Keri Mikulski writes under the pseudonym Nicole Leigh Shepherd. She is the author of Head Games (Razorbill/Penguin, 2011), Stealing Bases (Razorbill/Penguin, 2011), Making Waves (Razorbill/Penguin, 2012), and Fifteen Love (Razorbill/Penguin, 2012). A three-sport athlete in high school, Keri worked as a personal trainer, lifeguard, registered nurse, middle school teacher, columnist, and high school coach. Currently, she teaches college writing courses while working toward a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at Rutgers University. Keri splits her time between the New Jersey suburbs and the shore with her family. Find out more at her website.
Let the conversation begin!
If I gave you a brick, what would you do with it?
I would probably chalk decorate the brick with my daughters.
Do you bake or buy?
We buy from the bakery up the street from my house every Friday. I attempt to bake cupcakes, cookies, and cakes with the kids at least once a month.
What kitchen utensil would you be? Why?
A spoon so I could enjoy ice cream.
What is your concession stand must-have at the movies?
What is one quality that you really appreciate in a person?
What is the most distinguishing landmark in your city?
The major city closest to me is Philadelphia, so as an ex-athlete, I’d have to go with the Rocky Statue and/or the stadiums (Sorry, Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross). As far as my tiny town, the Little Red Schoolhouse is probably the most distinguished landmark – the others are more fun and a little less distinguished like the Train Bridge, the Wawa, and the custard stand.
What food item would you remove from the market altogether?
What would you rather have: a nanny, a housekeeper, a cook, or a chauffeur?
My hubby is an amazing cook so probably a housekeeper. Although, a nanny would be nice when I need to work so I don’t have to bother my babysitter.
What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
I was inspired by the lack of sports books for girls. While teaching seventh grade, I noticed a ton of girls, who like myself at that age, were morphing into reluctant readers because they couldn’t connect with fictional characters found in mainstream literature. I began writing and hoping to fill this gap in the market.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep learning. Keep working hard. Keep reading. And most important of all, keep writing!
Natalie Standiford is the author of many books for kids and teens, including HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT, CONFESSIONS OF THE SULLIVAN SISTERS, and THE BRAVEST DOG EVER: THE TRUE STORY OF BALTO. Her first middle grade novel, THE SECRET TREE, was just published in May. She was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, studied Russian Language and Literature at Brown University, and now lives in New York City, where she plays bass in the all-YA-author band Tiger Beat with Libba Bray, Daniel Ehrenhaft, and Barnabas Miller. Check out her official site!
Let the conversation begin!
Can you describe your writing journey, from writer to author?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was eight. I wrote stories and read a lot all through my childhood and teen years. I studied fiction writing, as well as other interesting subjects, in college. After graduation I moved toNew Yorkand started working in publishing as an editorial assistant at Random House Books for Young Readers. I learned so much there about writing, editing, and the publishing process—it was an invaluable experience for me. I wrote my first published book while working at Random House: an easy reader called THE BEST LITTLE MONKEYS IN THE WORLD. I was thrilled to have my first book illustrated by one of my childhood heroes, Hilary Knight, the famous illustrator of ELOISE and many other wonderful books.
After about three years at Random House, I left to write freelance. I worked for a book packager and read publishers’ slush piles to make ends meet while I wrote on my own stories. It was hard at first but I kept at it and now, years later, I’m still writing books.
Best part of writing? Worst part?
The best part of writing is when you’ve been stuck, and suddenly you’re unstuck. An answer to a problem appears and the writing pours out of you. Those moments are rare for me.
The worst part is when your brain doesn’t want to work, and each word you set down has to be yanked out like a rotten tooth. Those moments are, sadly, not at all rare for me.
Name a turning point in your life that makes you smile.
I was fresh out of college and looking for a job. The job market was as bad then as it is now, so I was very excited to be asked back for a second interview for an editorial assistant position at Random House. At the end of the interview they offered me the job! I was so thrilled I skipped up Third Avenue singing, “Every Day I Write the Book.” That job was a big turning point in my life—it started my career.
If you could do anything and get away with it, what would you do?
I’d eat a lot of candy. (I mean, more than the large amount I already eat.)
If you had to be a teacher, what would you teach?
I would teach a language, like Russian, or English as a second language, or literature, or creative writing, I suppose. The things I know and love best.
What did you like best about your hometown?
My hometown is Baltimore, Maryland. I love its unselfconscious oddness, and the way it changes yet somehow stays the same.
What punctuation mark best describes your personality? Why?