I come from a funny family. We tend to see the humor in any given situation. Believe me, this is a blessing and a curse at funerals.
I was not a funny kid. As matter of fact, I was probably the most serious person in the house. As I grew up, I learned to relax.
In our society, humor is an acceptable way of dealing with strong emotions. If we lash out at someone while angry or sad, that is deemed unacceptable. But humor and wit are a desirable trait. Everyone loves to laugh and in my family, that's how we deal with life's 'stuff'.
In fourth grade, I won a Halloween poetry contest. It was an assignment and I probably wouldn't have entered otherwise. I never thought I had talent. Winning meant reading my poem over the schools P.A. system during morning announcements. I was terrified and felt it was a punishment rather than a prize. My parents didn't keep a copy of that poem but I think it had something to do with a black cat.
I checked out HUMBUG WITCH by Lorna Balian and OVER AND OVER by Charlotte Zolotow more than any other books at our school library. I loved how Balian surprised me at the end of HUMBUG WITCH. I always delight in those last few pages and feel as if I am in on a fun little secret.
For me, Zolotow's OVER AND OVER is a comfort. Life, like picture books, often comes full circle. That makes me feel warm inside. Eloise Wilkins' art throughout the book is very inviting. I want to live in those pages. I will always cherish that book.
In 1987, my mother saw a story I'd written for my own children. She decided I should be published (though I didn't feel ready) and that planted the seed. It wasn't until 1995 that I felt as though I was able to handle the rejection and began getting serious. I'd been working in a children's book department and being surrounded by kids' books all day gave me the push I needed.
It took me eight months to sell my first magazine piece and nearly four years before I sold my first picture book.
I am always reading something. I just finished SPITTING IMAGE by Shutta Crum and am starting THE SECRET OF PLATFORM 13 by Eva Ibbotson. I am a picture book fanatic and check out a stack from my library each week. I buy the ones I fall in love with.
I am a dog lover.
Next year, I have a book coming out with Simon & Schuster called SEADOGS: AN EPIC OCEAN OPERETTA. I can honestly say it is a work of passion. The artist, Mark Seigel, did an amazing job. This is his first book and I was blown away by how he handled the text. This is one of my most ambitious projects and it took me longer to write than anything else I've done. The result is a fantastic book. Can you tell I am very excited about this?
I haven't written a book about penguins yet, but would love to. They are so peculiar looking and lend themselves to fun artwork. The problem is, Helen Lester did such a terrific job with TACKY THE PENGUIN, I would have a lot to live up to. I mean, how do you top Tacky?
I believe that ideas are invisible and they float around in the air looking for a head to settle into. The emptier the head, the better. That's why I get a LOT of ideas!
Seriously, I think you have to be open to ideas and you have to have a fertile mind. Reading lots of children's books is a great way to prepare that empty noggin when those ideas decide to settle. I am always playing with words and trying to look at things from different angles. I get ideas from things that happen in life as well as things I wish would happen.
Alive: Barbara Park. I am a huge Junie B. Jones fan. I wish I had written this series. I also love her other books, like ALMOST STARRING SKINNY BONES. I bet she is a terrific person and I would love to thank her for making me laugh out loud many times. Junie B. is a hoot!
Dead: J.R.R Tolkien. Well, this is for selfish reasons. We have the same birthday and I think it would be cool to party together. We could invite Mel Gibson, who also happens to share our day. ;)
Cobwebs, spiders, dust. . . I have a basement office and I refer to it as The Dungeon. But if you look beyond the darker aspects of The Dungeon (which includes piles of dirty laundry) you will see my Celebrating Children's Books calendar, a life size cardboard stand-up of Junie B. Jones from her First-Grader promotion, a colorful map of the U.S. (I love maps!), lots of picture books—most still in boxes though I moved into this house 6 months ago, files and more files, and a treadmill that hasn't been used since I moved here. I have been doing lots of my writing on my laptop in my sunny kitchen. The Dungeon isn't conducive to happy-nicey-rhymey books. Perhaps a horror novel is in my future?
I have three books coming out this fall.
First up are books #1 and #2 in my Easy Reader series FITCH & CHIP illustrated by Frank Ansley (WOOL GATHERING, TURK AND RUNT.)
In book #1, A NEW PIG IN TOWN, we meet Fitch and Chip and they meet each other. Fitch is an introverted wolf. Chip is a ham of a pig. Their first meeting is hilarious.
In book #2, WHEN PIGS FLY, it is Hero Day at school and Fitch and Chip learn something about what a real hero is and is not and learn more about each other in the process.
Of course, the books are funny and I hope that kids will love the characters as much as I do.
My third book this fall, AVALANCHE ANNIE: A NOT-SO-TALL TALE, comes out in October. It is a picture book and is illustrated by Kurt Cyrus who did SIXTEEN COWS. Annie, a little heroine with a big heart, sets out to save the folks in Yoohoo Valley from an ornery avalanche. I had a blast writing this story.
I am working on a collection of beaver poems, an alphabet book and a collaborative project. I like to have three or more things going at once. That is probably why I will never finish writing a novel. My attention span is nil and I work all over the place.