Where do you get your ideas?

From asking myself, what’s a story only I can tell? Ideas come from the way we see the world, and these unique perspectives are shaped by our experiences, our beliefs, our upbringing, our passions, our quiet observations, our education, our reading history, our relationships, etc.

When these interweaving strands ignite my imagination, I get an idea.

For example, I moved into a new house and was amused by the Eastern cottontail rabbits in my yard. I remembered beloved animal stories from my childhood. I had been thinking about the power of intrusive narrators in fiction. I had also been worried about how we as a nation seem to be becoming more polarized instead of uniting in community despite our differences. All these threads plaited together to produce the characters and themes in my third novel, The Remarkable Rescue at Milkweed Meadow… which features as its hero a storytelling rabbit that must put her trust in other species to save the day!

How long does it take to write a book? What’s it like to write one?

My last two books have taken me about a year each to write. That seems to be the length of time it takes to research, draft, revise, send the story out to friends for feedback, revise again, and submit the manuscript to my agent. At which point I’m likely to revise again before it goes out on submission to publishing houses. Then, if a publisher purchases it, I will polish it for at least another year before it’s released for sale! Writing is a long game.

What’s it like to write a novel? Hard! On some days a scene pours out of me; on others, I wonder if my characters are compelling enough and if my plot is too sluggish. But published authors finish books, so I keep going. The longer I’m at this, the more I realize that bumps and warts are all part of the process. I find it important to come away from a story for a time so I can read it with a fresh perspective and improve it.

Do you get to design the cover?

No, and that’s a good thing. Traditional publishing houses employ book designers whose job it is to design a cover that represents the spirit of the story and appeals to modern readers. Usually, the writer is consulted and her opinion taken into account, but the designer is a pro at knowing what cover is going to get your book into readers’ hands.

What’s your favorite children’s book?

This question is painful; it’s like asking me to pick my favorite child! There are so many books I’ve come to love. As a young person, some of the books that lit me on fire were The Phantom Tollbooth, the Great Brain series, Tuck Everlasting, Danny, the Champion of the World, The Pushcart War, The Westing Game, the Ramona Quimby series, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Jenny and the Cat Club, and The Outsiders. More recently, I have an appreciation for anything by M.T. Anderson, Helen Frost, or Rita Williams-Garcia.

What’s your favorite food?

I like many popular foods: chocolate, cider donuts, really good sushi. I have to say that the food that satisfies me most is a Greek dish called magiritsa: lamb’s tongue soup. You eat it after coming back from midnight mass on Easter Eve. You’re starving, and it’s full of lemon and dill flavor and SO delicious. Yes, there are bumpy, chopped-up pieces of tongue floating in the broth, but at 12:30 a.m., you don’t think too hard about those!

How do I become a writer?

To quote Roald Dahl, you “READ and READ and then proceed To READ some more.” Read everything you can get your hands on, and make sure there are some award-winners in your pile. Read for pleasure, but also start to train yourself to read like a writer. Pay attention to the way an author introduces a character. Creates suspense. Makes you laugh. Takes your breath away at the climax. Uses language to draw you into the story. File away any craft techniques you might steal and use later.

Also, go out and live. Have adventures so you have something to write about. You don’t need to go far or spend a lot of money, but give your days variety.

Then, look inside yourself and decide which are the stories only you can tell. Tell those stories. Even if they don’t come out perfectly the first time, keep going.

Once you have a draft of a story that you like, you can submit it to a literary agent to see if they will represent you and help you find a publisher. You can learn more about resources to help you with the nitty gritty of the publishing process on my For Writers page.

Could you come to my school, library, or book club?

Yes! Please visit my For Educators page to inquire about visits.

I would LOVE to hear from you! Please send me another question or a note through my contact form.