Describe your latest project.
The Big Book of Girl Stuff is a big book intended for, er, girls around the ages of 9-13. I wrote the book with my five sisters and about fifty girls who were former students of mine. As we put the book together, we constantly asked ourselves this question:
Would a girl enjoy reading this?
We ended up with a book stuffed full of humor, projects, and interesting information. It's sort of a mash-up between a hip help-book and a goofy guidebook. Plus, it has a reversible cover so it's perfect for sneaking into class!
Describe your most memorable teacher.
In high school, I had an English teacher named Mr. Van Diest. He never worried about looking silly or immature. If he thought it would help us learn, Mr. Van Diest would jump on a desk, wear a wig, or take us on a field trip to a blueberry patch to read poetry. By re-defining what a teacher could be, he made me want to become one. (And when I trained to be a teacher, I ended up being a student-teacher in his class.)
What is your favorite literary first line?
"The voice on the telephone seemed to be sharp and peremptory, but I didn't hear too well what it said partly because I was only half awake, and partly because I was holding the receiver upside down. I fumbled it around and grunted."
Raymond Chandler, Playback
How did the last good book you read end up in your hands?
I have just finished reading two excellent books. One was Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud. I'd seen so many people at school carry around Stroud's books, I had to try him out. The other was The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, a page-turning vampire tale that I saw in the stacks at Powell's.
On the website for The Big Book of Girl Stuff, there's a section devoted to "Recommended Reading." If you're looking for a good book, take a look. If you want to add a title to the list, you can do that, too!
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was five, I got a lunchbox that was shaped like a mailbox. It even had a red flag on the side that you could raise to show that food was inside. Carrying it, I felt like I was an honorary post office employee, so I began paying closer attention to mailmen and mailwomen. I also started reading about the history of mail delivery, from the ancient Romans to the Pony Express. I was captivated, fascinated, hooked on the postal service. I would be a mailman when I grew up!
But then I decided to become an astronaut instead.
What's your favorite holiday and why?
There are too many wonderful holidays to choose just one. Who wouldn't throw a big party for their cat on Hairball Awareness Day (April 26)? But January has all the best holidays. On the 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day. Then on the 28th are two holidays in one, with National Kazoo Day AND Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day being celebrated together. But all of those days put together can't top the excitement of what happens on January 3: Drinking Straw Day! Woot, woot!
If you could pick anyone to illustrate one of your books, who would it be and why?
My sister Kathleen is most excellent at drawing stick figures. With just a couple of lines, she makes these little people who can express complicated emotions with their body language. (Or is that their "stick language"?) Anyway, I think it would be great fun to write a story designed for stick-figure people. I'm sure there are millions of readers out there who have been waiting for a good stick-figure story.
Make a question of your own, then answer it.
Q: What was it like working on a book with your five sisters?
A: Working with my sisters was actually pretty fun! Each of them is very different from the others, and this variety of styles made us a well-rounded group.
For example, Melinda is a lieutenant colonel in the Army, so she is used to being a leader. She would look at material and start issuing commands: "Cut this. Add this. Revamp this. Next!" Mary is a park ranger and naturalist, so she liked focusing on the outdoor activities. As a nurse, my sister Sarah knows the importance of fact checking. She was the one who would always ask the crucial question: "How do we know this is true?"
Kathleen is a wild-and-crazy middle school teacher, and she kept us supplied with laughter and ideas. And my sister Gretchen rides horses competitively, so you can imagine what she always wanted to write about.