Kathi Appelt is the award-winning author of more than thirty books for children and young adults. Her picture book, MISS LADY BIRD’S WILDFLOWERS: HOW A FIRST LADY CHANGED AMERICA (HarperCollins, 2005) was given the “Growing Good Kids Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature.” In 2003 Appelt won the Irma and Simon Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, given by the Bank Street College of Education, for her picture book BUBBA AND BEAU, BEST FRIENDS (Harcourt Brace, 2002). Her memoir, MY FATHER’S SUMMERS (Henry Holt, 2004) won the Paterson Prize for Young Adult Poetry.
Her first novel, THE UNDERNEATH, a haunting story of love and survival in the pine forests of East Texas, has been described by reviewers as a “classic.” It was named a National Book Award Finalist, a Newbery Honor Book, and most recently awarded the PEN USA Literature for Children Award.
Ms. Appelt was presented with the A.C. Greene Award by the Friends of Abilene Public Library, which named her a “Texas Distinguished Author.”
In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
She and her husband, Ken, live in College Station, TX with four adorable cats, Django, Peach, Hoss and Jazz. They are the parents of two even more adorable sons, Jacob and Cooper, musicians who both play the double bass. For more information, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
If this was your last day on Earth, what would you do?
I’d gather up my family and friends and have a dance, with lots of good food and good music.
From idea to completion, how long does it take to write a book?
That varies from book to book. The shortest time it ever took me to write a book was about two weeks. The longest was six years.
Was it easier to write before or after you were published?
If my writing feels “too easy,” then it’s a signal to me that I’m probably skimming the surface of the story and not digging in deeply enough.
Are your characters completely fictional?
It varies. Sometimes I base them on real animals rather than people.
Where do you get your ideas?
Mostly from my own life experiences, but also from things I’ve read or seen or heard about. I’m always on the look out for story ideas.
What advice would you give young writers?
My motto is “write like your fingers are on fire,” which means to write fast and write a lot. Write until your fingers are so hot you have to blow on them to cool them down.
Best writing advice you’ve ever received?
“Write what you think you can’t.” MT Anderson told me that, and it’s held me in good stead for quite a while.
What would you like your life to look like in ten years?
I rather like the way my life looks now, so I’m not sure I’d change anything.
Daily word count?
That definitely varies.
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
Walk. Read. Go to movies.
Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress?
I have a handful of readers whom I depend upon for honest feedback.
If there is one genre you’d never write, what is it?
Science fiction is not high on my list, mostly because I know so little about science.
If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?