Eileen Spinelli was born in Philadelphia. She grew up in small towns outside the city. As a kid she loved paper dolls and books and tea parties and playing dress up. Back then her dad was a welder who studied at night school to become an engineer. Her mom was a homemaker. On summer days she and her mom would walk down to Cobb’s Creek Park and pick dandelions to make salad. Eileen’s worst subject in school was math. It still is. But –she won first prize– a fifty dollar savings bond– in a high school poetry contest. Immediately she cashed it in and bought a used typewriter and a pair of red high heels. She published in a “real” magazine when she was 18. She celebrated at the local donut shop. Along the way to becoming a full-time writer she worked as a waitress, a secretary, a deli clerk and a receptionist. She is mother to six children and “Granny” to 21 grandchildren. She is married to fellow author, Jerry Spinelli–whom she almost always beats at Scrabble. Be sure to check out her two most recent books: JONAH’S WHALE and A BIG BOY NOW. To learn more, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
Which celebrity do you get mistaken for?
When you have thirty minutes of free time, how do you pass the time?
I fix myself a cup of tea and then sit in my green reading chair and read as many chapters of a book as I can.
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Wow! At least one hundred people come to mind. Can I name ten? Not necessarily my top ten—but definitely on the list. Job (from the Bible). Frida Kahlo. Abraham Lincoln. Eleanor Roosevelt. Leonardo Di Caprio. Sylvia Plath. Paul Robeson. Jane Austin. C.S. Lewis and Angela Lansbury.
When was the last time you were nervous?
When I couldn’t find my Visa card.
What do you most miss about being a kid?
Spending time with my grandparents. They were so good at giving unconditional love.
Trying on cousin Joni’s glamorous prom dresses. (She was older and let me play dress-up with her clothes sometimes).
Building Lincoln Log towns with my cousin Mark.
Playing cards with my Aunt Rose Caruso.
Shopping for shoes with my Aunt Rose Mesi.
Twenty-five cent malted milkshakes at the corner drug store fountain.
If you could throw any kind of party what would it be?
Either a tea party or an old fashioned ice cream “social”.
What’s your favorite outdoor activity.
Puttering in my herb garden.
If you could do anything and get away with it, what would you do?
I’d invite myself to tea at Buckingham Palace.
What piece of advice would you give to the younger you?
I would tell her to just be herself. Not to ‘try’ so hard. To allow more things in her life to unfold naturally.
If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?