Randi Reisfeld is a prolific author of novels for middle grade and teen readers. Her book series, T*Witches was adapted for two Disney Channel TV-movies, and her newest novel, What The Dog Said, for readers ages 10-14, is out now.
Randi loves to travel, sing really loudly and badly along with her iPod, hang out with her amazing friends and family. She reads compulsively—mostly historical fiction. She convinces herself that she’s now gotten an education in history. Currently, she’s engrossed in Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants and Winter of the World, plus anything by Beverly Swerling. She’s also into well-written mostly contemporary murder mysteries. Tops on the latter list is the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy and anything by Jo Nesbo. Randi blogs on Goodreads.com. Unsurprisingly, her favorite subjects in school were English and Social Studies. For more info, check out her website.
Let the conversation begin!
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
Learned to believe that I should write the story I want to write – not what an editor at a publishing house suggests – even though I won’t have an income. Scary!
If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?
Write, write, write – stop procrastinating and doubting my abilities.
What is your definition of a productive day?
Total fantasy: Getting to the library at 9:00 AM, when it opens. That’s the place I do my writing. I would write for as many focused hours as I could. Then I’d get the chores done and check off the stuff on my to-do list. Next, I’d un-clutter my home office. I’d finally earn my relaxing time in the evening. Oh yeah – and exercise. That’s a biggie and very telling that it’s an afterthought while answering this question!
What is your definition of a relaxing day?
Hanging on the couch with a gentle breeze coming through the window; getting lost in a book I love and playing “Words With Friends.” (And being so clever, I beat everyone I play with).
What was your favorite thing to play with as a child?
Creating scrapbooks with pictures of characters I’d made up. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, I see that I spent most of my childhood in a fantasy dream-world, creating little stories. PS: I still have them. On one hand, I envy how I wasn’t self-conscious about what I was writing. On the other? OMG, they were awful!
If you could be any animal in the world for 24 hours, which animal would you be?
Neither prey nor predator. Most likely a much beloved and over-pampered puppy.
Have you ever jumped out of a plane? If you knew you would survive, would you do it?
Can you share your journey from writing to author?
For many years, I worked at 16 Magazine. Now, we’d call it a “fanzine.” We interviewed teen idols, and wrote articles about them. Books used to come across my desk for review, including celebrity biographies. After reading them, I realized “I could do that.” I took the initiative, called publishing companies to find out the editors of these books. Then I called the editor and offered myself up as an author of celebrity bios. (Clearly I wasn’t terrified of rejection at that naïve point in my life). My first book was a bio of Johnny Depp. It was beyond exciting to have my name on a book cover.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
It makes me crazy when people talk in the “quiet” area of the library where others are studying or writing. I don’t want to be that person who scolds them, but occasionally, I do. Then I spend the rest of my time feeling crappy about it. Doesn’t make for a productive day!
What commercial annoys you the most? What is your favorite commercial?
Any of the loud ones, where you feel like you’re being screamed out. Bob’s Furniture is one example. Or the stupid ones like the Geico lizard. Either mute or if a DVR-d show, speed through them. Love the clever ones, like the one for Volkswagen with the Clapping Song. Or the Bud Light commercial where the dog is named “Wego.” The catch-phase is “Here, Wego.” Cracks me up every time.
Name a turning point in your life that makes you smile.
That’s easy – the birth of my children!
If you were to be on a reality TV show, which would it be and why?
I’d never EVER be on a reality show. They’re a sure sign of the apocalypse…wait, scratch that. I love love love The Amazing Race. It’s often hysterically funny, plus you get to see cool places around the world. I wish I could be as in shape and fearless as most of the participants. In my family, we choose teams and place bets on who will win.
Think of the craziest What If question. Do you think you could write an entire book based off of this question?
Don’t know if it’s crazy, but if done well, could be engrossing. What if a diverse group of teen girls—runaways, each for her own secret reason—actually lived full time in New York City’s Central Park. How would they survive and keep their location secret? I’ve gone as far as scratching out some characters, and motives. I know one of them for sure is a teenage Suri Cruise type who’s resented being shoved in front of paparazzi cameras all her life; used as a pawn between her super-famous parents. Love the idea that she runs away and chooses to go into deep hiding where she has to fend for herself in primitive and dangerous circumstances – the furthest place you could be from unwanted fame. She’s the leader of the group. Another is probably a pregnant escapee from a cult, who will at some point give birth. Some will betray the group; some will be betrayed; not all will survive. I’ve actually attended a program called “Surviving Central Park.” I’d like to write that book, but not sure I could make it work.
If someone rented a billboard for you, what would you put on it?
I’d squash that idea in the bud. Would never want to be that famous. I’d be obsessively self-critical.
If you had to enter a competition for the “Most Uselessly Unique Talent,” what would your talent be?
Bonnie is a late-bloomer who didn’t discover her creativity until she was in her mid-thirties. Now in her fifties (yikes!), her inventive energy enables her to continue to be a kid at heart, leaving creative sparks wherever she goes. In 1997, Bonnie met her husband-to-be, Gil,in a writing group. In 2000 they got married at the same Borders Books & Music store where they met. They currently live in a crowded apartment in suburban Philadelphia with their two famous cats (because they were on the cover of a Hallmark Greeting Card), Booger and Coolio. Bonnie is the inventor of Story Spinner which generates millions of creative writing exercises either online or with a carry anywhere, handheld version. She is the author of two books published by Writer’s Digest: The Write-Brain Workbook, 366 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing and Take Ten for Writers, 1000 Inspiring Exercises to Generate Ideas and Stimulate Your Writing in Only Ten Minutes a Day. She presents fun, funny, and motivational writing workshops to writers of all ages and levels. Bonnie has turned one of her hobbies, inventing Halloween costumes based on word plays, into a downloadable eBook called Punny Cotumes, 252 No Sew, Easy-to-Make Costumes Guaranteed to Elicit Groans. Visit her website, www.BonnieNeubauer.com, to download the eBook, try your hand at millions of free writing exercises, and discover tips and tools to keep writer’s block at bay and build your writing momentum.
Let the conversation begin!
Who inspires you and how are you a bit like them?
I am inspired by people who live their quirky creativity to its fullest. A good example would be Will Shortz, NPR’s Puzzlemaster and also editor of the NY Times Crossword. He embraced his interests and ran with them, creating a life of creativity that he shares with millions.
Where do you get your ideas?
I always say that my ideas come from the equation 1+1=3. I add 2 things together that are familiar and come up with a brand new 3rd thing. That 3rd thing is a new idea. Some of the ideas take on a life of their own, but most just entertain me for a moment or two and then fizzle out. I record all of them in a journal, giving them all a life in writing.
What advice would you give young writers?
Just do it! Whatever creative outlet appeals to you, simply try it. Don’t let the opinions of others get in the way. Let your creative expression flow from you. And don’t ask for feedback from others unless. Embrace your creativity, practice it in some way every day, and when you are ready… then you share it with the world.
What was the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
I am not a very adventurous eater. My husband and best friend joke about how all my favorite foods are beige in color.
What do you consider to the most valuable thing you own?
I am a total iphone addict. So if I had to pick a tangible item that is valuable in terms of its use and entertainment value, this would certainly be it. When I accidentally tossed my first iphone into the washing machine while in a pants pocket, I actually had a panic attack and started to hyperventilate. I know it’s nuts, but having a computer with me at all times feels safe and reassuring.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
“Anything is possible one stroke at a time.” It’s the slogan for a wonderful art/doodling method called Zentangle. Check it out!
What would you like your life to look like in ten years?
I would like to have an administrative assistant who helps me follow through with all my ideas; a chef to cook healthy meals; and someone to clean and keep up with the household dust and cat hair so I don’t have to worry about asthma and allergies. And if I can’t have that, I would just like to be in good health and to wake up happy each morning.
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
Creativity is a cycle and requires input and output. When I have exhausted all my output, I read books and magazines, listen to new music, watch movies, take a class, surf the net, wander through book stores, collect rocks and fossils and shells, do puzzles, and play lots of board games. Inevitably, after this type of immersion, some new idea comes along and once again I am off and running. The hardest part is recognizing the cycle and embracing what most people might see as downtime or even writer’s block.
What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?
All 3 were easy since they were outgrowths of my hobbies – running writing workshops to motivate others and inventing silly word-play Halloween costumes.
Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress?
To me, the act of creation is like being in a lush Garden of Eden. I really enjoy being there alone so I don’t share with anyone until I feel the work is complete.
What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue?
I would build a timber frame studio and make it a 6- or 8-sided building complete with windows on every wall, a mini kitchen, full bath, waterfall, sunken fireplace, comfy reading chairs, drawing table, a huge desk with a brand new computer, table for each work-in-progress, and tons and tons and tons of bookshelves.
What is your secret talent?
I have double-jointed thumbs!
What’s one rule you’re dying to break?
“Do not walk on grass” signs. I really love the feel of grass under bare feet and feel offended when people restrict that.
If this was your last day on Earth, what would you do?
Feed my cats, tend my garden, eat all the raspberries growing in the backyard, and then get into bed with my husband and then stay there until the end, snuggling, hugging, and (hopefully) laughing.
What initially drew you to writing?
I never liked to write and then one day (when I was in my mid-thirties) I spoke with someone who owned a greeting card company. Something possessed me to ask if I could write cards for him and after a bit of persistence on my end, he finally said yes. From that moment on I fell in love with writing and the entire creative process. And from that moment on I discovered true happiness.
If you could spend a vacation with three authors, who would they be?
If we can pick dead people, I would like to meet Helene Hanff, author of 84 Charing Cross Road, the most entertaining and platonic love story ever written; Allan Sherman, wit and writer of funny parody songs and most famous for Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda; and Harry Chapin who was the foremost storyteller in song and an amazingly generous soul. All three are very clever, funny, and warm-hearted which would make for a really stimulating, yet comfortable, time.
Daily word count?
I like to count steps when I walk up them, but I never count words, so I have no clue.
Tim Wadham is the director of the Puyallup, Washington Public Library. He is the author of books for the library and education market, including Libros esenciales, published by Neal Schuman. His first book for children, The Queen of France, was published by Candlewick Press in 2011.
Let the conversation begin!
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
When I submitted The Queen of France to Candlewick Press, I got an editorial note asking if I could take my character outside to open up the story more. The subsequent revision taking this one suggestion into account made the manuscript 100 times better. I guess the advice here is to listen to your editor.
Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret?
My wife reads everything. She is my first editor and, I must say, a really good one. She keeps the writing honest and knows exactly what to suggest to solve problems in the story. I also read drafts out loud to my daughter.
Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?
I think that any writer would want to create a classic that would live forever, and be read by generations of children. I think of Norton Juster, the creator of The Phantom Tollbooth. While he’s published some picture books for children since then, his reputation rests solely on that one book, and I’m sure that he’s quite happy for that to be the case.
Are your characters completely fictional?
The character of Rose in The Queen of France is based on my daughter. The scenario in the book is actually based on something she did when she was around four years old.
She is now fifteen, but she still remembers dressing up as the Queen of France and thinks it’s cool that I thought that something she did was funny enough to put in a book.