Peg Kehret’s middle-grade books have won fifty state young reader awards. She has won the PEN Center West Award in Children’s Literature, the Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the Henry Bergh Award from the ASPCA. Abduction was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. A volunteer with animal welfare groups, Peg has included dogs, cats, llamas, elephants, bears, horses, and monkeys in her books. Three of her books are co-authored by Pete the Cat. For more information, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?
The easiest was Winning Monologs for Young Actors. It was the first time I’d tried writing from a young person’s point of view and I knew immediately that I had found my true voice as a writer. Before that, I’d published two books, several plays, and more than two hundred short stories – all for adults. From then on, I only wrote books for kids.
The hardest book was my autobiography, Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, because writing it brought back many painful memories.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer or a veterinarian. Now I include animals in most of my books.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t try to follow the fads; write what YOU want to write.” I heard this from a speaker at a writer’s conference and I’m sorry that I don’t remember who it was.
Back when the Goosebumps books were wildly popular, I had an editor urging me to write horror books for kids. When Harry Potter first hit the scene, a different editor encouraged me to try fantasy. Instead, I kept writing the books I wanted to write and hoped they would attract like-minded readers. They did.
Where do you get your ideas?
This is the question I’m asked most often by kids. Most of my ideas come from incidents that I read or hear about in the news, or from something that happens to someone I know. The idea for Ghost Dog Secrets came from a letter to the editor that I saw in a local weekly newspaper. The writer complained about a dog who was tied up for days without food or shelter. She had talked to the authorities, but nothing had been done. I began to think about what a twelve-year-old boy would do in that situation. First he’d sneak food to the dog, but as he got more attached he might decide to unchain the dog and take him. Would that be rescuing an abused animal, or would it be stealing private property?
Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress?
I keep it a secret. Years ago I joined a critique group but found I couldn’t bear to let anyone see a manuscript until I considered it finished. When my husband was living, he read each book before I submitted it but mostly that was to proof-read.
I never talk about a work-in-progress, either, unless I’m seeking information.
Easier to write before or after you were published?
The actual writing never got easier but it was easier to be motivated once I got published. Until then, there’s that fear that you really aren’t good enough, that no eyes but your own will ever read your book. Publication validates your trust in yourself. It also makes it easier to say no to the many people who think that because you work at home you have plenty of time to drive the carpool, bake the brownies, or chair the committee.
If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?
I just wrote it. I don’t know that it will be my last book, but it’s the one I’ve wanted to write for a long time. It’s a memoir called Animals Welcome: A Life of Reading, Writing and Rescue. For the past twelve years, I’ve lived on a small wildlife sanctuary. I wrote about the bear, wounded by a poacher, who sought refuge in my woods, about the many stray cats I’ve helped, and about how I’ve blended my two passions: writing and animal rescue. It will be published in the Fall of 2012 by Dutton.