit I hate this question because it is so hard to answer. It’s like asking a mom who her favorite child is. It usually depends on how well she is getting along with her children at that moment! But I love all my books the same, just as I love both my (not perfect) children the same…. Yet, yet… I think another answer is: the one I’m working on right now. Because you have to be completely in love with a book to do a good job.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK THAT YOU READ?
I love to read. I read all the time. So to pick one favorite is darn near impossible. But if I were being tortured, in front of a firing squad, and had to pick one to save my life I would say, without any hesitation, CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E.B. White. Tell you what, though. When I have time, I will make a list of my all-time favorite children’s books and also a list of my all-time favorite adult books. I will post it on my web site as soon as it’s done.
In the meantime I would like to recommend that children go to the New York Public Library web site for kids and click on Reading and Books. You’ll get lots of ideas for what to read.
DO YOU LIKE WRITING?
Most days I love it. Sometimes I want to throw my computer out of the window. This has become more of an issue since I moved my office upstairs. So far I have controlled myself. (Though the other day I saw a smashed computer on a highway near here and I had to wonder — did a writer do that?) Whenever I’m frustrated with my job as a writer, I ask myself what else I would rather do. And other than be a movie star, I can’t think of a better job in the world. To tell the truth, I doubt I would like being a movie star, because I hear you spend a lot of time sitting around on the set being bored. I am never bored as a writer. But if you’re reading this, Steven Spielberg, give me a call.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT WRITING?
There’s a moment when, after a long time of it not going well, and my feeling like I’ll never get it right, I get it, and I know it’s right. You could put that moment in a box, tie a ribbon around it, and give me that as a present any day. It’s the best.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE WRITING BETTER, FICTION OR NON-FICTION?
Good question! (Tee hee). I like writing them both,and that’s why I do. Fiction is great because you can MAKE STUFF UP! When you write fiction it’s the one time in your life when it’s O.K. to lie. You can take something that happened to you and change it around. You can also make up totally pretend people, put them in pretend situations and see what happens. The story is there for you to create.
In non-fiction the story is there for you to find. And I love that, too. I love doing research because I am a curious, nosy, hungry person. And I love taking complicated subjects and writing about them in a way that kids will understand and enjoy. That’s a great thing about my job — when I write non-fiction I’m getting paid to learn! How would you like to get paid to learn? (Don’t tell your parents or teachers I asked that).
ONE MORE QUESTION: WHAT’S THE HARDEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?
To tell you the truth there are many hard things about being a writer. Probably the hardest is getting rejected. I don’t want to talk about it. I have to go now.
But if you have more questions, you can invite me to your school and interview me!