Interview with Award-Winning Author Alexis O’Neill

RR_DonnellyGet to know Alexis…

Alexis O’Neill is best known for her lively, award-winning “bully” book, The Recess Queen (Scholastic), a conversation-starter for kids across the country at the opening of each school year. She is an instructor for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and enjoys traveling around the country doing school visits and teaching writing workshops. Her one true wish is to be locked inside a bookstore all night with a flashlight, a cat, and lots of chocolate.  For more info, visit her at her website

Quirky Questions 

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

My worst feature is that I can’t remember jokes. It’s also my nicest feature, because it makes me a perfect audience. 

What would motivate you to run a marathon?

Nothing — not even with a cheetah biting at my heels. 

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

It would be a Country Western tune called, “Thank Heaven for Music, Art and Drama or Else I’d Be a Dead Student Walking.” 

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

. . . when I was younger. 

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

Running. If I lived on the savannah, my name would be “Dinner.” 

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

My next book. 

What is your favorite movie line?

“We knew your people, Sean,” from The Quiet Man. 

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

A cliff above Barley Cove in Cork, Ireland with an ocean in front of me and a cottage beside me filled with music, family and friends. 

What is the meanest thing you can say to someone?

I can’t say it here. It would be too mean. 

What celebrity/actor irritates you the most?

Donald Trump. 

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

Judy Schachner. I’d hang out in her studio, pet cats and laugh. 

LoudWriting Questions

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

What fun is a stable and secure job? 

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

I’ve had some speed bumps – mostly having to do with things I can’t control, like editors leaving houses, long response times, lack of responses, yadda, yadda – the usual publishing suspects. 

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

Telling the editor in my head to please be quiet while I write. 

How did you pick your writing genre?

I took a class taught by children’s author Helen Buckley and the spell was cast. 

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

Drink coffee. Play with colors. 

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

Just do it. 

How would you define creativity?

Creativity is the act of making the strange familiar and the familiar strange.  (But I didn’t invent that phrase . . .) 

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

Too many distractions testing my resolve. 

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

I became a writer after quitting a job where my boss was a bully. I haven’t looked back since! 

How do you know when a book is finished?

You really don’t.

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

Creative people play without being afraid of making “mistakes.” 

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

Not yet. 

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