Audrey Vernick writes funny picture books, nonfiction picture books and middle-grade novels. Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team was a New York Times Notable Book in 2012. Her 2014 releases are the middle-grade novel Screaming at the Ump and picture book Edgar’s Second Word, as well as the paperback release of the novel Water Balloon. A two-time recipient of the New Jersey Arts Council’s fiction fellowship, Audrey lives near the ocean with her family. For more info, visit her website.
Would you rather live in a world where there were no problems or a world where you ruled supreme?
Easiest question ever. I HATE problems. I hate when beloved characters in books and movies face problems. World with no problems, please.
Would you rather be able to speak with all animals or all foreign languages?
Oh, all animals, without question. Well, not reptiles. And I think cats would get on my nerves before long. But yeah, there’s Rosetta Stone and classes and stuff for foreign language—but getting to talk to baby pandas and polar bears and hedgehogs and piglets? Yes, please.`
Would you rather be deaf in one ear or only be able to use the Internet one hour per week?
That’s a sick question. I think it might be good for me to only use the internet one hour a week. And I’m pretty sure I’m practically deaf in both ears, so I’ll give up my internet habit for all but one hour.
Would you rather have a free Starbucks for a year or free iTunes forever?
Oh, forever vs. a year is so mean! I have to go with the free iTunes. But if it was just for a year, I might flip the other way.
Would you rather be considered a total oddball to everyone you meet or be considered completely average with nothing particularly interesting about you?
That depends: if I could be a quirky oddball, a kind of charming, endearing total oddball, definitely. But not a smelly, repetitive, always-wears-the-same-hat oddball.
Would you rather be a one hit wonder or be an average singer for as long as you want?
I’m surprising myself with leaning toward one-hit wonder. I think it would be interesting.
Harry Potter or Twilight? Or neither?
Neither! I know!
Mac or PC?
If I had it to do all over again, I might go Mac, except it requires so much more money and I’m kind of cheap. I’m PC.
If you could choose to write your next book on a typewriter or with a quill pen, which would you choose?
Typewriter. IBM Selectric, please. I think I still remember how it feels.
In your opinion, is it worse to be ignorant or a know-it-all?
What kind of worse? It’s probably personally worse—I’d be more ashamed of myself—for being ignorant. But I’m probably more tolerant of ignorance than I am of know-it-alls.
Would you rather have your mind serve as an iPod so you can listen to music any time or be able to watch your dreams on TV?
Oh, can you make that happen? Dreams on TV, please. Thanks!
Would you rather be a miserable genius or a happy moron?
It’s not a reach. I’ll opt for happy moron.
Would you rather be stuck in an elevator with two wet dogs or two fat men with bad breath?
I’m not crazy: two wet dogs!
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
I’d like people to mind their own business. To not have gay partners if they don’t think it’s for them. To not have abortions if they don’t feel right doing so. To not worry about the way others choose to worship or not worship. Tolerance? I guess, it’s tolerance, but I’d like for people to stop worrying about other people’s choices (within the realm of, say, not killing other people).
What made you decide to follow a creative career choice (though possibly risky) rather than something more stable?
To be frank, I can only do this because I’m married to someone who earns enough to allow me to do this. Before I had children, I held full-time jobs and wrote on the side. The writing grew a bit as my kids did, and now I’m close, in my best years, to earning a starting salary.
In terms of your writing, how would you like to be remembered?
As someone who made readers laugh and cry.
How has personal experience influenced your writing?
I’m not certain how, but I suspect pretty deeply.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
Picture books, for me, are almost always fun to work on. For novels, I use a variety of smoke and mirrors and tricks. The main one is writing in winter while sitting under the electric blanket I only allow myself to sit under when writing.
If you had to start over, would you choose a different path in your career?
I don’t think so. But I would try to worry less, to obsess less, though I doubt I’d be able to.
What do you do to get into your writing zone?
For picture books, I just sit down and get to work. For novels, it’s all about the blanket.
What is your favorite accomplishment?
I am writing this hours before the wake of Fred Acerra, one of the men profiled in Brothers at Bat. I am pleased to have published this book while three of the brothers were alive. I knew one of them had voiced a desire to “get back to Cooperstown one more time,” and we did just that, with a book release presentation and signing at the Baseball Hall of Fame that included the entire family.
Do you ever create hidden meanings or messages in your work?
No. But sometimes I’ll notice something in an early draft and tweak it a bit—a subtle symbol, maybe. But I never plant one on purpose.
Do you pay attention to strong reactions to your work?
I try not to. But good reviews are really kind of crack-like—so addictive. But if you put too much stock in them, well, it’s hard to make peace with the bad ones.
What kind of jobs did you have before your career took off?
I handled promotions for Musician magazine and public relations for a college, and then for school districts and public libraries. They were all writing-based jobs.
What was the biggest opposing force that you encountered on your writing journey?
Learning which feedback to listen to and which to reject. It took a very long time.
If you could interview any author (past or present), who would you choose?
Judy Glassman, my mother. She died before her middle-grade novel was published (but after it was accepted by the first publisher she sent it to). And yes, it is very bittersweet to now be doing the work she discovered her own love for shortly before her unexpected death.