Sometimes I am a Zen-like praying mantis, sitting and watching the world. And other times I am hopped up like a hummingbird zipping around trying to get a bunch of things done at once or, if I am at a party, trying to meet everyone in the room.
Which book of yours was the most difficult to write or illustrate?
My new book Bee Dance was the most difficult. It is only 250 words long, but it took me 9 years to write it! I should tell you that’s not the only thing I worked on during that time. I did the research about how honeybees communicate and wrote a manuscript. When I read it out loud I felt like it just wasn’t good enough. So I put it away and worked on other projects. A couple years later I pulled it out again and worked on it some more. But it still wasn’t good enough. I worked on other books and forgot about it. Then a few years after that, my good friend Susan Marie Swanson said “Hey, whatever happened to that bee book?”
I pulled it out of the drawer where I keep stories in progress and read it again. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad! I learned that if I just focused specifically on the bee dance that would be the way to go. I worked on it some more, and took it to my writers’ group. They helped me make it a little better still. Then I did several dummies to figure out how the illustrations should look. I showed it to my editor, Laura Godwin, and she loved it. My advice to writers out there: sometimes your work might take longer than you think it should. But, if you believe that it’s a good idea, don’t ever give up! I could have given up on Bee Dance so many times. I’m really glad I didn’t.
Which of your books would make a good movie and who would be the star?
Hmmm. I actually think that the book I’m working on right now would make a cool movie. But I can’t tell you about that one yet….so let’s see, I’ll pick Big Brown Bat. Johnny Depp would make a great bat, I’m sure.
What’s your favorite line from a book?
“Then the owl pumped its great wings and lifted off the branch like a shadow without sound.” From Owl Moon, written by Jane Yolen.
What book do you tell everyone to read?
I really love the Amulet graphic novel series by Kazu Kibuishi. I would recommend it to anyone, even if you don’t like long-form comics.
Are you a night owl or an early bird?
If I am on a tight deadline I work late into the night. Otherwise I like to see the morning sun.
Were you most likely to visit the school office to deliver attendance/get supplies, visit the nurse, or meet with the principal?
None of the above. In my elementary school the library was very tiny and it was in the principal’s office! Who would want to pick out a book with the principal watching? I wonder if that’s why I was never a big reader as a kid. Now I love to read and I usually have 2 or 3 books going at once, but back then I liked playing outside or drawing pictures in my room more than anything else.