Interview with Award-Winning Author Jennifer Kirkeby

Jennifer KGet to know Jennifer…

JENNIFER KIRKEBY is an actress, playwright and children’s writer. Kirkeby adapted ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas; The Far-Fetched Fable of the Frog Prince; Madeline’s Christmas, based on the book by Ludwig Bemelmans; and Dot and Tot of Merryland, all of which are published by Dramatic Publishing. Other adaptations include Nancy Carlson’s Harriet and Walt, a musical about sibling rivalry, (Samuel French); Llama Llama Holiday Drama and Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney; Aladdin and His Magical Lamp; The Mitten by Jan Brett; The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch; Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type, and Giggle Giggle Quack and Duck for President by Doreen Cronin, and If You Give A Moose A Muffin by Laura Numeroff. Original plays include Midlife Madness, an adult comedy; and Eyes Wide Open, a play about eating disorders (Samuel French). Her ten-minute play, The Glass House has won numerous national awards. Several of her monologues and scenes have been published by Smith & Kraus Publishers in Audition Arsenal for Women in Their 30s and volumes 2 & 4 of Winners Competition Series. Kirkeby is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc., The Playwrights’ Center and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and SCBWI. For more info, visit her website, blog, and Facebook.

Quirky Questions 

What do you think will be the next popular catch phrase?


What do you do every day, without fail?

Look forward to that first cup of coffee! 

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

Live in the present. I try, but it’s a tough one for me. 

If you could dis-invent one thing, what would it be?

Nylons. No one should be made to feel like a sausage in a casing. 

What makes you want to throw up?

Abuse and cruelty. 

What makes you laugh until tears roll down your cheeks?

I’m going to tell you, but you can’t tell my husband. We recently got new cable, and the Comcast guy explained to me that one of our remotes can change stations, volume, etc. even if you’re not in the same room as the TV. So I sometimes take that control, go upstairs, and change the channels and volume on my unsuspecting husband. He hasn’t caught on yet because I don’t do it too often. Timing is everything. I find it hysterically funny. Don’t feel too sorry for him, though. He used to stand in our closet wearing a scary Halloween mask and wait for me to walk in until I destroyed it. The mask. Not the closet. 

What compliment do you wish someone would give you?

“Your writing made me feel like there is someone in the world who truly understands and cares about me.” 

What do you waste time doing?


What’s the biggest inconvenience about where you live?

That’s an easy one, boy-you-betcha. Winters in Minnesota. They are inconvenient in many ways.

1. You freeze your face off, (and other important things).

2. You have to drive in very dangerous and slippery conditions. I’m from California, so this took me a while.

3. You have to shovel. Especially when your husband had hand surgery during a record-setting snowy winter so he could golf in the spring, and your snow blower was broken. Like this past winter for example. Do I sound bitter? HOWEVER, I’m convinced these pesky winters are one of the reasons we have a plethora of amazing writers in Minnesota, so there’s the upside for ya! 

If you were a professional wrestler, what would your name be?

Kirkeby the Krusher.

If you could own a store, what would you sell?  

Books for animals. Maybe it’s just my dogs, but they love it when I read to them. My daughters are in their twenties, and suddenly they think they’re too old to be read to. They actually get embarrassed when we go to Target and I head to the picture books and start reading to them. Can you believe it? So yeah, Baboon Books it is. 

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

Moby Dick. 

What was your favorite childhood meal?

Tomato soup and grilled cheese. My mom would make it for me when I was sick, and I felt comfort and love in every bite.

TenWriting Questions

Ever feel you have to censor your creativity because you don’t want to offend anyone?

No. I believe your character must be 100% authentic. Your character needs to talk the way they would talk in real life, and do the things they would do if they were living down the street. Besides, no one can pick out a poser faster than a young person, right?

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

Walking helps my creativity. Or reading a great book or blog from a writer that I admire. And here’s where my theater background comes in. I talk to my characters. I ask them lots of questions. It’s their story after all. They should be willing to pull their own weight now and then. It’s surprising what they’ll tell you if you get them at the right time. And give them chocolate.

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

Ask yourself why you want to write. Is it solely because you want to become published? Because that’s the wrong reason to write. Ask any writer you admire about that one. You have to LOVE writing. Perhaps you want to change people’s perceptions, inform or entertain, or maybe you want to release some nagging pain that you’ve been carrying around since childhood. Just know that like anything, it takes years and years and YEARS to become a good writer. Join SCBWI, take classes and read. Read as much as you possibly can.

How would you define creativity?

A glorious gossamer of amazing thoughts that magically form themselves into a work of art. Not really. I just wanted to write “glorious gossamer.” I would define creativity as a need to express and communicate with others in a fresh and unique way. It might come out of an injustice that you experienced. It could come from a hummingbird that looked right at you, and you’ll never forget that glorious moment. All I know is when I’m in the zone, there is nothing like it.

Why were you drawn to a career in writing rather than a job that offers more stability?

I’ve been involved in theater and dance most of my life, so clearly I never went for stability and security…but even before I began school, I would “write” choreography. I would map out my dance with squiggles for turns, sharp jutting lines for leaps, etc. I wrote some poetry on a dare in high school and was secretly thrilled that it was chosen for a book and published in our local paper. I was the feature editor for my college paper, and began writing plays about fifteen years ago. I’ve written for the classroom for over 30 years. It really comes down to my utter stubbornness and need to live my life in the arts in order to make sense of the world.

Who do you consider a literary genius?

Hemmingway, Camus, Kafka, Steinbeck, Ray Bradbury & Libba Bray. I also think there are literary geniuses writing picture books. I’ve come to the conclusion that picture books are like Zen paintings, and you must be a master in order to be brilliant at it.

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

Rejection. My husband said something years ago that has always helped me. After finding out that I didn’t get a job I thought I had nailed, he said: “Now you’re one audition closer to getting your next job.” It’s a process. I’ve had to change the way I perceive the word “rejection.” I try not to let it be personal. Often the people who we think are judging us and our work are actually hoping we’re a fit. It makes their job so much easier if we are. I try to be the answer to their problem, always give my very best, and if it doesn’t work out, I go for a walk then start on my next project. After I cry, of course. I am human after all.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in the realm of your art?

Keeping myself motivated when there are long stretches where I feel like I’m limping along barefoot on an endless hot and sticky highway, seeing nothing on the horizon but the mirage that’s shimmering like a mean girl who won’t let me play on her team because I’m afraid of getting hit on the head with the ball, but how is that my fault when my dad said I couldn’t play ball when I was a kid because I was “just a girl”, and the black tar of the road goes on for an eternity and seems to be saying: “What’s the matter, Jennifer? Can’t take the heat?” And I really can’t sometimes, but that highway doesn’t seem to give a hoot, so I wait for the black limo that will eventually pull up, roll down its window, and someone who looks a lot like George Clooney says, “You look like you could use a ride and a cool drink. And say, are those manuscripts in your sweaty hand? How about if I look at your writing, and maybe hook you up with some of my friends?” And scene.

How did you pick your writing genre?

Currently I’m working on a musical for children, a YA magical realism manuscript and several picture books. I haven’t landed on one genre because I love so many things in each of them.

What life experiences have inspired your work?

I think being the oldest of four kids had something to do with it. I babysat a lot and loved to tell stories. Some were horrific and I have apologized multiple times to my siblings about the ghost family I told them haunted our house when they were young. And how President Washington was killed by a crocodile that came out of the drain in his bathtub. My poor brother shared that story with his class, and everyone laughed at him including the teacher. It’s amazing my siblings still talk to me…

How do you know when a book is finished?

With my plays, it’s the deadline. I complain about them, but honestly, they are the best thing for me. Otherwise, I seem to think that I’ll come up with something brilliant if I just keep on writing, but the truth is, I’m prolonging the ending which should have happened already, and now the kids are squirming in the parent’s seats, and it’s my fault because I thought that I was being amazing by adding those extra scenes, but now half the audience needs to go to the bathroom, so for the love of Pete, end it already!   

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

I remember when GPS became available. I wrote a skit about a GPS that talked to a teenage couple on a date. It told them what the other one was really thinking. Another example is when I adapted Doreen Cronin’s wonderful picture book, Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type for Stages Theatre Company. We used a large screen to show the words as the cows and Farmer Brown were typing them. The kids in the audience squealed and loved seeing the words. There are so many great opportunities to work with the crazy world media is creating. But when all is said and done, it’s still great story and character that’s the most important. 

What traits do creative people have compared to people who are not creative?

Creative people are dreamers. They see things differently. They’re extremely sensitive. They’re walking microscopes and telescopes. They don’t just listen – they’re sponges. Not that other people don’t do these things, but creative people have superpowers.

I love my husband to pieces, but we have very different sensibilities in this area. When we were first dating, we were standing on a mountain. I looked around at the startling blue sky, the soft mountains that looked as if they could stand and become dinosaurs, the way the sun lit up the valleys and how the trees swayed in the breeze. I was thinking about the wonderful life that we were going to have together. I assumed he was having similar thoughts, so I asked him, “What do you think of when you look around this valley?” He looked right, and left, then pointed and said: “I never noticed the 101 freeway cuts through that mountain over there.” We still laugh about it.

Have your personal expectations limited your creativity? 

Absolutely. My expectations are often ridiculous. When I was in the first grade, we had been practicing our writing, and our teacher was ready to announce who had the best handwriting in class. I fully expected to be called. I held my pencil with robot precision, and already had calluses from trying to be “perfect.” When our teacher said, “Rocky Carzo”, I could barely hold back the tears. I wasn’t perfect. But Rocky was. Even sharing this makes me sad. That I was so hard on myself. And still am. This month I read a great blog called The Crushing Weight of Expectations by Robin LaFevers. She quotes my hero, Anne Lamott who said: “Expectations are resentments under construction.” We have to let go of the unrealistic expectations and those voices that tell us we aren’t good enough. That’s just silly. Find your voice and write up a storm. There’s nothing like it!

Twas the


Author & Illustrator Interview with Deborah Freedman

51F4tEbkQ6LGet to know Deborah…

Deborah Freedman was an architect once, but now prefers building worlds in picture books. She is the author and illustrator of THE STORY OF FISH & SNAIL, BLUE CHICKEN, SCRIBBLE, and to-be-published (April 2015) BY MOUSE & FROG. Deborah lives in a colorful house in southern Connecticut, where she is busy at work on her next books. For more info, visit her website and Twitter. 

Quirky Questions 

If you could buy one thing in bulk, what would it be?

Artisanal chocolate.

What life-altering change have you been meaning to do?

Clean out my filing cabinets.

What is one risk you are not willing to take?

Getting rid of any book that I might want to read some day…

What one toy would you like to throw repeatedly at a brick wall?

Any toy with operating instructions. 

Illustrating Questions

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

I have finished four books, and have four kids — and no favorites among either set, for goodness sake. Though the latest work-in-progress does always seem to get the most attention.

Can you visualize a finished product before you begin?

What I visualize is generally gauzy and the-most-brilliant-thing-I’ll-ever-create! Then the finished work is, inevitably, partly a disappointment — which motivates me to try again, over and over again, by writing the next book.

Do your illustrations reflect your personality?

Three of my four books (the 4th, BY MOUSE & FROG, will be published by Viking next spring) are about messes that eventually get cleaned up. This was not intentional, but it absolutely reflects my ridiculously tangled creative process.

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

As I always show and tell children, my stories are completely made-up, but the feelings in them are true. The emotional content of my books is all mine.

How do you think you differ from other illustrators?

I admire so many other illustrators, past and present, but even when I’ve tried to emulate what they do, my work comes out as something else — so I may end up different in spite of my best efforts.

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

I honestly don’t try, consciously, to convey messages through my work. I simply hope that children will read my books and feel understood.

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

I actually think of myself as a writer first — but one who writes with both words and pictures. So if I could no longer illustrate, I would still keep on writing, keep on telling stories for children.



Author Interview with Dan Richards

unnamedGet to know Dan…

Dan has been writing poetry, songs and stories for as long as he can remember. He is a graduate of the University of Washington Writing For Children Program where he wrote his debut picture book THE PROBLEM WITH NOT BEING SCARED OF MONSTERS. Dan lives with his wife, two children and their golden doodle in Bothell, WA. For more information, please visit his website

Quirky Questions

What would complete your outfit right now?

A set of dancing penguins from Mary Poppins. And penguin pants. Penguin pants are cool. 

How do you feel about small talk? Love or hate?

I like small talk though I like tiny talk better. Microscopic talk is the best. Like when I talk to ants. Or even smaller ants. 

Where is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?

I once climbed 998 steps to the top of a hill in Southern China to watch the sun rise over the rice fields. I felt like I had been transported to land of the lost. Which might explain why we couldn’t find our way back to the hotel.  

What is the oldest thing you own? Where did you get it?

I have a lot of agates in my house that were collected by my mother during her lifetime. Rocks made her happy. Happy rocks. 

Writing Questions

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

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Unless you’re a writer, in which case you also have criticism, rejection and the likelihood of total failure. In my experience, as long as you are scared you’re doing something right.

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

When I realized I didn’t have a gift for art, music, drama, sculpture, architecture, woodworking, public speaking, politics, engineering, math, science or sports. It came down to sales or writing. I immediately went into sales.

Do you have family members who like to write too?

I have two children who are both excellent creative writers. Unfortunately, essays are the writing of choice in school these days. Hopefully once they finish analyzing the world to death they’ll rediscover the sense of wonder lying dormant on the other side of their brains. One can only hope.

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

THE PROBLEM WITH NOT BEING SCARED OF MONSTERS at the moment. It’s my debut picture book. I wrote the manuscript while attending the University of Washington Writing For Children Program. It helped me get my first agent. And I’ve had a blast working with Rebecca Davis, my editor at Boyds Mills Press. The book may not change the world but it sure has changed my life.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

I reach into my writing tool belt, pull out my chisel of imagination and my hammer of desire and start chipping away until either the block breaks or I do. So far it’s been the block.

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

I’ve had a high need to be creative ever since I was a child. When I was little we lived where there were no other kids to play with. I don’t remember ever feeling lonely. I had all the imaginary playmates needed to do battle, go adventuring and keep myself occupied through childhood. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating either songs or stories.

Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?

Any place I find myself without a pen, paper, or computer handy. I’m pretty sure my imagination waits until I’m driving, showering or taking a nap to spring the best ideas. My imagination can be such a child.

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

None of it and all of it. I don’t know. Creativity is such strange magic. Some things seem to parallel past experiences but most of it seems to come from someplace else. I don’t write as therapy. I don’t write to change the world. But I do write to discover. And I do find writing to be a spiritual experience, even if what I’m writing seems silly or inconsequential on the surface. Somehow, something deeper always rises. I love that. And I cherish every word that makes its way onto the page. Every word matters.  


Author Interview with C.J. Redwine

RedwineGet to know C.J….

C.J. Redwine loves fairy tales, Harry Potter, and Sherlock. She is the author of the Defiance trilogy, a post-apocalyptic fantasy from Balzer + Bray. C.J. lives in Nashville with her husband and children. If the novel writing gig ever falls through, she’ll join the Avengers and wear a cape to work every day. For more info, visit her website.

Quirky Questions 

What would motivate you to run a marathon?

A pack of rabid zombies closing in behind me. Benedict Cumberbatch running in front of me. Goats. (No really. Goats. Freaky eyes, personal space issues, and a proclivity for chewing on parts of me that I’d rather remain unchewed.) 

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

Benedict Cumberbatch. 

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

Things Can Only Get Better (with the follow up hit “Girl, Step Away From That Can of Aquanet”) 

What could never be considered “art”? 

Absolutely anything that I draw, paint, or attempt to make with a glue stick. 

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

See above. Also I suck at aerobics. That crap requires coordination and focus! 

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

My Harry Potter memorabilia collection. (Actually, no. You’d have to pry that from my cold dead fingers. But it’s pretty much the only thing I own worth auctioning off.) 

What are you most neurotic about? 

Traveling by myself. Cue panic attack. The closer it gets to the day that I have to leave for a book event/speaking engagement by myself, the more I have to talk myself out of canceling. 

Can you share an embarrassing story? 

Yesterday while writing at the local book store, I tried to swallow carbonated water too fast and snot it straight up my nose instead. I don’t know how to describe the noise I made, but if there were any moose in the area looking to mate, I got their attention. 

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

I love my bed. No seriously. It’s a king-sized Sleep Number bed, and it’s pretty much the best thing ever. 

What is your favorite movie line? 

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!

If you were given a canvas and watercolors, what setting would you like to paint yourself into? 

Hogwarts. Always Hogwarts. 

What celebrity/actor irritates you the most? 

Shia LeBeouf. 

If you were the personal assistant to one celebrity, who would you choose? 

This will come as a shock to your readers but … Benedict Cumberbatch. 

What is one thing you could probably not lift over your head? 

Benedict Cumberbatch. But we should probably test that theory. In real life. I’m sure he’d be fine with that. 

RedwineC JWriting Questions

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

Creatives tend to see the world through a lens of highly imaginative possibilities. For example, the other day I walked out of the book store and a woman in the parking lot sneezed. I immediately wondered if she was Patient Zero and decided I should buy a can or two of baked beans in case the apocalypse was nigh.

Also creatives think big but we’re generally not the sort to expend our energy on stuff outside the stories and art we create so while I *thought* about getting baked beans in case of an apocalypse, I went through the drive through at Burger King instead.

I also think creatives tend more toward depression and what others might term “neurotic” tendencies. Maybe the parts of our brains that dive so deep into darkness and stay there are the parts that are able to process that pain into art. 

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

I don’t think my personal expectations have limited my creativity, but after I became published and had reader expectations, I floundered for a bit. It was really hard to shut out my fear that I might disappoint them and just write the story that needed to be told, but that’s what I had to learn how to do.

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

Not because I don’t want to offend anyone. I push myself to be honest and vulnerable in my art, and that’s more important to me than someone feeling like I’ve gone too far. But I do pull back when I realize that I’ve been edgy where it wasn’t needed. I don’t believe in being edgy for the sake of being edgy. I believe in being absolutely truthful to the story and the characters.

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

Because I’ve been writing stories since I was in second grade. It’s what I was made to do. And I love sharing those stories with readers. It’s so fascinating to see readers develop relationships with my characters. Often readers will see things in my characters that I didn’t see myself, and I love that art is this multi-dimensional thing that can be approached and experienced from so many different angles.

Who do you consider a literary genius?

Oh man … so many names to put on this list. The short list of those who are incredible literary talents and who have strongly influenced my own writing: C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Rae Carson, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

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

Books that I wrote that never sold, even after I had an agent. (I have three unsold books written after being agented.) Going for years without selling after getting an agent and having to white-knuckle my belief that I could do this. Having my personal life become difficult and time-consuming just as huge deadlines were hitting. Traveling even though it causes me severe anxiety. Having entire drafts of a book handed back to me by my editor with notes that basically meant I had to start all over again. 

What are the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in the realm of your writing?

Finding my unique voice. That takes time and a lot of writing. I had to work to discover my style, and then I had to work to accept that my ideas are often a bit out of the box and that I could either embrace them, even though they might never sell, or pull back and copy what someone else was doing. I chose to embrace them (see my note above about 3 manuscripts not selling), and I don’t regret it.

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

I have playlists created for each individual project so that it’s like a Pavlovian thing—when I hear that music, I’m back in the world of that story. But honestly, as a professional writer, I get my creative juices flowing by showing up and typing.

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

Read widely, including outside of your genre. Treat every book like it has something valuable to teach you about your craft. And write constantly. 

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

It was always in my mind, but seemed like this far off goal that I would tackle one day. But then I got very sick when I was 30, and I didn’t know if I’d make it. When I did survive, I realized that it was foolish to keep waiting around for my life to slow down or be perfectly suited for writing a book. I started writing in the small chunks of time I carved out of my hectic schedule (kids, job, life) and never looked back.

What life experiences have inspired your work?

Spending hours and hours as a child who didn’t own a tv reading fairy tales and Narnia and Lord of the Rings. Also, coming from a traumatic childhood and dealing with the fallout of that. I never saw myself accurately reflected in books, and I wanted to write a character that others, who might have had similar traumas, could relate to. 


Interview with Award-Winning Author Lee Bennett Hopkins

wed2Get to know Lee… 

Lee Bennett Hopkins has written and edited numerous award-winning books for children and young adults, as well as professional texts and curriculum materials. He has taught elementary school and served as a consultant to school systems throughout the country.

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Hopkins graduated Kean University, Bank Street College of Education, and holds a Professional Diploma in Educational Supervision and Administration from Hunter College. In 1980 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Kean University.

In 1989 he received the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion for “outstanding contributions to the field of children’s literature” in recognition of his work; 2009 brought him the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Poetry for Children, recognizing his aggregate body of work. In 2010 he received the Florida Libraries’ Lifetime Achievement Award. For more info, visit his website.

Quirky Questions 

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

Barbra Streisand. If someone from the past, Jesus Christ. 

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

So many others I know who think they are smarter than ________. 

What do you consider your nicest feature?  

My laugh. 

What is your favorite movie line?

“Tomorrow is another day.” (from Gone with the Wind). 

If you were given a canvas and watercolors, what setting would you like to paint yourself into?

A landscape in New York City, particularly Greenwich Village. 

If you were the personal assistant to one celebrity, who would you choose?

Barbra Streisand.

What celebrity irritates you the most?

Bill Cosby. 

Writing Questions 

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

I always felt that a career in writing would provide stability and security – and my feelings were right. 

Who do you consider a literary genius?

Langston Hughes, and many others. 

How did you pick your writing genre?

It picked me! 

What life experiences have inspired your work?

Most life experiences inspire one’s work. 

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

If you have one, keep your job. 

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

Idiotic editors. 

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

Idiotic editors. 

How do you know when a book is finished?

When it is finished. 

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




Interview with Award-Winning Author Kit Grindstaff

Kit GrindstaffGet to know Kit…

Kit Grindstaff was born near London, and grew up surrounded by rolling hills, old English villages, and Dickensian mists. After a brush with pop stardom (under her maiden name, Hain), she moved to New York and became a successful songwriter. For the past twelve years she has lived with her husband in Pennsylvania.

Kit loves talking to kids about her book and about writing, and you can pretty much tempt her to go anywhere there’s great sushi and/or puppies. The Flame In The Mist, a spooky, magical mystery-adventure for fantasy lovers ages 9 to 90, is her first book. It recently won the Atlantic region Crystal Kite award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. For more info, visit her website

Quirky Questions 

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

Monkey-mind….jumping from thought to thought. 

What company advertisements could you model for? 

Green & Black’s chocolate. My tummy is good evidence. 

What is the worst occupation in the world? 

Septic tank cleaner. 

What is your greatest phobia? 

Big, hairy spiders.  

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

“People are dying to be buried by us.” 

What is the messiest place in your home? 

My husband’s office! (Don’t tell him I said so.) 

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

Making sure a nest of baby birds was protected from sun, rain and hawks after I’d inadvertently exposed it while hacking back a dead bush. I made my husband put a sunbrella there to cover them. (It worked. After a week, all 5 fledglings flew off. Thrilling!) 

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

Orange blossom. Or roses. I can’t imagine ever tiring of either one. I hope other people wouldn’t either. . . 

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

The telephone. Everyone will have microscopic communication chips installed at birth and think this crude device you hold up to your ear is hilarious. 

What is the last thing you paid money for? 

Breakfast with my hubby at a favorite local café. 

What do you often make fun of? 


What is the best thing about staying at a hotel? 

Watching TV in bed. 

What is one thing you do with determination every day? 

Nothing! Seriously, sometimes I have to make myself get out of “do” mode or I’ll go go go till I’m worn out. 

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

A piece of sushi. Except then I’d keep craving it. So maybe a hot dog. Uh-oh, see a food theme here? Ok then, a regular dog. A sausage dog, maybe… 

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

Healthy habit: walking, doing yoga, taking vitamins. Worst habit: forgetting about my healthy habits. 

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

Tall: being able to pick fruit off tall trees. Short: good for picking pockets. 

What would you title your autobiography? 

The Long Way Round. 

What topic would you like to know more about? 

Astrology. The Tarot. 

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

I’d have a magic confidence-wand, so I’d be less angst-ridden. 

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

Their body language. 

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

Respect the people you meet. Though they might seem different and even strange, they’re as human as you are. They have families and feelings just like you.

kit-grindstaff-pressWriting Questions

How do you know when a book is finished?

There’s a sense of completion, of knowing that all the ends are tied in a way that’s satisfying – barring any edits that may take you back to the drawing board, of course.

But that leads to another question: Is a book ever finished? I still think of things in The Flame in the Mist that I wish I could change! So it’s about being finished enough that you’re ready to let your baby go into the Big Wide World. Probably a posse of others – eds, agents, etc – will bash you on the head to stop noodling at it, too.

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

Social media can be way too distracting. . . baaad for work! But the ability to network and connect with other writers, bloggers, and discover events is all really useful stuff. It’s just a reeeeeal challenge to balance so it doesn’t eat into writing time.

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

After college, my quest for a PhD was waylaid by my love of music. It’s been my career ever since, and I never looked back. I’m lucky enough to have made a living from it (more or less), and still write songs professionally.

For years, I’d also thought about writing for kids. A 3-4 minute song format is very different from shaping a novel, though, so I began taking courses. From day one, I was hooked, and knew I had to write fiction. I’ve sometimes wished I’d gotten that PhD to fall back on – my income is pretty unpredictable. But I’ve never wished hard enough to actually do it.

What traits do creative people have compared to people who are not creative?

Imagination is key: everything man-made, every invention great or small, started there. Everyone has an imagination, but those who we generally call “creative” take it further than most people. Letting one’s mind wander freely, seeing beyond, beneath, and within what’s normally believed to be real, pondering the impossible, and combining ideas in a new way into something different and unique–that’s all part of it.

Do your personal expectations limit your creativity? 

Goals and expectations are necessary, but they can be creativity killers, so it’s important not to let them take over. They’re external and defined, while creativity involves having faith in exactly the opposite: one’s internal life, and a source of ideas that’s totally undefined. Finding that balance is hard. Meditation—sinking in and listening to silence—helps me.

Next creativity death knell: comparing myself to others. Yes! Published authors do this too! (I know I’m not the only one.) But we’re all unique, with our own talent, our own voice, our own path. I constantly have to remind myself of that.

There’s also beautiful song by the Beatles, Let it Be, which helps me remember that sometimes you just have to let things happen their own way, and take their own time.

Do you censor your creativity so you don’t offend anyone?

Censor, no. Compromise, yes. In The Flame in the Mist, a few of the nastier characters are based on real people, so I disguised them somewhat. But compromise can be creative too; you’re just finding ways to mold old material into something new.

How do you get your creative juices flowing?

Daydreaming, meditation, active imagination, free writing. I write anything, ignoring punctuation and spelling, just letting ideas spill onto the page. Sometimes that yields ideas to expand on, too.

Can you share some words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?

Read, read, read! Write write write! Journal. Take courses. The most important thing is to grow your writing muscles and have fun with it for its own sake. Write what you love, and love what you write. That love will help you through tough times (creative blocks, discouragement, etc), especially if the “I want to pursue this!” bug bites.

Then, find critique partners. Balance their feedback with your own gut instinct. (This takes time to learn and trust). Write more – lots more – before being tempted by the path to publication. At that point, start going to workshops and conferences where you can meet editors and agents and get a feel for how the book biz works. The SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) runs fabulous ones. Join up! You’ll find a very supportive community of other writers at various stages of the journey.

One step at a time, though! Don’t rush into sending out queries before you’re ready. It’s very easy to get rejections, very hard to take them. But no matter what, persist persist persist!

How would you define creativity?

The space where curiosity and endless possibilities meet.

Why were you drawn to a career in writing instead of a job that offers more stability?

According to an astrologer who once did my chart, I’m a “freedom bunny”. So though I’ve had the odd regular job (store clerk, waitress, assistant teacher), and although the security is great, it would drive my inner bunny crazy in the long run. As a songwriter, I’ve been incredibly lucky to travel to quite a few European countries to write with other songwriters and/or recording artists. Bunny loves that! Added bonus: it feeds her muse.

Who do you consider a literary genius?

Shakespeare. Not just because of his amazing way with words, but also his genius insight into human nature. That’s probably why his work is so timeless.

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

Mostly internal – those inner voices of doubt. And just wanting to play…

What are the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in the realm of your work?

Believing in myself, believing that what I had to say was worth saying.

How did you pick your writing genre?

It picked me! Fantasy was what I loved best in YA/MG lit, and when I began writing, it was what came out of me.

What life experiences have inspired your work?

Growing up English, where spooky castles and graveyards are never far, misty winter days are frequent, and magicians often appear at kids’ birthday parties. Then as a teen, I had dreams that I was convinced were past life memories. The idea of realms beyond the every day grabbed me. That was reinforced by a trip to Peru where I met shamans who could tell you an eerie amount about yourself just by reading your aura. Wild! That went into my characterization of Jemma in The Flame in the Mist, as she hones her powers. 


Interview with Award-Winning Author Amalia Hoffman

Cover imageGet to know Amalia…

Amalia Hoffman is the author and illustrator of The Klezmer Bunch and Purim Goodies published by Gefen Publishing House. She also illustrated Friday Night with the Pope, written by Jacques J.M. Shore. Amalia created an over-sized hand made book as a prop  for the Train Theater in Jerusalem, Israel for a children’s play production of The Sleeping Rose.

She designed the book as a pop-up book where the actors pull cut up elements from its pages. Her book, The Klezmer Bunch was featured in a play by choreographer and producer, Elizabeth Swados.

She received the prestigious Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators award for picture books illustration in the category of Fantasy in 2007 and was voted as winner at the 21st Centurt Nonfiction Children Book Conference in 2014.

She tells her stories with the aid of enlarged cut-out illustrations from her books, props, puppets, costumes and music. Each performance is carefully planned according to a specific age group where children are encouraged to sing along and participate.

She was a finalist in The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators 2007 storytelling competition. She teaches writing and illustrating picture books at Greenwich, Scarsdale and Mamaroneck adult education.

Amalia exhibited widely in galleries and museums and created innovative window displays for many of New York City’s leading stores. Her art is included in the permanent collections of the New York City Public Library and the senate offices in Washington DC.

Amalia holds a Masters degree in art and art education from New York University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with honors from Pratt Institute. For more information, visit her website.

Quirky Questions 

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

You’ll get a book contract next week.

What is one thing you refuse to share?

My teddy bear. I sleep with him every night.

What one word describes your stomach?

Always ready for more food. 

Writing Questions

How did you pick your writing genre?

I was always a painter, so it was natural for me to start my career working on picture books. As I went on, I discovered I also love writing so now I am also working on YA and MG.

What life experiences have inspired your work?

My childhood. In particular, growing up with two sisters in Israel.

How do you know when a book is finished?

When I have something I’d like to read myself.

Why were you drawn to a career in writing rather than a job that offers more stability?

I think writing and illustrating gave me more stability then any secure job. True, it doesn’t pay that much but when I write and illustrate, I feel whole, excited. I can’t wait to get up and start my creative day and I can’t stop and go to bed before 1 or 2 am. Besides, now that I have a few published books, I started a whole new career doing author’s visits in schools, libraries, book fairs etc. and I get paid for my presentations. I have a wonderful time dressing up in costumes and performing my stories in front of the best audience ever: children.

Who do you consider a literary genius?

I love Shaun Tan. He doesn’t use too many words, but I think he’s a wonderful storyteller.

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

Time! It seems to disappear so quickly. I need a 34 hour day to accomplish all I want to do in a day.

What do you do to get your creative juices flowing?

I walk a lot. I have a wonderful park by the sound, about 2 miles away. I sit there on a rock and dream.

Can you share some words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?

Get up in the morning and start! Never, never, never think that it won’t happen! Go to conferences and mingle. Meet other people who are passionate about writing.

How would you define creativity?

Passion Juice. That energy and drive that ignites us to do what we love to do.

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

I try not to be influenced by the media because I don’t really want to do what the market dictates or what the media guesses will sell. I do however participate in social media as a means of keeping in touch and communicating with people.

When did you know for certain that you wanted to pursue a career in writing?

As a child, I kept a diary and wrote a lot. As an adult, I started writing about 10 years ago and never regretted it.

What traits do creative people have compared to people who are not creative?

Passion, energy and enthusiasm.

Do your personal expectations limit your creativity? 

I try not to think in terms of expectations. I do set goals but just like everything else in life, they don’t always happen the way I envisioned. So, I go with the flow and keep working.

Do you censor your creativity so you don’t offend anyone?

I never really encountered a situation where I felt that I was touching on a “sensitive” subject, but if I did and felt it was absolutely important to say something, I probably would.



Interview with Award-Winning Author Kelly Bingham

81OaPrr9PGL._SL1500_Get to know Kelly… 

Kelly Bingham was a story artist and director for Walt Disney Feature Animation before earning her MFA in Writing For Children and Young Adults.  She is the author of two novels in verse: SHARK GIRL and FORMELY SHARK GIRL. (Candlewick Press.) SHARK GIRL was nominated for the Rebecca Caudill Award, The Truman Award, The Golden Sower Award, and the Schneider Family Book Award.  It was named a Best Book For Young Adults, and chosen by Oprah Winfrey for her book club for kids.

Kelly is also the author of Z IS FOR MOOSE, (Greenwillow) a picture book illustrated by Caldecott-Award-Winning illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky. Z IS FOR MOOSE was nominated for the E.B. White Read Aloud award, and nominated for state book awards in South Carolina and Georgia. A sequel is on the way: CIRCLE, SQUARE, MOOSE will be released September, 2014. Kelly lives in Georgia with her husband, children, and two cats. For more info, visit her website, Twitter, Facebook, and blog.

Quirky Questions

If you were going to spend a year in complete solitude and you could only bring one book, one CD, and one movie, what would they be? 

Book:  You Got This:  How To Live For A Year In Complete Solitude

CD:  Christmas music

Movie:  While You Were Sleeping 

What famous attraction has been the greatest disappointment?

Mount Rushmore, though I can’t say it was a “disappointment,” because it was still amazing. But it was a lot smaller than I thought it would be. 

Which of the Seven Dwarfs would you be? 

Doc. He has glasses (like me) and looks the most likely to enjoy reading and writing. 

What one thing annoys you most at a restaurant?

Parents being mean to their kids. 

What celebrity never seems to fade away?

Is Bill Clinton a celebrity? He seems to reappear just often enough to never fade away. 

What food do you not eat enough of?

Candy. Definitely. 

What TV show have you surprisingly never seen?

American Idol, The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, and anything Real Housewives.  

If you were any animal, what would you be? 

One of my cats. They have a very nice life. 

If you could change one thing about airlines to make your flight more enjoyable, what would it be?

No parents being mean to their kids. Nobody being a jerk because a baby is crying. No cell phone use, no bathroom odors permeating the cabin, nobody eating anything they brought on board that is SUPER SMELLY, no one asking anyone to switch seats, and no one being a big baby because their “carry on” is too big to fit in the bin and they have to check it.

What irritates you the most in a social situation?

Passive aggressive remarks. Spouses griping about each other to the people around them, in front of each other. (You know, those “jokes” that aren’t funny?) And: Parents being mean to their children! 

Who will you probably not receive a phone call from this weekend?

Good Housekeeping? 

What do Martians do for fun on Mars

They have book clubs. And they’re nice to their kids.   

If you opened the freezer right now, what would you love to find?


9780062290038Writing Questions

How do you know when a book is finished?

I hate to sound vague, but I just know. It really is like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and then finally stepping out of the tunnel. You know you’re done when you step out of the tunnel and into the light.

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

It has made it a whole lot easier to do research, and that’s been a good thing. 

What traits do creative people have compared to people who are not creative?

I think there’s this idea that creative people are different—that they are dreamers, that they have a vision that others don’t, but also that they are bold and fearless, not afraid to put themselves out there and try things, experiment with their art form, etc. 

I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think we are all amazingly creative and all of us have the potential to do things we are quick to assume we can’t. We are all dreamers. We are all visionaries in our own ways.  

I think the main thing that separates a “successful” creative person from one who isn’t is simply commitment. The harder you work at something, the ‘luckier’ you will be. Talk to most people who make a living writing or painting or doing anything like that, and you will find out that they have all made lots of sacrifices in order to put zillions of hours into learning their craft, perfecting it, pushing themselves, and always trying to grow as an artist and reach that next milestone. Sure, some people just ‘fall into’ something wonderful. But most people have to work really hard at it. And that can separate some groups from others. Some people don’t have the time to pursue their creative endeavors. And some people convince themselves they don’t have the time. Successful creative people make the time—working after the kids are asleep, or on the weekends, or at night after working a day job. They give up a lot of time and energy in order to chip away at their vision, all because they really want to. In my mind, cultivating your creativity to the point where you are labeled “a creative person” really comes down to commitment and effort. That’s all. If it’s important for you to express yourself creatively, you will find the time. 

Have your personal expectations limited your creativity? 

I don’t feel this has been a huge issue for me. I do sometimes (well, maybe always) fall into the trap of thinking I’m going to write something a lot faster than I actually do. And that usually leads to (at some point) a period of feeling discouraged, tired, disenchanted, frustrated, anxious, or any other negative feeling you can imagine.  There’s almost always a point where I think, “Why did I think I could do this?” 

But at this point in my writing life, I have come to recognize that feeling as old and familiar and expected. And I try to box it up in the little shoe-box it belongs in and then move on. Self-doubt and wallowing in uncertainty are luxuries you can’t afford if you really want to get on with the rewarding work of writing books. You can write OR you can feel angst. But it’s pretty hard to do both at the same time day after day after day, year after year. So I deal with this feeling by recognizing it and then putting it aside. Experience has shown me that I can complete a book successfully, no matter how hard it is to write along the way. I use that memory to comfort myself and press on. 

Do you censor your creativity so as not to offend anyone?

Sure…I’d love to meet the writer who doesn’t ever think, “My mom is going to read this. I shouldn’t use that word.” Or, “My kids are going to read this. I can’t write THAT scene.”

But again—those are luxuries you can’t afford as a writer. And really, most of the things we worry about don’t ever amount to the world coming to an end, right? And so often, the things I worry about (and write anyway) end up getting cut, or changed, or altered in some way anyway. If you’re on your first draft of something, don’t agonize over one word or one paragraph. Just write it. It may change down the road.  

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

Some days I need to listen to music, see a really good movie, or read a great book. Other days I just need a little extra sleep. 

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

1. Understand it will take some time. The business moves slowly, even after you sell a manuscript and/or get an agent.

2. Getting an agent is great, but it’s not a one-stop, instant key to success. Put your energy and time into your writing as opposed to hunting an agent before you’re ready.

3. Learn as much as you can. Take classes and workshops and push yourself to grow, particularly if you feel stuck in your writing or feel you have plateaued. 

4. Worried you’re not good enough? Put your anxiety aside and just write, whenever possible. Tell yourself, “I’m not going to worry for the next two hours—I’m just going to WRITE.” You can always resume worrying about your writing when you’re done actually writing. 

5. Be brave. Listen to your gut. Write about what calls to you. And experiment. Draft a scene and see what happens. Don’t censor yourself. Don’t get hung up on “rules.” If you find yourself asking, “Is it okay to write about…” or “Is it okay to have a character who…”  the answer is YES.  Everything is “okay” when you draft.  Just do it.

6. No one will take your writing seriously if you don’t. Don’t wait for people to give you time or permission to pursue your dream. “I’m writing a book” is often met with polite, frozen smiles. Don’t expect approval. You don’t need it. (Though of course, it’s super to have it.) But you don’t have to be militant about it, either. You don’t have to choose between your family and your writing time. You don’t have to quit your job and starve, just to write a book. Find your balance with a little experimentation and discipline. Take your growth as a writer seriously, and you will see results. 

7. Most importantly, take the time to know and understand your field. I’ve heard things like, “I think I’ll write a picture book this weekend,” and “I may start off by writing for kids, but I plan to work my way UP to writing for adults,” or: “I would read more children’s literature if I had the time, but I really don’t.” Worst of all: “This book was surprisingly good FOR A CHILDREN’S BOOK.”  If you are guilty of saying any of those things, you need to slow down and get acquainted with the world of children’s literature.  See what has endured, what’s new, what kids are choosing as their favorite books, and what’s winning awards. What’s been banned? Why? What do your kids love to read? To have read to them? What are librarians recommending for all the age groups? 

8. Understand the huge variety in every genre of the children’s book world. You don’t have to love every book published, but you have to have a love and respect for what children’s books are and who they are for. 

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

Lack of time and energy have always been my biggest obstacles. There’s always something. There’s a family to raise and take care of. A full time job. Health issues, moving from place to place, and personal demands. There are always fun things, not-so-fun-things, and everything in between to demand your attention. It’s easy to assume that writing is an indulgence that needs to be shoved aside at the first possible bump in the road. The hard part is sticking with it, even when time is short and guilt is an issue. Learning to become a good storyteller takes quite some time. It’s not always enough to have a flair for writing or a good idea. You have to put the time into your work and you have to be patient. 

What life experiences have inspired your work?

What hasn’t? Every moment of life can be used in your work. And not just your life experiences—you can also borrow freely from watching other people’s lives, or from stories your grandparents tell you, or things you see your kids go through. Even an overheard conversation can make its way into your book. 



Interview with Award-Winning Author Suzanne Weyn

Faces-of-the-Dead-Suzanne-WeynGet to know Suzanne… 

Suzanne Weyn grew up as a beach baby on Long Island, New York. She is the oldest of four and a graduate of Nassau Community College and SUNY Binghamton. She holds a Masters in Teaching Adolescents from Pace University and has taught at New York University and City College of New York.

Suzanne is the author of the young adult novels, The Invisible World: A Novel of the Salem Witch TrialsDistant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic (Booklist, starred review), Reincarnation, Diamond SecretThe Night DanceThe Crimson Thread and South Beach Sizzle with Diana Gonzalez (Quills Award nomination).   

Her novel The Bar Code Tattoo, a Scholastic Point Thriller, was named by the American Library Association as an ‘05 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and Nominated by the Nevada Library Association as an ‘07 Best Young Adult Book. It continues to appear on high school and middle school reading lists. The German translation of The Bar Code Tattoo was short-listed for the prestigious jugenliteraturpreis. The sequels are The Bar Code Rebellion (2006) and The Bar Code Prophecy (2012).

Her environmental-thriller, Empty was named a “Bank Street 2011 Best Book for Children and Young Adults.”

Suzanne has contributed three short novels—BeatenRecruited, and Hard Hit– to the “Surviving Southside” series which was named an ALA  2012 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. She is also the author of a horse series for younger readers, the six-book “Wildwood Stables.” Her new novel Faces of the Dead about the French Revolution, but with some scary, unexpected twists, will be out the end of August 2014. For more information, visit her website.

dr-frankensteinQuirky Questions 

What is the most vivid or realistic dream you’ve ever had?

Years ago I had a frightening dream and I woke up thinking. “Oh, it was just a dream. Thank God!” Then I went into my bedroom and the creature that had been in the first dream was in my room! That was when I REALLY woke up. It had been a dream within a dream. Scary!

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

Reality TV.

If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which show would you choose?

Jeopardy.  I could play that endlessly.

What’s your favorite zoo animal?

The big cats.

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

Sister Marion Patrick my seventh grade teacher.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen?


What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever been to?

The Popover House.  Unlimited popovers. Bliss!

What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever seen someone do?

Hit their child.

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

I stepped into a second story room that had no floor because there was construction going on. The next think I knew I was lying on the ground on the first floor .

If you were a cartoon, who would you be? 

Betty in the Archie Comics. I kind of look like her and have her personality.

What’s your motto in life?

Just keep going.

Do you believe in UFOs?

Yes. I saw one when I was about 10. For years I doubted myself because one minute it was there and the next minute it was gone, but then I read about warp speed and stealth cloaking, which have been proven to be real. I have never otherwise seen anything that wasn’t actually there.

Define the worst day ever.

Working on a production line in a factory. I did that for one day when I was seventeen and didn’t go back.

If you were a road sign, what would you be? 

People Working—because I work a lot.

If you were to attend a costume party, who would you be?

Twice I’ve gone to costume parties dressed as a bird. Once as a bird of paradise and more recently as a black bird. I like feathers and freedom.

What is your earliest childhood memory?

I was on a sailboat watching a seagull swooping around.

What food item would you remove from the market altogether?

GMOs—genetically modified organisms. Anything produced by the company Monsanto.

What’s the worst thing you did as a kid?

I’d rather not say.

If you were to get a tattoo, what would it be? Why?

I do, in fact have a tattoo around my left ankle. It’s a vine which doesn’t exactly connect at the end. I didn’t close the circle because I think there should always be room for growth.  On the vine leaves are two different flowers which represent my two daughters. One of them has an October birthday and the other is in December so I used the flowers which represent those months. For the leaves I brought the tattoo artist one of my very favorite childhood books. It’s a big fat Golden Book called The Family Treasury of Poetry. It’s illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund and is full of decorative filigree as well as charming and dramatic drawings. As a girl, her illustrations so fired my imagination that I’m sure it’s part of why I’m a writer today.  The tattoo artist was very talented and I love my tattoo. (PS: Don’t get a tattoo around your ankle as I did. It’s all bone there and so hurts like crazy!)

61vuAJNC-kL._SL1200_Writing Questions

How do you know when a piece or project is finished and needs no additional work?

That never happens. Someone once said “There is no finished creative work, only abandoned work.” I don’t think any creative person no matter what the medium truly knows if a work is all that it could be. Thankfully deadlines force us to stop. Without a deadline I’d never stop tinkering.

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

I love movies and I’m a visual person anyway. My stories are movies in my head that I simply try to capture on paper. Sometimes I cast them with a mix of actors and real people I know. That helps me remember what the characters look like and how they sound. I don’t want all my characters to sound like me. When I’m really in the writing zone and things are flowing, the story unfolds and the characters speak. I’m just a reporter.

When was the first time you realized that you wanted to write books?

I always liked to write. I wrote two stories when I was eight that I still have: The Racing Raisin (the story of a raisin who falls from a plate and rolls around having all sorts of adventures) and Lady Luck’s Triumph (about Lady Luck a fairy who is scorned until she has a great stroke of luck which saves all the other fairies.) After college I got a job as an editor and started fixing other people’s books. Finally I said, “Hey, I could do that.” So I did.

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

I worked as an editor for ten years but office life wasn’t really for me. There are lots of difficult things about being a writer: the isolation; the uncertainty, both creative and financial; the extreme competition. But the freedom to be outside on a beautiful day or, later, to be home with my daughters when they were young has made it all worthwhile. I was in my early thirties and had written one book (The Makeover Club) when I took the big leap into full time writing. I’ve never regretted it.

If any, do you think that creative people have compared to people who are not creative?

People who work in the arts tend to have a heightened sense of beauty, which is a great gift. Their lows are lower but their ups are higher. Most people are creative in one way or another but not everyone expresses it through art.

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

I write for young people, so sexuality and language come under some restraints. I don’t mind this too much because it’s appropriate. Sometimes I struggle with this in dialog especially when writing at the upper ends of young adult literature because I want my characters to sound authentic. I find ways around it. I’ll write, “He cursed at her,” rather than show it in dialog. My publisher is mostly Scholastic Inc. They’re conservative in some ways because their books are in the schools, but in other ways, they’ve allowed me a lot of conceptual freedom, so I appreciate that.

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

Travel and seeing new things gets me going.

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

Shut off the critic in your head that says you can’t do it. Tell it to shut up. Just write. Allot an amount of time to write every day and don’t allow yourself to stop until that time is up. (Promise yourself a treat at the end if you stick with it. I bribe and trick myself into writing all the time.)

How would you define creativity?

Looking at something and seeing it with a different perspective than most people bring to it.

Who do you consider a literary genius?

I just read Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. It was pretty great. I’m a huge fan of Margaret Atwood (Handmaiden’s Tale) too.

How did you pick your writing genre?

I love kids and teens. Not because they’re cute or angels. Often they’re not. I love them for their energy and openness. I love the rebel in them.

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

My childhood was fun because I lived in a neighborhood with loads of kids. We were allowed to run free in ways that kids aren’t allowed anymore. We had adventures. My parents told us stories about their childhoods and my mother told us the plots of The Twilight Zone rather than letting us stay up to see it. (Past our bedtimes.) Stories were everywhere in my house.

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

All of them. They’re like children, you love them the same.

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

I hope my writing is always becoming more real, more daring, and more effective. I think it has grown in those ways.

When do you feel the most energized?

At night. It’s so inconvenient.

Does your writing reflect your personality?

Writing is the ultimate expression of my personality. Friends have told me that when I’m not around that if he or she reads one of my books it’s like having a visit with me. They say my ways of looking at the world are all over my books. I like that.


Author Interview with Joan Holub

Joan HGet to know Joan…

Joan Holub is the author and/or illustrator of 140 books for children, including Little Red Writing (Chronicle Books) illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet, Zero the Hero (Henry Holt), and the Goddess Girls series (Simon & Schuster; co-authored with Suzanne Williams). For more info, visit her website

Quirky Questions 

Is there a story behind your name? 

Holub means pigeon in Czechoslovakia, where it’s pronounced huh-LOOB, the sound a pigeon makes. My family says it like this: HAH-lubb

What was one of the most fun things you and your college roommates did together? 

Ushered at a Bonnie Raitt concert with no clue as to how the arena seats were arranged or located. 

If you could live anywhere for one year, where would you live? 

In the forest of Little Red Writing where I would always find the right story path and save granny in the end. 

If you could have one super human power, what would it be? 

When it comes to super human powers, I like to cover my bases, so I’ll go with the power to make anything happen that I want to happen at any time. 

What is the craziest (or stupidest) thing you’ve ever done? 

Viewed What Does the Fox Say? 19 times in succession on YouTube. 

Which of the seven dwarfs would you like to be? 

Can I be the eighth dwarf, Brainy? 

Is the glass half empty or half full? 

Half full. Of fresh-squeezed lemonade on ice. 

If you could snap your fingers and appear somewhere else, where would you be? 

Inside a favorite book, playing a character I identify with. 

If you could date any celebrity, who would it be?

The big bad wolf. Oh, wait, I think I did date him and it didn’t work out. 

10468207_10204247145483710_1367532796328548788_nWriting Questions 

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing? 

My mom read and took us to the library. That’s how I learned to love books. 

What books are you reading right now? 

Timmy Failure and Save the Cat.

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

Critique partner and friend, author Lorie Ann Grover (Bedtime Kiss for Little Fish; Firstborn) 

Can you share a time in your writing career where you wanted to seriously give up?

I follow the credo of that Galaxy Quest character that said, “Never give up, Never surrender.” If one door shuts, I look for another that’s open. 

Any advice for other writers? 

To help with pacing, storyboard or chart a book that you love. Find its highs, lows, climax, goal-reveals, etc. Then analyze the book you’ve written. Is it hitting similar marks? 

What inspired you to write your first book?

Halloween is my favorite holiday and October is my favorite month, so that led me to write a board/novelty book called Boo Who, A Spooky Lift-the-Flap Book (Scholastic). 

What books have most influenced your life?

Grimm Fairy Tales, Eloise, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Pride and Prejudice, Gone with the Wind, Dr. Seuss books. 

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

Books are only finished when the deadline arrives. I’d keep rewriting forever if I could. But I respect deadlines. 

Anything you find particularly challenging in writing? What comes easily? 

First drafts and synopses are sometimes tough. Initial ideas, titles, and revising come pretty easily.