Frequently Asked Questions

About Writing


1. How do you get your ideas?

Ideas are all around us. I pay attention to what is going on. I listen to conversations. I watch what is happening. I try to experience new things and see how they might be put into a book. When I travel to different places, I listen to how the language sounds, what the land looks like, how the people dress, what they are doing. We really are information gatherers. Ideas come from the information we receive and books come from allowing that information to grow in our minds.

2. How many books have you written?

This is really two questions in one. I have seventeen published books for young people and three books for adults. But I have written dozens of books that have not been published yet. I hope that one day some of those will become books, too.

3. When did you start writing?

I began writing when I was very young. I made up little stories. The stories became longer as I grew. I knew that I wanted to write books when I was twelve, in sixth grade. What surprised me about writing, though, was that I ended up writing for newspapers and magazines as well. I thought I would only write fiction. I have even published poetry.

4. How do you choose your illustrators?

I donít. My editors choose the artists to illustrate my books. I donít even get to meet most of them. I did meet the illustrator for On Halloween Night but that was long after the book was finished.

5. How long does it take to get a book published?

Each book is different. Picture books sometimes take longer than chapter books because I have to wait for the artist to make the illustrations. That can take anywhere from a year to three years. In some cases, because of special circumstances, it might take even longer.

6. Do you write every day?

Writing is a funny process. I do not sit at my computer and write every day but I am always doing something that involves writing. I may be thinking of a story or working out a problem in my mind or letting an idea cook in my brain while I do something else entirely. Eventually, it all ends up on paper.

7. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

The middle of a book. The beginning is exciting. That is the time that I make up characters and places and the trouble they get into. The end of a book is also exciting. It is like a train coming into the station. I know where it started from and where it will stop. I can see the end of my journey in my head. Ah, but the middle is the time when I donít know the territory. Every bend in the road is new. That can be scary.

8. Do you make a rough copy of your work?

Not only do I make a rough copy, but I might make three or four or twelve or more copies of a book before I am satisfied that it says what I want it to say.

9. Which book of yours is your favorite?

The book I am working on at the time is my favorite. That is so because I am excited about it. I am involved with the people I am creating and I want to make the book perfect. But they are all sort of like my children. I love each of them in a different way from the others.

10. Who is your favorite author?

I read a lot so I have lots of authors whom I like. Some of my favorites are Katherine Paterson and Susan Cooper for older kids. I like Susan Jeffers and Ezra Jack Keats. Denys Cazet has some funny easy chapter books about Minnie and Moo that I really like. Each time I read a book I like, I look at who wrote it. I never know when I will find another author to add to my list.



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