Author Interview with Rhonda Patton

Thecroak500coverabGet to know Rhonda…

Rhonda is a children’s book writer, a mother, and wife. She is a children’s book reviewer. Rhonda goes to college full-time as a graphics designer. Ted and Raymond came from a story that she created from another story of her own. Rhonda encountered a little frog one day and ever since she became fascinated with collecting frogs, then writing about them. Ted and Raymond are frog friends, who loves to tell their story and help others. Rhonda hopes you will enjoy her frog friends and other stories she has to tell. For more info, visit her website.

Quirky Questions

If you were a prescription drug, what would be your main side effect?

No sleep. 

What company advertisements could you model for?

Barnes and Noble. 

What is the worst occupation in the world?

I believe it would be trash state worker. 

What is your greatest phobia?    

Snakes and losing people I love. 

If you ran a funeral home, what would your company slogan be?

A tisket a tasket come to me for your casket. Lol. 

What is the messiest place in your home?

Living room. 

What random act of kindness have you done in the past year?

I give people money when I can. I am always helping others when I have that spare minute or if someone needs me.  I am doing a book for a friend now. 

If had to smell like one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

My kids. I would love to be able to smell them everyday in my life. They are my worth living for. 

What current product do you think will baffle people in 100 years?

Cell phones. 

What is the last thing you paid money for?

Water balloons. 

What do you often make fun of?

I try not to make fun of anything. 

What is the best thing about staying at a hotel?

Getting away to relax from the realities of home. 

What is one thing you do with determination every day?

I promote for others and myself. 

If you could have your mailbox shaped like an object, what would it be?

A frog. 

What healthy habit are you glad you have?

Drinking water. 

What is the biggest advantage of being short?

I am short; my advantage is reaching things closer to the floor. 

What would you title your autobiography?

My whirlwind life. 

What topic would you like to know more about?

Social media. 

Knowing what you know now, what would you change about your high school experience?

Being more talkative to others. 

What is the first thing you notice when you meet someone?

Their smile or eyes. 

If you could travel back to 1492, what advice would you give Columbus?

Travel away from the new land. 

finalcovergrayWriting Questions

How do you know when a book is finished?

I know when a book is finished by when my main message has been told.  I love having messages in my stories.

What impact (good or bad) do you think the media has had on your work?

I love that Kristin Davis of Sex and the City reviewed my book in a magazine.  I believe it has done well for promotions.

When did you know for certain that you wanted to pursue a career in writing? Have you ever questioned that decision? 

I always put off my dreams when I was younger.  Things kept coming up in my life that I could not pursue a career in writing.  I knew at a young age I wanted to be a writer and a good one.

What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have compared to people who are not creative?

I believe that everyone is creative; we all have ideas that are different whether they are a book writer or a seamstress.  Even if the person thinks they have no talent at all, they do.  They have to find in their heart what they love the most to do, and then do it.

Have you ever felt that your personal expectations have limited your creativity?

If so, how have you dealt with this? I have.  Personal things always came up in the past.  Now, I have the tools and the research under me to make things happen.  I am in college getting my associates degree in Graphic Arts but really thinking about my Bachelors. 

Do you ever feel that you have to censor your creativity because you don’t want to offend anyone?

Sometimes I do, but then I know there are others who agree with me and I do what I feel.  Someone is going to get offended about anything and everything anyways, so I just write and be happy with what I am doing for me.

Do you do anything special to get your creative juices flowing?

I think always of my next adventure.  A lot comes to me at once.  I write down a title for everything I want to do, and then I make a story out of it.  I have many on the way as well.

What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?

Before you put your book out in print, make sure you research, get readers BEFORE your book is out, make sure everything is edited and just the way you want it before you do anything else. Keep writing, even if someone says you will never make it, prove to yourself you can.

How would you define creativity? Creativity is anything. 

Anything that you think of on your own and make.  If you make a cake and it is different than others then it is being creative.

Why were you drawn to a career in writing instead of to a job that might offer more stability and security?

I am a stay at home mom.  My husband lost his job several years ago.  I had been researching for his career and was helping him.  I wrote book years before and showed it to him.  He loves to draw so we decided to finish this book.  It is a rush to finish a book and it makes my heart filled with joy that my books may one day help a child.

Who do you consider a literary genius?

No I do not.  I do not know how to edit my own work.  I do not like English writing because it is so hard for me even still me being born here.  I wanted to make books easy for kids when they read so they do not have to get a dictionary out and look up big words just to see what I was talking about in a book.

What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career?

Editing.  It is hard to get customers as well.  In children’s books there is a lot of great competition out there.  I know I read kid books also to give reviews back to them.  I love paying it forward to others.

What are the biggest challenges you have had in the realm of your art?

The biggest challenge is my 4 year old.  I stay at home with him during the day and he wants my attention most of it.  I am in school fulltime as well online.  So dealing with both of these things is really hard as a writer.  My thinking level is after 5 pm when my husband comes in.

How did you pick your writing genre?

It was really easy.  I love working with kids.  It is really hard for me to write something for adults.  One, I do not know many big words, I love being simple with writing.

What life experiences have inspired your work?

Being without you seem to want more when it comes to your kids.  I push myself to the limits to learn more so we can make it better for our two kids. 

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Author Interview with Amber McRee Turner

18453192Get to know Amber…

Amber McRee Turner is the author of SWAY, released by Disney-Hyperion in 2012 and CIRCA NOW, released from Disney-Hyperion in 2014. For more info, visit her website.

Quirky Questions 

What has been one of your most interesting jobs?

The summer after my senior year in high school, I was part of a promotional program for a petroleum company. There were several teams of teenagers who would be stationed at local gas stations, pumping gas and squeegeeing windshields all day, every day. I thought I’d struck it rich at $5 an hour.

If you could have any question answered, what would it be?

Why mosquitos? would certainly be one of them.

If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do?

Serve the peanuts. Amber McRee Turner is not a risk-taker.

What is one of the scariest things you’ve ever done?

Have you already forgotten the circus/peanut answer? Amber McRee Turner is NOT a risk taker. Despite being careful though, I did plant my face into the asphalt at high speed once when I was a kid. Knocked out my permanent teeth, cut open my lip, and broke my jaw. Let me tell you…Pureed McDonald’s hamburger from a blender is pretty durn scary.

Who’s your favorite fictional villain?

Eddie Haskell.

What vegetable do you most resemble?

My daughter says carrot. I would have said an ear of corn, or on humid days, broccoli.

How long have you gone without sleep?

A whole night here and there, but only to meet a deadline, or when I’m in need of a whopping migraine.

What is the weirdest thing about you?

I’ll pick one. Ever since chemotherapy five years ago, I’ve had a constant super-loud ringing in my ears that sounds an awful lot like Morse Code to me. I’d love to get my ex-soldier husband to decipher it for me someday, but frankly, I’m a little scared of what the message might be.

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

Oh man, there are so many to choose from. For a person who doesn’t drink, I’ve fallen in front of an awful lot of people.  I spit on people a lot. Oh yeah, here’s one…When I was 9 and super shy, I took a running start and jumped on the wrong dad’s back while yelling HI-YA!

Have you ever requested a song on the radio?

Radio, no, but I did gather enough courage to skate up to the carpet-walled DJ area of the roller rink once and ask for some Journey.

What is the last movie you watched? What did ya think?

We just watched the 1959 version of Tom Thumb. It was a delight. 

9116qj-KBgLWriting Questions

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?

I’ve been writing for fun since I was a kiddo, always dreaming of holding my own book someday. When my daughter was born, I was afforded the opportunity of being a stay-at-home mom. That time, coupled with the fresh inspiration of having a kiddo in the house, made me think why not? What did I have to lose by sending some stories out?

Name someone who supported your writing journey outside of family members.

My college fiction professor, Cary Holladay. She has a brilliant mind. She was beyond encouraging to me in my way-less-polished years.

Was there ever a time in your writing career where you wanted to seriously give up?

I’ve never wanted to give up the writing part. I have taken long breaks from writing due to life circumstances…Bills. Heartache. Cancer. Petty things like that.

What’s your favorite writing quote?

Wait, let me go search one up.

Okay, for now, it’s this:

“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”

–Lord Byron

I’ve tried to explain this to my family and friends in a far less eloquent way. It’s hard to explain, but writing keeps me sane. (Hey look, I’m a poet too!)

What inspired you to write your first book?

SWAY was largely inspired by my mother’s childhood experience with a runaway parent. And the soaps…I’ve always been fascinated with leftover soap slivers. Oh, and those hundreds of single shoes I’ve seen in the middle of the road. Also, dozens and dozens of road trips all over the Southeast. I could draw inspiration from those roadsides forever.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I tend to do the “Southern Gothic Magical Realism” thing. As far as my life goes, it’s really all I know.

What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.

Well, I love the music of words, real ones and made-up. In a way, it’s also what I do worst in my writing, because I tend to get more hung up on the words than the actual storytelling.

What books have most influenced your life?

Certainly the Bible far above anything else. Also, WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS by Shel Silverstein, WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick, stacks of READER’S DIGEST magazines in my Grandmother’s bathroom. GO DOG GO! by P.D. Eastman.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Oh, of course I would. An author tends to assume that her first published book is going to be her last published book. It makes it tempting to “kitchen sink” that story, to put in all the ideas that might be better suited a little more spread out. If I could go back, I think I’d tell myself to hold back a bit.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing? What comes easily?

I’d say, for me, the ideas themselves come pretty easily at this point in my life. I’m inspired by a lot of what I see and hear around me. The challenge will always be the rewrite. The making it better. Revision…in writing, and in living, is hard.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I don’t really have a favorite author, per se. I very much enjoy the wit and genius-turn-of-phrase of Lemony Snicket. I have tremendous respect for Kate DiCamillo and the strong sense of gratitude that pervades her stories. I also love the heart in Shel Silverstein’s work. Oh, and Brian Selznick, he makes me sob. Oliver Jeffers is a big fave around our house too. 

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Illustrator Interview with Wendy Myers

horse jumping wall websizingGet to know Wendy… 

Wendy was once an airplane pilot and horse trainer, but now she happily spends her time making up stories and illustrating new worlds. She has been an artist for as long as she can remember. 

Before transitioning into picture books she showed successfully in galleries throughout North Carolina, Nevada, and Oregon, and painted commissions. 

She grew up on the East Coast in a wonderful, imaginative place by the sea. She now lives with her husband, daughter, and many animals in beautiful Bend, Oregon. For more information please visit her website.                                

Quirky Questions 

What is the last thing you paid money for? 

A very large vanilla latte. 

What do you often make fun of? 

My animals. Not in a mean way, but because they are goofy. My dog fell up the stairs the other day. How do you not make fun of that? 

What is the best thing about staying at a hotel? 

You don’t have to cook your meals! You can just make a phone call and food shows up. 

What is one thing you do with determination every day?

Every-single-thing. I tend to be a bit driven, which can be exhausting. So I also try to nap with determination each day. 

What healthy habit are you glad you have? What’s your worst habit?

My best habit is probably that I eat healthy food. Fresh fruits & veggies, organic stuff. My worst habit is not returning friends phone calls for what seems like ages. I’m not easy to reach and they get frustrated sometimes. Also- not getting enough sleep. 

What is the biggest advantage of being tall? Biggest advantage of being short?

Tall? I have no experience with that. The biggest advantage of being short is that you can find fun, inexpensive clothes in the junior’s department. And most people don’t ask you to help carry heavy things for them. 

What topic would you like to know more about?

So many things! Whales. Seals. Eagles. The ocean. Biplanes. I could go on forever. 

What is the first thing you notice when you meet someone?

How kind they are. Their eyes. That’s two, but they are related. 

If you were a prescription drug, what would be your main side effect?

May cause you to stay awake all night creating, play loud music at all hours of the day, and talk to animals. 

What is the worst occupation in the world?

Anything requiring you to slog through rotting garbage. Ick. 

What is your greatest phobia? 

Probably heights. Which is funny because my previous occupation was pilot. 

If you ran a funeral home, what would your company slogan be?

My Grandfather had the corniest joke whenever we passed a funeral home-“it’s so popular-people are just dying to get in there”. I guess it would have to be that. 

What is the messiest place in your home?

My studio without a doubt! 

What random act of kindness have you done in the past year?

I rescued a neglected puppy from my back yard (he wandered in and was terrified and hungry), and found him a new home through my local Humane Society. He was so cute. 

If you had to smell like one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Coffee? I love it. It’s a comforting smell.

WendyMyersIllustrating Questions

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

I really don’t have them. Sometimes I’m looking for inspiration on a particular piece, and then I’ll go back through notes from an artist workshop, or go online and browse other artist’s sites. It’s the equivalent of being around other artists- it gives me a collective, creative energy.

Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?

Yes. The images usually come first for me. I dream it, then try to make it real. Such a big gap from one to the other.

Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?

It chose me for sure. I couldn’t sleep, just constantly having images and ideas running amok in my head until I figured out what to do with them.

Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?

Riding my horse. Odd, I know. Around other artists, too, especially if we are all working together in a room.

Who or what has helped you to persevere through the challenges?

There have been so many kind, helpful people I’ve met along the way. They’ve shown me the path when I didn’t know where to go next. I’d have to say my husband is my number one supporter and cheerleader. I also don’t know how to quit once I start something. It helps.

If you were no longer able to illustrate, how else would you express your creativity?

God help you all if I decide on singing. Interior design maybe?

What has been your greatest sacrifice that has enabled you to become the illustrator you are today?

Time. It takes a lot of time and dedication to improve your art in a field where you have no guarantees of financial success. I have a fine arts background. In that world I painted and then sold my work in galleries, or I painted commission pieces. In illustration, particularly the children’s literature market, there is so much more time put into projects that may never be “purchased”. I’m so lucky my family supports my madness!

What words of inspiration were given to you that you would like to pass along to others?

Draw every day. Never give up on your goals. And don’t be shy about talking to people about what you do. I’ve met some great clients that way.

When did you realize that you had a gift for illustrating?

When people began buying my work and galleries invited me to be in shows. I was shocked.

How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?

If someone has an answer for this that works please contact me asap. It’s a constant tipping of the scales for me. I’ll work feverishly on a project for days or weeks, then I’ll take days off to catch up with family. Did I mention I’m terrible at correspondence? This is one of the reasons. There’s never enough time for it all.

What is your typical day like?

Define typical. There is none. When I don’t have to get up early the next morning, I’ll stay up until 2am working.  Otherwise I’ll work from 7-11am in my studio, then do other things in the afternoon, then work again from 7-11pm. But it’s not consistent at all.

How much of your own life is reflected in your work?

A lot. There are horses everywhere. And dogs. Kids. Happiness. I need to do more airplanes.

Do you have family members who are writers or illustrators?

No, but my Dad was a very talented musician.

What was your childhood like? Did your upbringing influence the way you illustrate today?

Rocky best describes my childhood. In the early years we lived wild and free on the NJ coast, which was a real gift. I was given my first easel when I was about 5, and my Mom always encouraged creativity. Later on there were several creative adults in my life who were a positive influence.

Which of your books gives you the most pride or satisfaction?

I have not been published yet so I’ll have to report back on this one.

How do you think you differ from other creative people in your genre?

Wow, tough question. I think we are all different, thank goodness. For picture book illustration done in watercolors, my work tends to be very detailed, and often I use many layers and usually lots of color.

Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If so, in what ways?

I hope so. Over the years I have challenged myself to take workshops and try styles that are out of my comfort zone. I am a tight painter, so I’ll do some studies in a looser style. Over time I’ve found it has influenced my work. I find I’m also more likely to play and try new things to get the desired effect in my work. Lately I’m working in ink and watercolor, which I haven’t done for years.

When do you feel the most energized?

At night. It’s maddening.

Does your illustrating reflect your personality?

Somewhat. No deep meanings, but I am a bit of a perfectionist. So my painting style is tighter and my line work more precise. My colors are intense as well. Where’s the couch- I may need to lie down to reflect on all this. 

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Author Interview Loretta Ellsworth

unnamedGet to know Loretta… 

Loretta is a former teacher and a graduate of Hamline University in the MFA Program in Writing for Children.  She is the author of four young adult novels:  THE SHROUDING WOMAN, a BBCB Choice and Rebecca Caudill Nominee; IN SEARCH OF MOCKINGBIRD, a Teen’s Top Ten nominee, ALA and IRA Notable, winner of the Midwest Bookseller’s Choice Honor Award for Children’s Literature, and named to the New York Library List of Teenage Books; IN A HEARTBEAT, a Midwest Connection’s Pick and a ALAN Pick, and UNFORGETTABLE, which received that elusive Kirkus star and was a Kirkus Critic’s Pick as well the winner of the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award in Children’s Literature. She has appeared at numerous book festivals across the nation and teaches writing to young people as well as those not so young. For more info, visit her website

Quirky Questions 

If you could make something in life go away, what would it be?

War.

What dead person would you least want to be haunted by?

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen?

What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?

I was zoned out and forgot to go through the grocery store drive-through to pick up the groceries I bought.  I’ve done this often, in fact. 

What is your earliest childhood memory?

My earliest memory is hiding with the neighbor boy under his front porch during a passing storm.  My mother was angry because she’d been looking for me, but I was too scared to try to make it home because of the lightning.  I was three.

What food item would you remove from the market altogether?

A student once asked if I was related to JK Rowling because he thought I looked like her.  I told him she was my sister.

unnamed (1)Writing Questions

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?

I read a lot and I belong to a supportive writing community where I am encouraged and challenged to do my best.

If you had to start over, would you choose a different path in your career?

I always wanted to be a writer but didn’t do anything about it until I was thirty years-old, and didn’t work seriously at it until I was forty.  I wish I’d taken that plunge earlier, but I know how hard it was to make time to write as a working mom, and I have great respect for those who manage to carve out the time for writing while juggling so many other obligations. 

Has rejection ever affected your desire to continue writing?

Every rejection hurts and it’s hard not to take it personally.  It doesn’t affect my desire to continue writing, but it does affect which manuscripts I decide to work on.

What kind of jobs did you have before your career took off?

In college I had twelve W-2 forms in one year.  I did everything, from giving tours at the John Deere Engine manufacturing plant to working at a golf course.  After college, I taught middle school and high school Spanish for many years before my career took off, and now I visit schools to teach writing workshops.

What was the biggest opposing force that you encountered on your writing journey?

My own fears about myself and my writing.

If you could interview any author (past or present), who would you choose?

I’m reading Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal, written when she was a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and I have several questions I wish I could ask her.

Do you ever create hidden meanings or messages in your work?

I always try to work my maiden name (Mennen) into my books to see if family members can find it.

Have you ever felt enlightened by an event in the past that has given you a new perspective on life?

I randomly chose the setting for my first book, which takes place in the 1870’s in southeastern Minnesota.  It was only after the book was accepted and I was doing revisions that my aunt gave me a copy of my great, great, grandmother’s journal.  I had no idea that she’d lived in that community during that same time and is buried there.  I used her journal in my revisions to help describe the landscape, and my aunt told me I didn’t choose the place, that it had chosen me.  It made me more aware of connections that might seem random but perhaps really aren’t.

How has personal experience influenced your writing?

Your personal experience is what motivates you to write a particular story.  I think all stories are self-exploratory in some ways, and in order to write characters with compassion you must find yourself in the story and discover why it’s important to you.

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Author Interview with Laura Gehl

­­­­­­­

ONEBIGPAIRbookjacketGet to know Laura…

Laura Gehl is the author of AND THEN ANOTHER SHEEP TURNED UP and HARE AND TORTOISE RACE ACROSS ISRAEL, both out this spring from Kar-Ben/Lerner, as well as ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR (Simon & Schuster, 2014) and the PEEP AND EGG books (Macmillan, 2016). Laura also writes about science for children and adults. She lives with her husband and four kids in Chevy Chase, Maryland. For more info, visit her website and Facebook.

Quirky Questions

At the end of your Chinese meal, what would you like your fortune to read?

Vague fortunes drive me crazy, so I would want something specific. “You will get two new book contracts today, followed shortly by the news that you won a big award” would do nicely. Another fortune I would like: “Your children will grow up happy and safe, find loving spouses, and provide you with healthy grandchildren.”

What is the best thing about getting old?

Not caring as much about what people think. Feeling fine about buying 99% of my clothes from L.L. Bean. Getting to spend most of my time with people whose company I truly value.

What do you do too little of?

Spending 1 on 1 time with each of my kids. It’s hard with four of them, but I know it is important.

If you owned a store, what sorts of things would you sell?

Is this a trick question??? BOOKS, OF COURSE! And maybe some coffee and chocolate to enjoy along with the books.

What book (either because of its length or subject) intimidates you?

I recently checked out a Timmy Failure book, by Stephan Pastis, from the library. My 10-year-old and 8-year-old were literally grabbing it out of each other’s hands, so I had to read it too. The book was so hilarious that I knew I could never write anything as funny. Definitely intimidating. I feel that way when I read and re-read Gordon Korman’s Macdonald Hall books too. Intimidating in the you-can-never-ever-be-this-funny kind of way.

What was your favorite meal when you were growing up?

I’ve always been a huge fan of the traditional Thanksgiving meal…turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce…and I still am. But I also had a bizarre fascination as a child with TV dinners and, similarly, the meals on airplanes. I just loved how there were distinct little parts of the meal in their own distinct little boxes. Unlike Thanksgiving food, I have outgrown my love of TV dinners and airplane meals.

If you could make up a school subject, what would it be?

Woods Walking. If all kids could spend a block of time each day walking in the woods, I think kids and teachers would be calmer, happier, and more focused. If children actually learned about nature in the process, so much the better, but just walking in the woods would be wonderful.

What bad habit will you purposely never quit?

Biting my nails. It really saves time, since I never need to trim them.

What are you thinking about right now?

I’ve already had my chocolate break, my coffee break, and my walking break. Now what do I do if I start to feel tired and unmotivated???

Hare & Tortoise Race Across Israel-1

Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?

By far, I prefer to write on my living room couch. Since the couch is smack in the middle of my house, this means I can only really write when my husband and four kids are all out.

When do you feel the most energized?

Right after eating chocolate. They don’t call it a sugar high for nothing…and chocolate has the caffeine kick in addition to the sugar!

Does your writing reflect your personality?

I hope so. My books are intended to be funny and kind and make the world a better place. If that reflects my personality, then…YAY!

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

I like to have lots of different projects going on at any given time. That way when I feel blocked on one, I can work on another.

What is your typical day like?

Wake up, feed kids, get kids out the door, write, eat lunch, write, pick up kids, feed kids dinner, get kids to bed, write. A chocolate break is always in there somewhere, sometimes a coffee break, and on a good day a walk with a friend or a solitary run. I try to work on my most challenging project first thing in the morning, when my brain is fresh. Later in the day, my writing time might involve copy-editing or critiquing, because those tasks do not require as much focus and emotional energy.

Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?

I used to keep a file of positive words received from editors and agents. If I received a rejection letter that had a few positive sentences and a few critical sentences, I would take just the positive words and paste them in my file. Reading through that file helped me keep going.

How much of your own life is reflected in your work?

My kids are always giving me ideas, of course. But whenever I try to write a story with a fictionalized version of one of my own children as the main character, it is a complete and utter disaster.

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Illustrator Interview with Kristin Abbott

KristinGet to know Kristin…

I am currently designing giant sculptures that will be in a lantern festival opening in Barcelona, Spain this October. I spend most of my time thinking of funny and colorful things to make people, especially kids, happy. I love to draw places I would like to visit in the world and invent new adventurelands I wish existed. I love putting colors together especially with paint. I love to daydream in stories everyday. Hmmm… I must be an illustrator.  I have had the lovely opportunity to illustrate many children’s books and I teach illustration at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Long ago I graduated from Stanford University and worked as a journalist for a few years until I took a different job being a Mom. That’s when I started illustrating and here we are at the beginning of my bio. For more info, visit my website 

Quirky Questions

If you ran a funeral home, what would your company slogan be?

So long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good bye.

What is the messiest place in your home?

The bedroom of my teenaged son.

What random act of kindness have you done in the past year?

There is a homeless man I see everyday on my way home from the ice rink. Usually I give him a few dollars but one early morning last winter I noticed that he had no gloves. I gave him mine.

If had to smell like one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

Bergamot. It’s so clean and makes me think of shady green places.

What current product do you think will baffle people in 100 years?

Most exercise machines.

What is the last thing you paid money for?

A diet Dr. Pepper from the 7-11.

What do you often make fun of?

Reality shows, especially the Housewives of Anywhere.

What is the best thing about staying at a hotel?

Someone tidies up the bed and bathroom for me every day.

What is one thing you do with determination every day?

Working on a double salchow at the ice rink right now. I started skating as an adult and I ‘m working my way through jumps that most nine year old girls can do easily….sigh.

If you could have your mailbox shaped like an object, what would it be?

A Golden Spanish Galleon in full sail!

What healthy habit are you glad you have? Whats your worst habit?

Healthy: I love to eat my vegetables:)  Worst Habit: I forget people’s birthdays (apologies to my brothers…)

What is the biggest advantage of being tall? Biggest advantage of being short?

Tall: Can reach things on high shelves.  Short: More comfortable on long airplane flights.

What would you title your autobiography?

It’s ok if you forget me.

What topic would you like to know more about?

So many things! Any foreign language, any lost civilization around the world, shipwrecks, surfing, camping, ice dance, riparian habitat, ocean science and marine biology, meteorology, forestry, geology, brain development and neurological function, traumatic brain injury and healing, epilepsy, lyme disease, autism, beekeeping, and a thousand more things!

Knowing what you know now, what would you change about your high school experience?

I wouldn’t spend every day trying to be invisible.

What is the first thing you notice when you meet someone?

Everyone is so different, I can’t say that I notice one same thing consistently.

If you could travel back to 1492, what advice would you give Columbus?

Take my Swiss Army Watch, it will help you navigate better.

If you were a prescription drug, what would be your main side effect?

May cause daydreaming.

What company advertisements could you model for?

Uncle Norbert’s Reindeer Burgers.

What is the worst occupation in the world?

Jihadi.

BWBinterior011Illustrating Questions

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

I haven’t run into this problem yet!

Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?

Yes.

Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?

I chose this, but I chose it accidentally.

Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?

Just before I fall a sleep.

Who or what has helped you to persevere through the challenges?

My kids.

If you were no longer able to illustrate, how else would you express your creativity?

I would write more.

What has been your greatest sacrifice that has enabled you to become the illustrator you are today?

There are jobs I could do that would make much more money.

What words of inspiration were given to you that you would like to pass along to others?

Just keep swimming’  — oh wait, that’s what Dory, of ‘Finding Nemo’ says…

When did you realize that you had a gift for illustrating?

I love it when kids come to my house and they see my artwork and say, “OOooOOH! I want to go there!” When the first kid said that.

How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?

7:45 am – 3:30pm every school day is all mine.

What is your typical day like?

6:30-8am Ice rink (or gym). Sitting at my drawing table by 9am with KQED (NPR) on the radio. Email check, draw paint draw paint draw paint. 3:30 kid check — carpool car pool car pool. Dinner. 7pm Pay bills, send out post cards, paperwork details, promo stuff. 10pm Good night kids. 10:30 Good night husband. Goodnight. (**My kids are old enough that they do not need bath or storytime from me anymore.)

How much of your own life is reflected in your work?

Everything I do is a little part of what is inside of me.

Do you have family members who are writers or illustrators?

Nope. Engineers, scientists, teachers or science teachers.

What was your childhood like? Did your upbringing influence the way you illustrate today?

Yes! So much of my work is a reflection of me in my childhood. We lived on the edge of the woods and had all kinds of freedom to roam around and explore. National Geographic was my window to the world. I was sure I was going to be an archaeologist or explorer. Lots of my work is armchair travel for me. We had a fun neighborhood full of nice kids from huge families.

Which of your books gives you the most pride or satisfaction?

There was a series I was working on, “The Sports Princesses,” published by an Australian company. I finished the Soccer Princess, The Baseball Princess and the Football Princess (The American titles). The stories had such a fun ‘girl power’ theme and there were going to be ten in the series, but the company was sold and they went out of publication. I still love the idea, the strong concept and the fun possibilities in the artwork.

How do you think you differ from other creative people in your genre?

Most illustrators in children’s books want to draw little characters and nothing else. I really love to design the whole world. Complicated scenes with extra special perspective is fun for me.

Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If so, in what ways?

It’s time for me to change. I have gotten much faster over the years, but I would like to change my style too. What happens though is that I have a certain kind of work in my portfolio, and that is what people hire me to do — so I end up getting assignments where they want what they have seen before. I will have to create personal work in order to have the opportunity to try new styles.

When do you feel the most energized?

Putting finishing touches upon a successful painting:)

Does your illustrating reflect your personality?

Absolutely. Funny, colorful, exuberant, fanciful –easy. Thoughtful, sweet, reflective — easy. I struggle to do dark, sick and twisted.

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Illustrator Interview with Bob McMahon

BobmGet to know Bob…

Bob McMahon’s work has ranged from advertising, toy concepts, and movie posters to educational art and children’s books. His latest project was the illustrations for the book Apple Days by Allison Soffer published by Kar-Ben Publishing. He lives in sunny southern California with his wife, daughter and a crazy dog named Riley. For more info, visit his website. 

Quirky Questions 

What aspect of the “good old days” do you wish could make a comeback today?

I wish  illustrators could afford to work in group studios where we can all see what each other is working on and inspire each other creatively. Nowadays with the pitiful pay that artists earn you just can’t afford rent or a mortgage and the rent in a group studio.

But I have to admit that Face book is a pretty close approximation of a group artist’s studio. 

Why would somebody choose not to date you?

Probably because I’m married…. to a Judo black belt. 

What one thing have you kept over the years for no good reason?’

I still have my Agfa Lupe viewer…you may have to Google that. And a Proportion Wheel. Haven’t used those in a decade + but I still keep them. I don’t know why. 

If you were the boss at your job, what incentive or perk would you offer your employees?

Free beef jerky. I got a tour of the Facebook campus once and they have big baskets of free beef jerky for their employees. Of all the free thing that they offered (and there were many) that’s the one that stuck out. 

What unhealthy habit will you never give up?

Red Vines. The world is divided into two societies- one that like Red Vines and those who like Twizzlers. Twizzlers..Pftpbbrrth! 

What is the most revolutionary TV show of all time?

Twilight Zone. Great stories with a message. Or Spongebob, same thing.

If every activity in life were an Olympic sport, what would you win the gold in?

Coffee drinking! I totally rock at that!! 

What one rule do you frequently disregard?

Draw within the lines. Never did, never will.

What concept or product has surprisingly never been invented?

A machine that tells an artist to start drawing and then takes the pen out of their hand when they are done.

What movie deserves a sequel?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Why was there no sequel to that? 

bombIllustrating Questions

Which of your projects gives you the most pride or satisfaction?

Projects where I’m given the freedom to come up with own ideas or my own projects where I can let my imagination go where it wants to go.

WhHow do you think you differ from other illustrators?

There are SO many great illustrators out there! I would like to think that I can come up with funny, clever little drawings that will make you smile.

Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If so, in what ways?

My art seems to be loosening up lately. I like to experiment with new styles and brushes and paints in Corel Painter and see where it leads.

When do you feel the most energized?

I feel most energized when I’m working on a project so intensely that I lose track of time and all the problems and distractions seem to fade away and just seem to be in my own little art world.

If you were no longer able to illustrate, how else would you express your creativity?

Strangely enough if I couldn’t illustrate I think I would like to be an archaeologist. I love history and I think working out in some long lost place digging up a former civilization sounds wonderful!

What words of inspiration were given to you that you would like to pass along to others?

Make art that makes people happy.

When did you realize that you had a gift for illustrating?

In elementary school I was told to stop drawing and do my school work. I didn’t stop. Ever.
Also I grew up loving Mad Magazine and New Yorker cartoonists so I really never considered doing anything else.

How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?

It’s always a struggle I don’t think anyone has it worked out perfectly but I do put relationships with people above projects, especially my family. I want to see my daughter who is eight years old grow up and not miss anything by having nose stuck full time in my computer screen.

What is your typical day like?

I like to start my day at 5am…I know, that sounds crazy but it’s before everyone gets up and I can waste time on Facebook  guilt free. I start working by 5:30 or 6 and I work in 30 minute blocks timed by an on line countdown timer with 10 minute breaks in between.  In those 10 minute breaks I can make phone calls, pay bills and do general housekeeping stuff.
One hour for lunch and then I stop working at about 6pm and I’m in bed my 9pm.
Working in 30 minute blocks seems to work for me and it took a while to get the right work/break timing.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

Sometimes you can work your way through it by just keeping your pencil moving until the creativity starts to flow and sometime you just need to walk away and do something else and give your creativity time to recharge.

Can you visualize a finished product before you begin?

Yes I do visualize my finished art before and that can be frustrating! If I can just get 70%  of what I’m visualizing I consider the artwork a great success.

Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?

All my life it felt like an irresistible force dragging me down into its swirling vortex…what that sounds like a good thing right?

Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?

When I sit down in my office chair first thing in the morning there a feeling inside that says “It’s Showtime!” and then sometimes nothing happens…and sometime I get a burst of creativity.

Who or what has helped you persevere when you face challenges?

I know that whatever challenges I have right now that they will pass.  There will be a day after, and that I can get through this just as I’ve always have.

What was your childhood like? Did your upbringing influence the way you illustrate today?

I grew up with Mad Magazines and New Yorker style gag cartoons when all the other kids were reading superhero comics and I think that shows in my work now.

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Author Interview with Joyce Ragland

FRED-book-cover-frontGet to know Joyce…

Joyce C. Ragland, RA for Missouri 2011- 2013, is the author of more than one hundred academic publications in the form of two books, articles, reports, conference proceedings, training modules, conference papers and more. She has been editor or reviewer of publications by Prentice-Hall, McGraw-Hill, Wiley and others. In addition to academic publications, she has published short stories and poetry. She has two nonfiction books published by Paperback Press, LLC: DREAD THE FRED (November, 2013) and THROWAWAY CHILD (June, 2014) and a work-in-progress, TRAVEL IN THE SIXTIES, for her charity, the Ella Ragland Art Company. She lives in Springfield, Missouri with Bessie Jo, a short haired Border Collie rescue dog. For more info, visit her blog.

Quirky Questions 

If you could make up a school subject, what would it be?

Freelance writing.

What latest trend simply baffles you?

I’m not sure what the latest trends are. 

What bad habit will you purposely never kick?

Since I’m over 60, I’ve earned the right to be eccentric and part of that is not admitting publicly to any bad habits. 

If you had to choose, what is the most important quality in a relationship—humor, smarts, personality, looks, money, or mutual interests?

Intelligence, aka “smarts,” which is mostly related to your choice of “mutual interests” – and that also includes humor. 

If you could add one feature to your cell phone, what would it be?

My cell phone already has more features that I want or need, including several apps that don’t seem to have a delete feature. So… I want to easily delete foodball, candyland, and similar games from my phone. 

What do you consider your nicest feature? What about your worst feature?

Physical or emotional/spiritual features? I don’t know how to answer this. 

What would motivate you to run a marathon?

Turn back the clock to my twenties and someone has offered one million dollars for me to run a marathon. (You didn’t say I had to finish.) 

If you were a talk-show host, who would you want as your first guest?

Charlie Rose. 

If you were to write a song about your high school years, what would you title it?

Never My Love. 

Fill in the blank. I am so much smarter than _________.

I used to be.

What could never be considered “art”?

Environmental pollution. Child abuse. Animal abuse. Abuse in any form. 

What have you tried in life, and simply were not good at?

Most anything athletic. 

If you were to sell something at an auction, what would you sell?

Any of several antiques and collectibles, starting with some beautiful Czech glass vases. 

What are you most neurotic about?

You need to ask my friends and ex-husbands this question. I do try not to be neurotic about anything although I have been terrified of snakes all my life. And spiders. 

Can you share an embarrassing story?

I could, but won’t, thank you very much. 

What is the strongest bond you have with an inanimate object?

My laptop computer. 

48995614bd940a82390a4f.L._V367120624_SY470_Writing Questions

How did you pick your writing genre?

I write nonfiction and fiction – and had some poetry  published in college days. Writing is part of me and always has been.

What life experiences have inspired your work?

My nonfiction book, Dread the FRED, published November 2013 tells the story of a small rural (underdog) school’s 2010 national robotics championship. I graduated from that high school in 1965 so know better than anyone, the challenges those students faced – and conquered.

How do you know when a book is finished?

The characters tell you; however, you must have a story arc so when you start writing you know the ending in general. But the action and dialog will end the story for you, if you’re really letting the characters tell the story.

What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have compared to people who are not creative?

Creative people must have an outlet for their “juices” or they will go stark raving crazy.

Have you ever felt that your personal expectations have limited your creativity? If so, how have you dealt with this?

I want to write the perfect story from the outset, so have trouble getting the first words on paper – onscreen, that is. I have to make myself just put something down, then I can later go back and revise as much as needed.

Do you ever feel that you have to censor your creativity because you don’t want to offend anyone?

In nonfiction, yes, but not in fiction.

Do you do anything special to get your creative juices flowing?

I need to be well rested because I write best in the morning. Can’t get going if I’ve had a bad sleep.

What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?

Join writers’ groups; if there is none in your area, start one. Go to writers’ conferences. Invest in paid critiques of revised manuscripts (not first drafts) with top name editors. Then, only then, submit your manuscript to agents or publishers. 

Who do you consider a literary genius?

Annie Proulx, Ellen Hopkins, Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee, William Faulkner … just a few.

What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career?

My tendency toward perfectionism is an ongoing obstacle – wanting to get the manuscript perfect from the first draft to the final edit. I’ve learned to write, get critiques, re-write several times, then after one final outside edit, go to press. The next huge obstacle for all writers, I think, is marketing the book. The competition is fierce – hundreds of thousands of good books (and some not-so-good books) flood the market.

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Illustrator Interview with Laura Jacobsen

SockPuppetsGet to know Laura… 

Laura Jacobsen has been drawing, painting, doodling, and generally making a mess her whole life. She graduated from The Columbus College of Art and Design and her work has appeared in many, many textbooks, wonderful magazines like Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, Ask, Highlights for Children and High Five, and in several picture books including My Brother Loved Snowflakes, Animal Mischief, The Best Eid Ever, A Party in Ramadan and The Boy and the North Wind.

Laura now uses her computer to create her illustrations when she is not posting on Facebook or answering e-mail. Her two dogs, Hopper and Lucy, keep her company in her studio, clean up the crumbs and alert her to every outside noise, including those audible only to them. For more info, visit her website.

Quirky Questions

What would you do if you wanted to annoy someone?

I’ve made up personalities, back stories and voices for my dogs. I’ll walk around holding imaginary conversations with them. In public.

What do you do too much of?

The internet.

What do you do too little of?

Writing, painting, drawing, any of the hundred hobbies I’ve bought all the supplies for…

If you could make up a school subject, what would it be?

General Life Skills 101. Seriously, how hard is it to break down a cardboard box so it fits in the recycling bin?

If you could own one type of store, what would it be?

An art supply store. I’d spend all day there just inhaling THAT SMELL.

What do you waste your time doing?

Again, the internet.

What is the biggest inconvenience about the place you are currently living in?

Lack of good food close by. I would love to just walk down the block and have all things spicy available.

What was your favorite meal when you were growing up?

Spaghetti with Italian sausage, or homemade pizza. My WASP mom learned to cook Italian like a pro.

What do you do every day, without fail?

I make the bed. It makes the feeling of Clean Sheet Day last longer.

What is something you wish you did every day, without fail?

Meditate.

What makes you want to throw up?

German chocolate cake. There was a CVI (Childhood Vomit Incident) involving it, still can’t eat the stuff.

What was the worst grade you’ve ever received? What class was it?

I got a C in Biology one semester in high school. I drew two big posters showing the insides of frogs for extra credit to bring it up to a B. I was a bit of a slacker in school and so did a lot of extra credit posters to keep the parental units happy.

What are you thinking about right now?

How gross dissecting frogs was. 

PigNeedsANameIllustrating Questions

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

I surf the web looking at art, I read, I go out with friends. Just DOING something is always the best way to get past a block. Staring at the wall wallowing (which I have also done) never helps.

Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?

Things rarely turn out like the image in my head, but yes, I usually have an idea of how I want it to look.

Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?

I feel I chose it. I was always drawing as a kid, and when I visited the art school I ended up going to, I can remember telling my mom, “I HAVE to learn how to do this.” I am still running after it yelling, “No, wait, I choose you! Get back here, I choose you!”

Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?

In the shower, I always get the best ideas there.

Who or what has helped you to persevere through the challenges?

Definitely my long suffering hubby. I’m not sure he knew what he was signing up for, but I could not be doing this without his support. And his computer expertise.

If you were no longer able to illustrate, how else would you express your creativity?

I’d write no question.

What has been your greatest sacrifice that has enabled you to become the illustrator you are today?

I don’t feel I’ve had to make any sacrifices. I’ve worked hard and continue to at something I love-no sacrifices there. I’m extremely fortunate, my life is easy compared to many. I try not to take this for granted.

What words of inspiration were given to you that you would like to pass along to others?

Don’t give up what you want most for what you want right now. The big picture might change, but one needs to always, ALWAYS keep it in mind.

If you knew that you had only one last opportunity to express yourself creatively, what message would you want to convey to others?

I like the funny, I like making people laugh. I would want to put something amusing out there.

When did you realize that you had a gift for illustrating?

I have always liked to draw and do art projects. I was lucky to have gone to a well funded public school that had art classes, so I got encouragement from my teachers to continue to pursue art, including a scholarship to art school.

How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?

I don’t have children, so it is pretty easy to juggle. I really don’t know how some of my illustrator/parent friends manage.

What is your typical day like?

I have coffee and peruse Facebook and answer e-mail, then I get dressed. I try to do my hair and makeup etc., just like I’m going to a regular job most days, it is a slippery slope to wearing your pajamas for two weeks straight. Then it is into the studio to work. If I’m on deadline it’s pretty much non-stop until around four when I work-out for an hour and then start dinner. After dinner, I work more if I’m on a deadline, otherwise evenings are spent reading and binge-watching shows on Netflix with the hubs. I try and save errands and chores for a day during the week rather than the weekend. One of the perks of self-employment.

How much of your own life is reflected in your work?

Up until now, not a whole lot, but I am currently working on a picture book manuscript that has its beginnings in my own family.

Do you have family members who are writers or illustrators?

My mom’s dad was an artist, both commercial and fine art.

What was your childhood like? Did your upbringing influence the way you illustrate today?

Again, I was very fortunate. It influenced me simply because I was given all the opportunity and encouragement a child could have. I hate how we have eviscerated art education in this country and grieve the loss of all that talent. I will continue to vote for those who support strengthening and funding public education.

Which of your books gives you the most pride or satisfaction?

The one I just finished, Exploring the West, Tales of Courage on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, mainly because my drawing and painting skills get better with each project, so the most recent is usually my favorite.

How do you think you differ from other creative people in your genre?

I’m still casting about trying to find my niche despite being at it for awhile. I’ve always been a late bloomer.

Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If so, in what ways?

I’ve definitely loosened up and am trying to do so even more. As my drawing has improved, I let it show more and more. I may switch mediums eventually.

When do you feel the most energized?

Usually when I’m working on my own stories. As I mentioned, I enjoy humor, so if I’m cracking myself up, that’s a good day.

Does your illustrating reflect your personality?

Some parts of it, others not as much. I think the goal is to have your work showcase the parts of yourself you most want it to. I am still working on that.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Deborah Hopkinson

DebGet to know Deborah…

Deborah Hopkinson is the award-winning author of more than 40 books for young readers including picture books, historical fiction, and nonfiction. A prolific picture book author, Deborah has won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for picture book text twice, for Apples to Oregon and A Band of Angels. Other picture books include Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, winner of the IRA Award; Sky Boys, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor book; and Keep On! The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-Discoverer of the North Pole, winner of the Oregon Book Award.

Deborah’s nonfiction includes Titanic, Voices from the Disaster, which received a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction honor and a Robert F. Sibert Honor. Up Before Daybreak, Cotton and People in America, won a Carter G. Woodson Award Honor, and Shutting out the Sky, Life in the Tenements of New York 1880-1924, received an NCTE Orbis Pictus honor. Deborah’s middle grade novel, The Great Trouble, A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel, won an Oregon Spirit Award.

 A native of Massachusetts, Deborah received a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts and an M.A. from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Up until 2014, Deborah also pursued a career in higher education fundraising, serving such institutions as Whitman College and Oregon State University. She and her husband, winemaker Andy Thomas, live in West Linn, Oregon and have two grown children.

A frequent presenter at schools and conferences, Deborah loves history and is passionate about encouraging young readers to think like historians. Her next book, in Fall 2015, is Courage & Defiance, Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark. For more info, follow Deborah on Twitter  and visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What one commercial product are you totally loyal to?

Chobani yogurt!  I even carry it with me in my suitcase when I travel to visit schools.

What are the biggest challenges you have had in the realm of your art?

I think the lack of support for school library budgets may be the biggest challenge children’s authors like me face. Most of my books aren’t even carried in chain bookstores. Librarians and teachers keep my books alive. 

How did you pick your writing genre?

I was interested in history in graduate school, but really writing historical fiction and nonfiction came about primarily because I love to read about history, and enjoy learning new things. 

What life experiences have inspired your work?

Although I may not have been aware of the impact until much later, growing up in a historic city (Lowell, Massachusetts) had an impact. I read a lot, but the lives of ordinary women and men were not covered in children’s books as they are now. My desire to find out more has shaped my work.

How do you know when a book is finished?

Sometimes I feel books are never done – they can always get better. But at a certain point (usually when the deadline is upon me), I come to a point where I feel that at this moment in time, this is the best I can do. (That is usually after several go-rounds with my editor too!) 

Why were you drawn to a career in writing instead of to a job that might offer more stability and security?

Actually, for most of my writing career I have had a full time job. It was only earlier this year that I left my job in development, raising funds for higher education, to write and visit schools full time.  I feel fortunate to have learned a lot in both careers.

Deb1Who do you consider a literary genius?

Dickens, Austen, and Charlotte Bronte. 

What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career?

I feel I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with amazing editors from the beginning.  I would have liked to write full time earlier, but on the other hand, having a day job and not traveling for school visits enabled me to spend more time with my children.  So, all in all, I have been lucky. And I don’t mind revising, which is necessary because I am a writer who rarely gets it right the first time!

Do you do anything special to get your creative juices flowing?

Usually I just sit down, drink coffee, and start. When I am stuck, going to the gym or taking a shower helps. 

What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?

Just put your energies in the direction you want to go – and don’t give up. Read as much as you can and don’t pay attention to trends.

When did you know for certain that you wanted to pursue a career in writing? Have you ever questioned that decision?

I wanted to be a writer when I was ten years old. I didn’t actually start until my early thirties, though, in part because I didn’t at first consider writing for children. But when I had my daughter and I began reading picture books to her, it struck me that this was something I could try while working full time. Now that I am writing (and visiting schools) full time I am ecstatic!  I feel incredibly lucky to have work that I love passionately. 

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