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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Archive | Skinny Dip

Skinny Dip with Cathy Camper

Cathy Camper

Are you fans of the Lowriders graphic novels? We are! And we can’t wait for the next one. The author who thinks up those great stories is Cathy Camper. We invited her to Skinny Dip with the Bookologist … and she said yes! When we asked her pointed questions, here’s what she had to say.

Favorite breakfast or lunch as a kid?

Eating cake for breakfast just like Two Bits in The Outsiders.

What’s your least favorite chore?

Making my stupid lunch. I work full-time and it’s never-ending! I make my lunch, go to bed, go to work, eat my lunch, go home, and have to make my stupid lunch all over again.

When are you your most creative?

When I have a little bit of something with caffeine, preferably dark chocolate, maybe a small gulp of coffee, then go for a run or walk, or some mindless activity that allows me to daydream. When the ideas start to come, I write them down immediately.

Raul III, Jon Scieszka

Raul III, winner of the 2017 Pura Belpre award for illustration, with Jon Scieszka and Cathy Camper at the Chronicle Books booth at ALA in Chicago, 2017

Best invention in the last 200 years?

Indoor plumbing and clean water, in particular, hot water WHENEVER you want a bath or shower, and clean water whenever you want a drink. I give great thanks for being born in a time and society where we have that luxury.

What’s your best contribution to taking care of the environment?

I never had kids. One less human.

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Skinny Dip with Suzanne Costner

Suzanne Costner

Suzanne Costner

We’re thrilled to Skinny Dip with outstanding educator Suzanne Costner, Thanks to Suzanne for answer our questions during her very busy end-of-the-school-year hours.

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

My favorite teacher was Mrs. Hill in 4th grade. She read to us every day after lunch: Stuart Little, Where the Red Fern Grows, James and the Giant Peach. She introduced us to so many awesome writers that I still go back and reread.

When did you first start reading books?

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t read. I still have my first little cloth book that I chewed on as a baby. My grandmother had a set of Dr. Seuss books on the shelf and read them to me whenever I stayed with her. I was reading on my own before I started kindergarten.

Suzanne’s first book, a Real Cloth book.

Your favorite daydream?

In my daydream, I am living in a little cabin in the woods with my dogs and my books. There is a little stream gurgling along nearby and sunlight filtering through the trees.

Dinner party at your favorite restaurant with people living or dead: where is it and who’s on the guest list?

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe with C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Madeleine L’Engle, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Isaac Asimov, and Lloyd Alexander. My sister and my nieces would have to be there, too.

All-time favorite book?

The Princess Bride—chases, escapes, swordfights, torture, pirates, giants, magic, true love…

Favorite breakfast or lunch as a kid?

My favorite lunch was a peanut butter sandwich, and I always asked for “a lid on it,” because I didn’t like open-faced sandwiches.

What’s your least favorite chore?

It’s probably laundry, because the washing machine is in the basement and it means multiple trips up and down the stairs.

What’s your favorite part of starting a new project?

Bouncing my ideas off my friends and having them suggest ways to make things even better.

Barefoot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Barefoot, and either reading a book or listening to an audio book.

Toy RocketWhen are you your most creative?

When I am writing grant applications to fund more STEM activities for my students. I can think of all sorts of ways to tie rockets, robots, and gadgets into literacy instruction.

Your best memory of your school library?

I was a library aide in middle school and loved being in the library and helping to get the new books ready for the shelf. That “new book” smell when the box was opened should be a signature perfume or cologne.

Favorite flavor of ice cream?

O’Charley’s Caramel Pie ice cream from Mayfield Dairies (the best of both worlds)

What I'm reading nowBook on your bedside table right now?

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and The Unbreakable Code by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman.

What’s your hidden talent?

I have a brain that holds onto trivia, so I can come up with a song or movie quote for almost any occasion. Sometimes at family dinners we all just speak in movie quotes.

CowgirlYour favorite toy as a child …

I had a little wooden riding toy that looked like a giraffe. I rode it up and down the walk behind my grandparents’ house. I also had a cowgirl outfit, complete with boots and hat that I loved to wear.

Best invention in the last 200 years?

Digital books so that I can go on vacation without taking a second suitcase just for all my reading material.

Favorite artist? Why?

I love space and stars, so Van Gogh’s Starry Night is my favorite painting. I don’t really have one favorite artist.

Which is worse: spiders or snakes?

Spiders—because my sister Jamie hates them and I have to rescue her from them.

What’s your best contribution to taking care of the environment?

Recycling. especially trading in books at the used bookstore, or using CFL bulbs in my reading lamps.

Why do you feel hopeful for humankind?

Because kids still fall in love with books. If they can lose themselves in characters and settings that are different from their everyday world, then they can learn tolerance and kindness.

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Skinny Dip with Aimée Bissonette

Aimée Bissonette

We’re thrilled to Skinny Dip with Aimée Bissonette, who is the author of two acclaimed picture books so far, North Woods Girl (Minnesota Historical Society Press) and Miss Colfax’s Light (Sleeping Bear Press). Thanks to Aor taking time away from writing and work to answer Bookology‘s questions!

When did you first start reading books?

My best friend, Lyn, taught me to read when I was 5 years old.

Fun with Dick and JaneLyn was a year older so she went to first grade the year before I did. When she got home from school, she would bring her reading books (the “Fun with Dick and Jane” series) over to my house. We’d sit on my front steps and Lyn would teach me everything she’d learned in school that day. I am sure I read with members of my family, too, but Lyn was the one who really taught me to love reading.

Favorite breakfast or lunch as a kid?

I always loved Sunday breakfast growing up. It was the one time of the week we were all guaranteed to be in one spot together. I have six brothers and sisters, so it was a bit of a challenge to get enough food ready at the right time to feed everyone. (Remember, this was before microwave ovens!) And it was pretty chaotic. My mom used to joke that when she wrote the story of her life, she would title it “Raw Eggs and Burnt Bacon.” Maybe I’ll write a book about her someday with that title.

Sock basketBarefoot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Socks! I love socks! In fact, my mother-in-law used to laugh at the size of the sock basket in my laundry room—you know, the place where you throw all those clean socks from the dryer so you can pair them later while watching TV? My sock basket is huge.

When are you your most creative?

I am at my creative best when I am out in nature. I love to hike, bike, and snowshoe.  I walk every day—rain or shine, puddles or snow. I need to get away from my desk, smell outdoor smells, listen to birdsong. Nature always finds its way into my books.

Favorite flavor of ice cream?

Mint chocolate chip. Hands down.

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Skinny Dip with Susan Latta

Susan Latta

Susan Latta

This week we’re all set to Skinny Dip with Susan Latta, who is celebrating the publication of her first trade book on September 1st, Bold Women of Medicine: 21 Stories of Astounding Discoveries, Daring Surgeries, and Healing Breakthroughs (Chicago Review Press). With historical to contemporary biographies of women who have found cures, advanced medicine, and tended to the sick with compassion, Susan has written an inspiring book that teen readers will find fascinating. Thanks to Susan for taking time to answer Bookology‘s questions!

Bold Women of MedicineWho was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

My favorite teacher was my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Palmquist. I don’t remember her first name. She had a system of writing the numbers 1, 2, 3, on the blackboard for discipline. If the class misbehaved and she got to number 3, that meant she wouldn’t read to us that day. Since I was one of the “goody two-shoes” in the class it always made me so angry when one of the boys (usually Dennis) did something to get us to number 3. I especially remember when she read Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. I was fascinated and looked forward to that time of day.

Caps for SaleWhen did you first start reading books?

Probably in about first grade. We had all the usual books for the time; Cat in the Hat, A Snowy Day, The Little Engine That Could, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Caps for Sale. When I was a little older, I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, as well as anything by Beverly Cleary. And a bit later, I devoured every Agatha Christie mystery.

Dinner party at your favorite restaurant with people living or dead: where is it and who’s on the guest list?

Broder’s Pasta Bar in Minneapolis, their homemade pasta is to die for. As far as guests, I think Abigail Adams, Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen, Dr. Helen Taussig, Sister Elizabeth Kenny, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Julia Child, and my family; husband Rob, sons Ryan and Robbie, and daughter Kristen. Our golden retriever Stanley would love to come for the leftovers.

Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksAll-time favorite book?

Hard to choose just one. As a child, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan. As an adult: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, John Adams by David McCullough.

Favorite breakfast or lunch as a kid?

American Braunschweiger which is a type of liverwurst or liver sausage with a little mayonnaise on white bread. Haven’t had it in years; not sure it is considered health food.

What’s your least favorite chore?

Changing the sheets.

What’s your favorite part of starting a new project?

Digging into the research.

Barefoot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Shoes and good wool socks in the winter, barefoot in the summer.

strong coffeeWhen are you at your most creative?

Morning, but after breakfast and good strong coffee. And when I say strong, I mean “spoon almost standing up in the mug strong.”

Your best memory of your school library?

As fifth graders, we wrote and illustrated picture books to read to the kindergartners in the library. Mine was something about bears. Sure wish I still had it.

Favorite flavor of ice cream?

Mocha chip.

Lilian Boxfish Takes a WalkBook on your bedside table right now?

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney.

What’s your hidden talent?

I can wiggle my ears.

Your favorite toy as a child?

My Barbie and Skipper dolls.

Best invention in the last 200 years?

The dishwasher.

Girl with a Watering Can

Girl with a Watering Can, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1876

Favorite artist? Why?

Claude Monet or Renoir. I love impressionism and had a poster of Renoir’s painting A Girl with a Watering Can in my bedroom growing up. I also love Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as Grandma Moses. Her idyllic paintings have so many things to discover.

Which is worse: spiders or snakes?

That’s a toss-up. Probably spiders.

What’s your best contribution to taking care of the environment?

Recycling.

Why do you feel hopeful for humankind?

Because buried in each of us there is goodness. In some it may be hard to find, but it is there.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Gary Mlodzik

This time around, we’re Skinny Dippin’ with Gary Mlodzik, founder of the Grow Your Library initiative within the national literacy foundation Kids Need to Read.

Gary and Tina Mlodzik in Argentina

Gary Mlodzik and his daughter Kody in Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Lee Child. I love his writing! I have read every one of the Jack Reacher books and love his storytelling style. Lee let’s your imagination fill in the blanks. A Joe Friday approach to writing, “Just the facts, ma’am.” No more than needed to capture the essence of the story, no less than required for a thrilling adventure. I have heard him speak at a book signing and he has a great sense of humor and he’s very engaging.

Favorite city to visit?

San Diego. When you live in the Arizona desert, the ocean is a welcome reprieve from the summertime heat. San Diego is a six-hour drive and brings a welcome change of scenery. Great food, fun attractions, recreational opportunities, and an opportunity to relax by the gentle waves make for a great getaway.

What’s your dream vacation?

Iceland! God’s beauty in so many forms, all in one country! The Aurora Borealis, beautiful coasts, wildlife, caves, glaciers, waterfalls and hot springs are waiting to explore and enjoy.

Morning person? Night person?

Definitely a morning person! Get up and get ‘er done! I have a list ready and hit it hard. Once evening comes, productivity declines rapidly.

Best tip for living a contented life?

Discover who you are as a person, accept who you are, build your life into the best you that you can be.

Kids Need to ReadGary shares his passion for literacy by volunteering!

I volunteer with the national literacy foundation Kids Need to Read (KNTR). I am honored to serve on their board of directors. In 2015, I developed the Grow Your Library program for KNTR. For this program, KNTR provides 200 books to four carefully selected, economically challenged libraries throughout the USA per year. Along with the book donation, my wife, Tina, and I visit the library, conduct a story time and explain how the kids can “donate” more books to the library just by emailing KNTR with a short note regarding what they like about reading or what they like to read. Then, Tina and I donate a book to the library with the child’s name on a book plate inside the cover! It’s the child’s gift to the library! Each child in attendance also gets a book to keep and a Highlights for Children magazine to take home. Sometimes the kids are in awe that the book is really theirs for life.

I have been blessed with support and encouragement from many sources. I am humbled by the number of people who, like me, believe that public libraries need our support to provide services for future generations. If readers would like to support this endeavor, please make a financial donation. Or if they have a favorite children’s book they would like us to include in our program, they can send the books right from their favorite bookseller directly to:

Kids Need To Read, Grow Your Library
Attn: Gary Mlodzik
2450 W. Broadway, Suite 110
Mesa, AZ 85202

Multiples of four books per title are usually best so we can send one to each library.

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Skinny Dip with Loni Niles

Loni Niles

Loni Niles

We interviewed Loni Niles, K-12 media specialist in the Wadena-Deer Creek public schools in west central Minnesota. She shared her thoughts about books and life.

What is your favorite late-night snack?

I love popcorn and can eat it any time during the day, even for breakfast!

Favorite city to visit?

Chicago. Even though we moved from there when I was just a baby, I still take some pride that I was born there!  Now I love to visit there because my stepdaughter and her husband are such wonderful hosts—they show us all kinds of wonderful things the city has to offer.  Oh yeah, and there’s that grandson there, too! He definitely is a draw for me to visit this wonderful city!

First date?

My husband and I do not really agree on when our first date was. Fortunately, we agree on some of the more important things in life!

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

I find myself passionately recommending the novels The Lottery Rose by Irene Hunt and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Miss Steimle, my fifth grade teacher, read both of these out loud to my class in the 1970s, but today’s kids love them, too!

The Lottery Rose, A Wrinkle in Time

This is NOT a Cat!Illustrator’s work you most admire?

Mike Wohnoutka. My favorite book of his work is written by one of my favorite authors, David LaRochelle. It’s a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards this year and called This is NOT a Cat! Check it out! 

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Gotta have my coffee in the morning!

Favorite season of the year?

Although I love them all, it’s winter! Minnesota is the perfect place for me!  We typically get a real winter here and we definitely get four seasons!  At age 48, I started to downhill ski.  But I love to watch high school hockey, go snowmobilng and sledding, and when my sons were younger we used to love playing in the snow!

Marathon candy barFavorite candy as a kid?

Anyone remember the Marathon candy bar?! A yummy caramel braid covered in chocolate.

Brothers and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I’m in the middle of two brothers. I always told my two sons that I’m the best mom for them because I know what it’s like to have that big brother pounding on you and that little brother picking at you!  I used to lament not having sisters, but I have been surrounded by wonderful women (and girls, too—I have three granddaughters) in my life—so it’s not so much an issue anymore. 

Loni Niles and her brothers

Best tip for living a contented life?

I do live a very contented life, but I don’t really have a tip on how to do it. Seeing the good in things and people comes pretty naturally to me.  I try to remember my mom’s advice to always assume the best. This is the same woman who once told me as a teenager complaining about my acne that I should just be happy I have a face. That still makes me chuckle! 

Hope for the world?

My hope for the world is that we begin to recognize each others’ talents (and our own!) and appreciate each other—even our differences.

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Skinny Dip with Mike Wohnoutka

Mike Wohnoutka

Mike Wohnoutka

We interviewed Mike Wohnoutka, children’s book illustrator, widely known for his books Dad’s First Day, Moo!, and Little Puppy and the Big Green Monster. (Mike’s last name is pronounced wuh-noot-kuh.)

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

Picture books in general. I often hear parents say their children are too old for picture books. Recently a parent told me her first grader had “moved on” from picture books.  This absolutely drives me crazy. You are never too old for picture books.  They are second to none when it comes to art, storytelling, and language.

picture books

Favorite city to visit?

New York. I love the museums, comedy clubs, book stores, and theaters. It’s also nice to go to lunch with my editors since most of the publishers I work with are in New York.

Most cherished childhood memory?

Playing Kick the Can with all the kids in our neighborhood.

Mike Wohnoutka and David ShannonIllustrator’s work you most admire?

David Shannon. David is the reason I became an illustrator. After seeing his presentation, when I was in college, about how he illustrated his first children’s book, How Many Spots Does A Leopard Have?,  I thought “THAT is what I want to do!” His paintings are technically stunning and his stories are so funny.

When I visit schools I tell students about David being such an influence on me. It’s amazing how excited the students get when I show the cover of No David! and it’s incredible that every student is familiar with that series. He obviously has struck a chord with children.

A couple years ago, David and I both presented at the Mazza Museum summer conference. It was wonderful to meet him. He  is the nicest guy and it was fun to let him know how much of an inspiration he has been to me.

Go-to drink?

Coffee, especially in the morning as I write or paint.

Mike Wohnoutka

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka

Favorite season?

Fall. Leaves changing colors, cooler weather, the World Series, and Halloween are a few of the many things I love about fall.

Dream vacation?

Prague

What gives you shivers?

Mice

Strangest tourist attraction?

Mike Wohnoutka's family at the Wizarding World of Harry PotterOur family recently took a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, mainly to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was such a fun vacation. The attention to detail in creating Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Express, and Hogsmeade was awe-inspiring.

My wife and I got teary-eyed when we first entered Diagon Alley. 

Also, the rides throughout Universal and Islands of Adventure were a blast. Of course our kids loved it all, but the strange thing about this tourist attraction is how much my wife and I truly enjoyed everything, too. We can’t wait to go back.

Brothers or sisters? How did they shape your life?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved to draw. Having three older brothers who were all really good at drawing had a big influence on me. I remember being so impressed with the simplest sketch they would do and I was determined to be as good as they were.

Best tip for living a contented life?

I have found meditation and yoga very helpful. I start every day with a 20 minute meditation (before the coffee).

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Skinny Dip with April Whatley Bedford

April Whatley Bedford

April Whatley Bedford

We interviewed April Whatley Bedford, lifelong reader, currently the Dean of the School of Education at Brooklyn College.

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Can I choose two? I would love to have coffee with Michelle and Barack Obama, either together or individually. I’m sure I’m not alone in this answer, but there are no two people I admire more in the world, and I also believe we would laugh a lot during our conversations.

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

The Girl Who Drank the MoonThis changes on a frequent basis, but I just finished reading the most recent Newbery winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon. I have not been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it. Kelly Barnhill’s beautiful language, the world she imagined and described in such exquisite detail, the ultimate message of hope and forgiveness … I could go on and on about this book. I feel sure that the well-deserved award will bring this book to the attention of more readers—of every age—who need to know about it.

Favorite city to visit?

Until I was fortunate enough to live in them, my two favorite cities to visit were always New Orleans, where I lived for 15 years, and New York City, where I have lived for the past three. Now my favorite city to visit is San Francisco, but I also dream of living in Paris sometime. There is never enough time to explore all the wonders of each of these unique and culturally rich cities, and they all have pretty fantastic food, too.

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

Radiant ChildAgain, I could never pick just one but I am currently swooning over Javaka Steptoe’s spectacular Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat! Since I moved to Brooklyn, I have become friends with Javaka, and when his name was called in Atlanta at the ALA Youth Media Awards first for the Coretta Scott King medal and then for the Caldecott, I couldn’t stop screaming. He showed me a draft of the book on his iPad about a year before it was published, and I was counting the days until I could see it in print. His collages, evoking the style of Basquiat but pure Javaka, are so captivating to me. We invited the fifth graders from a local partner school, PS 119, to hear him speak at Brooklyn College just a few weeks before ALA Mid-Winter and gave them each a signed copy of Radiant Child. Being able to connect children with authors and illustrators is one of the great joys of my personal and professional life, and I was thrilled to be able to call the principal of PS 119 after the awards ceremony with the wonderful news that she could share with all of her fifth-graders. I am definitely one of Javaka’s biggest fans!

Favorite season of the year? Why?

Growing up in Texas, I was always a summer sun worshiper, but since moving to New York, I’ve grown very fond of the fall. As a teacher, the beginning of a new school year has always seemed like the real New Year’s for me, but most of my life I lived in places that really didn’t have four separate seasons. There’s just an excitement in the air as the season changes from summer to fall that I love. I’m still not a fan of New York winters, but it’s pretty hard to beat the holiday season in the city.

Autumn in New York, Central Park, New York Ciity

What gives you shivers?

Sunsets, fireworks, candlelight, shooting stars, lightening bugs, waterfalls, the ocean…all in a good way.

Morning person? Night person?

Most definitely a night person.

Your hope for the world?

My greatest hope for the world, especially during these difficult days, is that we are all able to expect kindness and compassion from one another.

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Skinny Dip with Nancy Peterson

Nancy Peterson

We interviewed Nancy Peterson, EdD, professor of elementary education at Utah Valley University and co-chair of UVU’s annual Forum on Engaged Reading “For the Love of Reading” conference and retreat. 

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

I recently learned that Patrick Henry (Revolutionary War Patriot) is one of my ancestors. I’d love to talk heart to heart with him about what I have read concerning his personal trials. For instance, I believe his first wife suffered from a mental illness, and that he remained loyal and responsible for her until she died.  I’d really like to know how he coped, dealt with it, etc.

Gift from the SeaWhich book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I re-read it every so often… finding different gems for the first time, depending on my life’s circumstances.  I love that book… love that woman!

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

I can’t even think about it….   Today is my 188th day of no sugar, no flour, and no snacking.  When I crave “that thing,” I just have go to bed!

Providence, Rhode IslandFavorite city to visit?

Providence, Rhode Island, in the fall. I’ve only been there once, but I was enamored with it, and want to see it again!

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

I really want to answer this, but I have to share three: Steve Jenkins, and his exquisitely detailed cut paper work that almost redefines realism, in my mind! Marla Frazee, whose illustrations are dripping with unique personality and “voice.” And finally, Jon J Muth. Some words I have borrowed to express how I feel about his watercolor and pastel illustrations are “magical,” “haunting,” “charming,” “majestic,” and “cozy.” All I can say is that I can’t get enough of them.

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Shasta diet root beer… I just love that stuff!

Favorite season of the year?

Autumn (not “fall” – autumn) Why? Evening walks in the crisp, damp air, the vivid colors of gold, orange and scarlet leaves, and the aromas coming from the chimneys of the first houses on the block to light their fireplaces.

What’s your dream vacation?

I would love to take the train from Washington, DC, to Harper’s Ferry, stay in a bed & breakfast inn, and walk and wander around for 2 or 3 days sight-seeing the historical landmarks and museums and shopping in the historic village and quaint shops – in autumn, of course!

What gives you shivers?

Snakes and mice.

Morning person? Night person?

Morning.

What’s your hidden talent?

I am an amazing grandma! For my talent of “grandmothering” I have the hair, the rocker, the storybooks, the sewing machine and the most beautiful two and four year old grandchildren ever to walk this earth!

Your favorite candy as a kid …

M&Ms – always and forever! Have you tried the Mega M&Ms?

Brother and sisters or an only child?

I’m the oldest of five girls.

How did that shape your life?

I’m headstrong, opinionated, stubborn, and always But I’m also a pleaser; I can hold my tongue when I want to, and I usually go overboard in trying to make a good impression.

Best tip for living a contented life?

Taking time to be alone and find joy. Anne Morrow Lindbergh says women need to take a minute of every hour, an hour of every day, a day of every week, and a month of every year (or something like that) for themselves. I don’t have a regular schedule for it, but I know when I’m needing it, and I go to great lengths to get it.

Your hope for the world?

For every human being to receive and give kindness more than feeling and inflicting pain.

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Skinny Dip with Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park

We interviewed Linda Sue Park, veteran author and Newbery medalist, whose books have inspired children in many ways, appealing to a wide range of readers with books like A Single Shard, The Mulberry Project, Keeping Score, Yaks Yak, and A Long Walk to Water.

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

My paternal grandmother, whom I never got to meet. However, I suspect she wouldn’t invite me to a coffee shop; she’d invite me for naeng-myun instead (Korean cold noodle soup. Delicious.). And I realize that she is not a celebrity in the conventional sense, but I believe that all brave women should be.

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

Currently: All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Brendan Kiely, Linda Sue Park, Jason Reynolds

Brendan Kiely, Linda Sue Park, Jason Reynolds

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

Really good guac with really fresh chips. I will eat mediocre chips if they’re all that’s available. The guac is what matters.

Favorite city to visit?

New York!

Most cherished childhood memory?

Saturday mornings at the public library.

First date?

Roller-skating and ice cream, 6th grade, with a boy named Curtis. Where is he now?

Xander's Panda Party and Yaks YakIllustrator’s work you most admire?

UNFAIR question. Registering protest by not answering.

No, strike that: I’ll name the illustrators of my two most recent picture books: Matt Phelan (Xander’s Panda Party) and Jennifer Black Reinhardt (Yaks Yak). ‘Admire’ is too staid. Their work for my texts THRILLED me.

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Tea in the morning, espresso once or twice a day, swee’ tea when I’m in the South. My go-to is water.

What’s your dream vacation?

Snorkeling, reading on a beach, and eating fabulous food, both street and fine dining, with family and/or friends, somewhere that has lively outdoor markets.

WormsWhat gives you shivers?

Worms.

Morning person? Night person?

NIGHT. Morning is a recurring insult to the psyche.

What’s your hidden talent?

It has faded with time, but I used to be able to identify red M&Ms blindfolded.

Your favorite candy as a kid …

As a kid? Why not now? As a kid: Bit O’Honey. As an adult: pecan rolls.

Is Pluto a planet?

Of course not. He’s Popeye’s nemesis—that big guy, with the arms. 😉

What’s the strangest tourist attraction you’ve visited?

The DMZ, border between North and South Korea.

Brother and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

One of each. I’m the oldest. I don’t think my life has a shape. Or maybe it’s constantly changing.

The Park family

Best tip for living a contented life?

1) Find a way to do work that you love. 2) When you’ve got the blues, do something for someone else.

Your hope for the world?

Every child a reader.

Cavern of SecretsLinda Sue, thanks for these candid answers for our Bookology readers. If they haven’t read all of your previously published books, we encourage them to have a Linda Sue Park read-a-thon. Could you share with us which books comes out next?

I hope you’ll enjoy the second book in the Claw & Wing series, Cavern of Secrets. It follows Book #1, Forest of Wonders. You’ll find the book in bookstores on March 7, 2017. Raffa sets off on a treacherous journey across Obsidia to save his friends and family … and the world!

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Skinny Dip with Caren Stelson

Caren Stelson

Caren Stelson, author

We interviewed Caren Stelson, first-time author, whose nonfiction book Sachiko: a Nagasaki Bomb Survivor Story has received a good deal of positive recognition, including the longlist for the National Book Award and inclusion on many Best Books of 2016 lists. (Her name is pronounced just as you would say Karen.)

Which celebrity would invite you like to invite to a coffee shop?

If I could invite anyone to coffee, I’d invite Eleanor Roosevelt and happily pick up the tab. Eleanor—what a woman! She overcame so much, from her difficult childhood, to finding and claiming her own life work, to being Franklin Roosevelt’s conscience as First Lady. Actually, she was the conscience of the nation, then as U.N. representative, the conscience of the world. I’d love to ask Eleanor, “What do you think of Donald Trump as President of the United States?”

To Kill a MockingbirdWhich book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

I keep coming back to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee as my favorite book. Anyone who wants to understand the United States needs to read Harper Lee’s novel.

Favorite city to visit?

Can I have two favorites? Bath, England is one and Nagasaki, Japan is the other. I lived in Bath, England in 2001-2002 and spent that year interviewing adults who had survived the April 1942 blitz as kids during World War II. I was fascinated by what they remembered about living through the war and what those memories meant to them now. I have great memories of the interviews and great memories of the city of Bath, itself. Bath is a Georgian architectural wonder with layers and layers of history. The Roman Bath in the heart of the city is the best preserved Roman bath in the world. I loved living in Bath. I still have many friends there, making Bath “home away from home” for me. Nagasaki, Japan is another city where I’m at home. Of course, my friend Sachiko Yasui lives in Nagasaki as do many of my other Japanese friends. Because Nagasaki was the second city destroyed by an atomic bomb during WWII, the horror of nuclear war is forever stamped on the city’s conscience. So is the necessity for peace. For me, Nagasaki is Ground Zero for the study of peace.

City of Bath, England

Bath, England

Roman Bath

The Roman Bath in Bath, England

Nagasaki, Japan

Nagasaki, Japan today

Most cherished childhood memory?

One of my most cherished childhood memories is sledding down a hill in Vermont one wintry night with my family. I still can see my father stretched out on a wooden sled with my mother on top of him, speeding down the hill. I can still hear their screams of laughter echoing through the dark. I don’t have many memories of that kind of family laughter, so I hang onto this memory pretty tightly.

What’s your dream vacation?

My dream vacation is a photographic safari to the Serengeti Plain. My husband and I traveled to Tanzania in the 1980s and camped on the floor of Ngoro Ngoro Crater, the place with the greatest concentration of wild animals in the world. I can still hear the lions’ roaring at night. And the eyes. At night, we aimed a high-powered flashlight outside the circle of tents and watched the eyes of antelope stare back at us. Today it’s not possible to camp on the crater floor, but I’d do it in a heartbeat as my dream vacation.

Ngoro Ngoro Crater, Tanzania (Wikimedia Commons)

What makes you shiver?

There’s a lot to shiver about these days, but honestly, the first thing that popped into my mind was shark attacks. Any story that has a shark attack in it will give me nightmares.

Morning person? Night person?

I used to be a night person when I was younger, but now I’m a straight morning person. Sometimes I’ll get out of bed around 5:00 am, maybe earlier, put on the coffee, and start writing right away. When I’m in that half-sleep, half-awake zone, lots of interesting things start happening on the page.

What’s your hidden talent?

I really love having conversations with three-year-olds. I think that can be considered a talent.  I recently took care of a three-year-old for a day and we had the best time exploring every mechanical item in the house, from how a mixer works to how a piano makes its sound. If we could all sustain our three-year-old curiosity, we truly could be wide-awake, life-long learners.

Piano iinterior

Explaining how a piano makes sound (Wikimedia Commons)

Favorite candy as a kid?

Good ‘n‘ Plenty. I loved those pink and white candy covered pieces of licorice, particularly if I ate them at the movies.

Brothers and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I have an older brother and a younger brother, so I’m the sister stuck in the middle. Being the only girl shaped my life quite a bit. My brothers weren’t all that interested in sports, but I was. My father taught me how to throw a football, play tennis, and get up the courage to play varsity high school sports. Having that fatherly attention gave me confidence. But I also missed not having a sister I could confide in. I looked for that closeness in the books I read and in my personal journals. Today, I think of my closest women friends as my sisters, which makes up for the hole in my childhood.

Sachiko: a Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's StoryHope for the world?

What is there but hope for peace? The world is heating up with fears and tensions we haven’t seen in decades. This does not bode well for the future. It’s a long shot, but I hope the nations of the world will collectively realize war is not the answer to our problems. Really, we have no choice. Between nuclear weapons and climate change, our existence on this planet is at stake. We Americans and the rest of the world’s population have to figure out how to work together and work for peace. As individuals we may feel powerless in the face of world tensions, but we can begin the peace process among neighbors and across our cities and states. I love the quote by peace activist and Quaker Gene Knudsen Hoffman, “The enemy is a person whose stories we have not heard.” We can start listening.

Nagasaki, Japan

Caren Stelson in Nagasaki, Japan

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Skinny Dip with Janet Taylor Lisle

Janet Taylor LisleFor this interview, we chat with Janet Taylor Lisle, Newbery Honor-winning author of Afternoon of the Elves, the Scott O’Dell Award-winning The Art of Keeping Cool, and the thriller Black Duck, along with many other reader favorites.

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

I’m quite sure Emily Dickinson, shy and secretive as she was, would never invite me to a coffee shop, but perhaps I could slip a note under her door in Amherst, Massachusetts and beg for a visit. I’d like to ask her why she made her poems, what some of them mean, and if it mattered to her that her work was unpublished during her life.

The LeopardWhich book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

My all-time favorite book is The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Every time I read it, the novel changes what I see around me. Lampedusa wrote only this one work but it’s enough to put the universe at your fingertips.

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

I am not nocturnal but my cat Nellie would like to mention here that she will take straight canned tuna fish and milk anytime after midnight. After 3 a.m., too, if it comes to that.

Most cherished childhood memory?

So, we three children are sailing off Martha’s Vineyard with my dad when a sudden storm hits. Violent sea! Howling wind! My dad is on deck reefing the sails when a huge wave rolls into the cockpit. It lifts my little brother up and is sweeping him overboard when I grab him by the arm and hold on with all my strength. Hugh is saved! (That was close.) I cry. He grows up to become a loved doctor who cares deeply for his patients.

Janet Taylor Lisle with one of Barry Flanagan’s “hare” sculptures, at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, in Washington, DC

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

I guess the illustrators I loved as a child still speak to me most directly. Beatrix Potter for her hedgehogs and rabbits; John Tenniel for his Mad Hatter and March Hare; N.C. Wyeth for his murderous, one-legged pirates and mysterious islands. So many others. Today, it’s anything by William Steig or Arnold Lobel for me and my grandchildren. (Nellie cozies up to these guys too.)

Favorite season of the year? Why?

Winter in New England. Stark. Quiet. When the leaves fall off the trees the land  opens to show its real face. The moon looks bigger.

Janet Taylor Lisle

Winter, Janet’s favorite time of year

What gives you shivers?

A recent arrival in my Rhode Island neighborhood is an otter-like animal known as a Fisher Cat. It hunts near the pond and screams most horribly at night. I pull the blankets over my head and Nellie’s. We don’t like even thinking about this creature.

Morning person? Night person?

I’m a morning person. I like to rise with the sun. Rosy-fingered dawn for me, and a walk on the beach. (My novel The Lampfish of Twill came from this daily  habit.)

Janet Taylor Lisle

Janet Taylor Lisle in front of the pond in Little Compton, the inspiration for my fictional Quicksand Pond.

What’s your hidden talent?

I love to sing and have sung in choral groups all my life. Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, Bach. I’m not a religious person but the big requiems and masses sometimes bring me to tears even as I sing them. I’m a sucker for popular music too: a big crooner in the car. Radio always on.

Best tip for living a contented life?

For a contented life, keep it simple and keep out of the limelight. Fame never did anyone any good.

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Skinny Dip with Ed Spicer

For this interview, we visit with Ed Spicer, educator, author, curriculum guide writer, and ALA committee member many times over.

Ed SpicerWhich celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

I would love to spend some time in a confidential, friendly chat with Michelle Obama.

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

Oh! This depends so much on what color your wheelbarrow might be! As a teacher, I’ve always loved edging students out of their comfort zones and we are all students. I adore Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony. I love Audre Lorde’s poetry, which is most certainly a window for this white, male reader.

CeremonyCurrently, I am getting ready to do a presentation at a symposium featuring Naomi Shihab Nye, so I have fallen in love again with 19 Varieties of Gazelle, a gorgeous book that helps us to remember that no single story can encapsulate a people or a culture or even a single human. If you want to read a book with your ears, I think Tobin Anderson’s Feed is actually enhanced by the audio (and it is terrific with just your eyes).

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

Either cashews or ice cream. but don’t tell anyone!

Favorite city to visit?

If I were only allowed one, I could very well choose staying at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans in the winter or spring (they treated us like family). If not, Chicago and Toronto would have to battle it out.

The badge of honor in Ed's class was trying things that are hard. These students are eating seaweed.

The badge of honor in Ed’s class was trying things that are hard. These students are eating seaweed.

Most cherished childhood memory?

A lot of my childhood memories are not pleasant. I watched my father knock my sister’s front tooth out with a cement sprinkler attached to a garden hose. I ran away and lived hiding in a church youth center for about a year. I was on my own for good at the age of 15. Yet I absolutely cherish these memories. As The Association says, “Cherish is the word I use to describe all the feeling I have hiding…”

First date?

When I went to college, I weighed under 100 pounds and was approaching the five foot mark. Dating wasn’t a word that meant the same thing to me as it did to the young women I thought I was dating. In any event, my first 500 dates were totally boring and insignificant. I may also be exaggerating the five actual dates I really did have, but I still do not remember them.

Ed Spicer Dinner Party

A recent dinner at Ed and Ann’s house with (clockwise from left) Charles Emery, Eric Rohmann, Gary Schmidt, Edith Pattou, Bill Perkins, Lynn Rutan, Anita Eerdmans, Cindy Dobrez, Lynne Rae Perkins, Candy Fleming, Stephanie Hemphill, Ed, Travis Jonker.

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

Too many! Kadir Nelson, Beth Krommes, Pamela Zagarenski, Melissa Sweet, Jerry Pinkney, Paul Zelinsky, Marla Frazee, Mo Willems, E.B. Lewis, Matt Faulkner, Yuyi Morales, Ashley Bryan … And, of course, Maurice Sendak, Wanda Gag, Beatrix Potter, Dorothy P. Lathrop from earlier years. Among the younger illustrators coming up the pipe, I am very excited by the new work Shadra Strickland is doing. I also think Christian Robinson will become even more of a force. My friend Ruth McNally Barshaw gave me a watercolor she painted of Red Riding Hood. Watercolor is a new medium for her and it is among my very favorite pieces of art and I hope it bodes well for her.

On of Ed's favorite reading photos

One of Ed’s favorite reading photos

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

COFFEE, cream and no sugar! Sometimes there is nothing better than a gin and tonic, however.

Favorite season of the year? Why?

ALA Midwinter season! This may not be a universally acknowledged season, but for me it begins that slow trek back into feeling healthy. I suffer from seasonal affective disorder and ALA comes right after the holidays in January (sometimes, painfully, February). Hanging around so many believers in children, in literacy, and, more importantly, kindness always restores my faith in the world and in myself. From an art perspective, I love autumn. The colors never cease to blow me away.

Ann and Ed at Yellowstone National Park

Ann and Ed on their national park tour

What’s your dream vacation?

My wife, Ann, and I have begun exploring our National Parks. Last summer we visited six, which brings our total close to 20. We want to keep exploring. I have dreamed of traveling down the Zambezi River through the Okavango Delta region of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana although I fear I may have missed my opportunity.

What gives you shivers?

Our newly elected president and our lack of kindness and even civility toward those who do not share our culture, religions, customs, holidays, language, etc.

Logan, a former first grader in Ed's class, now a writing major and slam poet at Emerson College in Boston

Logan, a former first grader in Ed’s class, now a writing major and slam poet at Emerson College in Boston

Morning person? Night person?

NIGHT! Bedtime before 1:00 am is for wimps.

What’s your hidden talent?

Years ago I was a very successful cologne salesperson during the holidays! I sold a lot of Russian Leather cologne. Today, I am not a chef, but I do make very pretty food that tastes good! I cannot, however, follow recipes to save my life and I have rarely made the same thing twice.

Your favorite candy as a kid …

Any that I could steal.

Mission to PlutoIs Pluto a planet?

Ha! I write the curriculum guides for Houghton Mifflin’s Scientists in the Field series. I just finished doing the guide on Pluto. The lead scientist in this book thinks of Pluto as a planet. I will side with him.

What’s the strangest tourist attraction you’ve visited?

Corn Palace? I have been to some very sketchy amusement parks. In Allegan, I often take people to see our giant chicken at our County Fair site.

Brother and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

When everyone was alive, I had 2 brothers and 5 sisters. At least one brother has passed away and I haven’t seen the other for more than 50 years. I haven’t spoken to anyone in my family for more than ten years. It is more like anti-shaping.

Best tip for living a contented life?

Get help!

What a Wonderful WorldYour hope for the world?

When I taught first grade, I could never read the Ashley Bryan illustrated version of Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World without crying! I read this book every year and cried every time. “They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know…” always hit me as so beautiful and so true. I often told people every year that I had first graders who are much smarter than I am. Many people assumed I was being facetious, but I meant it quite literally. I have more experience and I have more facts at my disposal, but my first graders always demonstrated the creativity, the dreams, and the fearlessness that make me feel hopeful for our future.

Ed Spicer's Classroom

Ed Spicer’s class five years ago

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Skinny Dip with Cynthia Grady

Cynthia GradyFor this interview, we visit with Cynthia Grady, author and librarian, at her home in New Mexico.

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Oh, most definitely Beatrix Potter. My earliest literary hero.

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I turned back to page 1 as soon as I finished reading it.

 Whirley-Pop Hand Crank Popping MachineWhat’s your favorite late-night snack?

Popcorn—fresh popped on the stove in a Whirley-Pop Hand Crank Popping Machine –with lots of butter and salt. But I will pop it and eat it anytime.

Most cherished childhood memory?

I wouldn’t call this my most cherished memory exactly, but one that I’ve been revisiting lately—is how a friend and I roamed several neighborhoods, crossing streets we weren’t allowed to cross, by way of creeks and drainage pipes.  

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Am I allowed to say Irish whiskey? Straight up? After that comes lavender lemonade. Mmmmm. Delicious.

Necco wafersWhat gives you shivers?

The dark. Since age 3.

Your favorite candy as a kid …

Neccos—at the movies.

What’s the strangest tourist attraction you’ve visited?

The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, now located within the Science Museum of Minnesota. A frightening experience of medical quackery!

RabbitsBrother and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

Ah. I am number six of nine children. Being the youngest of the first six, the eldest of the bottom four, and nearly in the middle overall has shaped every single bit of my life, from my ability to sleep anywhere to my absolute love of silence.  Plus, I display all of the characteristics on those birth order charts.

Best tip for living a contented life?

A house rabbit or two.

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Skinny Dip with Debby Dahl Edwardson

For this interview, we visit with Debby Dahl Edwardson, author of the National Book Award finalist My Name is Not Easy and co-founder of the LoonSong Writers’ Retreat.

Debby Dahl EdwardsonWhich celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Anne Lamott. I feel like I already know her so well though her books that I would actually feel comfortable with this kind of meeting, which is a bit out of my comfort zone, for sure. Lamott seems like the kind of person you could talk to about anything—from your struggles with spirituality to your awful first draft—and she’d emphasize, having just dealt with these same issues like yesterday morning or in the middle of the night last week.  

Most cherished childhood memory? 

Getting lost in books. When I was 12 years old, my godmother gave me a book for Christmas. It was a book that had won the Newbery award that year and it captivated me. Clichés aside, I was pulled immediately into the dark and stormy night with which the book opened and I found myself instantly inside that little attic bedroom where Meg Murry was just beginning to awaken to the series of strange and wonderful events. I remained immersed in that book for several days. I reread it immediately upon finishing it. I simply did not want to leave that world. I am talking, of course, about A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle. Entering new worlds through the world of books are among my most cherished childhood memories.

Debby Dahl Edwardson and George Edwardson

Debby Dahl Edwardson and her husband, George Edwardson

Favorite season of the year? Why?

Fall. It’s always been my favorite. I love the colors and the smells of fall everywhere, even here in Alaska, where I live on the treeless tundra. I love the way the tundra turns russet and the air tingles with the promise of snow. I remember, as a child in northern Minnesota, watching the sky darken with geese calling out their raucous calls, headed south. And now that I am in the fall of my life, I love that, too!

What’s your dream vacation?

I have about a hundred dream vacations. Most of them involve ocean beaches because I love the ocean and I love to swim. But one non-beach place I’d love to visit and spend time in is northern New Mexico, the region where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted. I have a picture of hers in my writing room. It’s one you’ve never seen: a single blue trail leading up into pastel blue and ginger mountains. I want to go there. I love adobe, too, the way the red houses seem to grow from the red earth—and there’s a hot spring there, too: Ojo Caliente. I love hot springs. Above that picture of O’Keeffe’s painting in my writing room is a photograph of her with the words that have pretty much become my writing motto: “It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough I could have it.” I am attracted to landscapes that hold that kind of power.  

Proud grandparents Debby Dahl Edwardson

Proud grandparents!

My Name is Not EasyYour hope for the world?

That people will learn true empathy and develop, from a young age, the ability to see the world through multiple lenses. I think many of the problems we face in the world come from an increasing tendency to see the world monolithically. This kind of inflexibility is extremely dangerous in pretty much every way you can imagine. One of my favorite quotes is this one, from Wade Davis:  “Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you: they are unique manifestations of the human spirit. The world in which you were born is just one model of reality.” We will not begin to find true solutions to our deepest problems until we develop the ability to see multiple ways of configuring reality.”

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Skinny Dip with Heidi Hammond

For this interview, we visit with Heidi Hammond, associate professor at St. Catherine University in the MLIS program, long-time school librarian, and author of Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books: a Guide to the Illustrations, along with co-author Gail D. Nordstrom.

Heidi HammondWhich celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

I would love to enjoy a cup of tea with Michelle Obama and find out what the first family plans to do after President Obama finishes his second term of office.  

What’s your favorite late-night snack? 

I don’t usually stay up late, but my favorite after supper snack is popcorn (unbuttered) and ice cream (Coconut Explosion), not together, but in that order. Sometimes I just have popcorn and ice cream for supper.

Favorite city to visit?

London! I’ve been there six times. “…when a man, (in my case, a woman), is tired of London, he (she) is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” —Samuel Johnson

Moonstone Castle MysteryMost cherished childhood memory?

One of my favorite childhood memories is receiving a stack of Nancy Drew mysteries for Christmas and having all of the Christmas holiday to read them.  

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

I drink tea and water. That’s pretty much it. I learned to drink tea after my first year of teaching. I chaperoned a group of 12 junior high students (What was I thinking?) on a four-week exchange program with a school in Wales. I stayed with the deputy headmaster and his family, and every morning he made his family tea and served it to us in bed. I would hear a knock on my door and the question, “Tea, Heidi?” It was a lovely way to begin the day.

Favorite season of the year? Why?

My favorite season on the year is fall. Having been an educator or school librarian all my professional life, fall always seems like a new beginning with the kickoff of the school year. It’s like having two New Years, one in January and one in September. That means two fresh starts.

Ouzel Falls

Hiking to Ouzel Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park

What’s your dream vacation?

A dream vacation for me is one that involves some hiking. In the summer of 2015, I hiked Hadrian’s Wall from coast to coast in northern England, all 84 miles. In spring I hiked in the Grand Canyon. This past summer I hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park. This September I’m hiking the Great Glen Way in Scotland from Fort William to Inverness, all along Loch Ness. That part of the world just happens to be the setting for “Outlander.”

What’s your hidden talent?

I am a very good parallel parker. It seems I’ve been attending the University of Minnesota off and on from 1974 to 2009. I couldn’t often afford to pay for parking in one of the lots, so I’d parallel park on the residential streets surrounding the university and walk blocks and blocks to class.

Your favorite candy as a kid?

Milk Duds. I still like them, but I think red licorice is my favorite candy now. And, dark chocolate caramels. I like pretty much any kind of candy. I have a sweet tooth. They are opening a new Abdallah’s candy store about a mile from my house in September. I’m not sure this will be good for me.

The MarvelsWhat’s the strangest tourist attraction you’ve visited?

I don’t know if this qualifies as strange, but it was very different and wonderful. The last time I was in London, right after I read Brian Selznick’s book The Marvels, I visited the Dennis Severs’ House. I had heard Brian talk about his new book at the American Library Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco a few weeks before I left for England in 2015 to hike Hadrian’s Wall. If you know the book, you know the house is an important feature. When I entered the house, I told the young man at the door that I had come because I’d read the book and heard Brian speak. He said I was the first person to visit who had read the book (I had an advance reading copy). Unbeknownst to me, he told the curator David Milne about me, and David found me and spent quite a bit of time with me talking about Dennis and the house. He even went and got the book and showed me an illustration of one of the rooms while I was in that room. It was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited in London.

Dennis Severs House

Dennis Severs House, London [photo: Matt Brown, Creative Commons]

Best tip for living a contented life?

Everyone expresses good in his or her own individual way. See the goodness in others and appreciate it.

Your hope for the world?

Like Rodney King, I wish we could all get along.

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Skinny Dip with Pamela S. Turner

For this interview, we visit with Pamela S. Turner, children’s book author with two new books out in 2016, Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune and Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird:

Pamela S. TurnerWhich celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Sir Richard Francis Burton, the Victorian anthropologist, translator, linguist, and African explorer. I’ve had a huge crush on him ever since I read The White Nile.  

Most cherished childhood memory? 

Getting my first library card at age four. Mom said I couldn’t get one until I could write my own name, so I learned in a flash.  

Sir Richard Francis Burton

Richard Francis Burton by Rischgitz, 1864

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Why isn’t “margarita” one of the options here?

Your favorite candy as a kid …

Abba-Zabba … or maybe Bit O’ Honey … or maybe Big Hunk … no, wait! Cotton candy. I still love cotton candy. I have the taste buds of a three-year-old.  

Is Pluto a planet?

No. But Pluto being demoted from planethood is a wonderful lesson in how science works. In science data matter, not tradition.

Cotton CandyBest tip for living a contented life?

I think Buddhists have the best motto of all: “compassion for all sentient creatures.”

Your hope for the world?

That we will find a way to live within our ecological means and not muck everything up for ourselves and for all other sentient creatures.

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Skinny Dip with Mélina Mangal

Mélina MangalFor this interview, we visit with Mélina Mangal, children’s book author and librarian:

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

My favorite ANYTIME snack is white cheddar popcorn.  

Most cherished childhood memory?  

Roaming through the north woods, climbing trees with my sister and brothers.  I loved being outdoors so much.   

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

There are so many illustrators I admire, such as Leo and Diane Dillon, whose vast body of work has inspired several generations.  Also: the late Vera B. Williams, David Diaz, Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, Pat Cummings, Maya Cristina Gonzalez…. I could go on! 

Melina Mangal's most admired illustrators

Favorite season of the year? Why?

Summer is my favorite season.  I can work in the garden, swim outside, bike everywhere, and read in the backyard hammock next to the apple tree.  

Morning person? Night person?

Definitely a morning person.  I love to wake with the sun.

Brother and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I have one older sister and two younger brothers. Being in the middle made me flexible and helps me listen, mediate, and empathize.

Melina Mangal Books

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Skinny Dip with Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Rebecca Kai DotlichFor this interview, we visit with Rebecca Kai Dotlich, poet and children’s book author:

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

As most of my friends know, that would be Billy Collins. And then Meryl Streep would stop by too of course.

Favorite city to visit?

I’m not a far and wide traveler, but the city I’ve always wanted to visit is any city in Switzerland.

Reading-(HS)-on-couch-400px

In high school, reading on the couch.

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Friendly Fire by C.D.B. Bryan. On Writing: a memoir of the craft by Stephen King. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy.

Stromboli (photo credit: wikimedia commons)

Stromboli (photo credit: wikimedia commons)

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

I haven’t eaten late-night snacks since my college days at Indiana University. Strombolis. Delivered.

Most cherished childhood memory?

Oh, so many. Piling into the station wagon on a summer night to go to the drive-in in our pajamas. Watching Roy Rogers and Sky King on Saturday mornings. The smell of baby dolls and new saddle oxfords.

First date?

First love 8th grade, Dennis. First date, high school and I am pretty sure it involved a double date and a drive-in.

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Coffee. Growing up, there was always a pot percolating in our house. My grandmother made me coffee from a very young age. She added lots of cream and sugar and called it Boston coffee. I still love it that way.

Favorite season of the year?

Fall. Why? The chill in the air. The freshness. The newness. Reminds me of new beginnings, sweaters, and school supplies.

What’s your dream vacation?

Being in a little town with bookstores, art museums, cobblestone streets, lamplights and nothing but time.

Burgess Meredith, Twilight Zone, 1960, wikimedia commons

Burgess Meredith, Twilight Zone, 1960, wikimedia commons

What gives you shivers?

Heights. Burgess Meredith. (Twilight Zone. “Time Enough At Last.”)

Morning person? Night person?

All of my young adult and adult life I was both. Easy up at 5 and to bed after midnight or 1 o’clock. Now I’m more of a morning person.

What’s your hidden talent?

Nada. Except maybe a good recall of song lyrics. And baking darn good Christmas cookies. Oh yes, and imaginative concept photography. (uh-huh, well it’s on the bucket list.)

Your favorite candy as a kid?

Sky Bar. Rock candy (icy clear, never colors.)

Is Pluto a planet?

Wait, I have to google that . . . seems it depends on the year, the poor guy keeps getting demoted. His head must be spinning.

I did get a little huffy sometimes. With my brother Curt on my grandparents' front porch.

I did get a little huffy sometimes. With my brother Curt on my grandparents’ front porch.

Brother and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

A big brother and a little sister. Big brother ruled the land of siblings, so I am used to not squawking much when it comes to following rules suggestions. He also taught me by example that books in the hand, on the shelf and splattered on the bed are the best treasures of all. Little sister passed me the opportunity to rule in the land of siblings. And also to feel responsible to look out for someone, which fortunately or unfortunately I still feel compelled to do.

with my brother and sister and our cousins

with my brother and sister and our cousins

Your hope for the world?

Besides peace, love and kindness, it would be for the eradication of bullying, and more understanding of, and compassion for, depression and other mental health issues, especially for our youth.

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Skinny Dip with Nancy Johnson

Nancy JohnsonFor this interview, we are pleased to share answers from Nancy Johnson, professor, children’s/young adult literature and English/ language arts education, Western Washington University:

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Eleanor Roosevelt and Michelle Obama. I’d do my best just to listen … and learn.

Favorite city to visit?

Favorite country is Vietnam. Favorite “city” in Vietnam is Hoi An. It’s magical!

Dragon Fountain, Hoi An, Vietnam

Dragon Fountain, Cantonese Assembly Hall, Quant Trieu, Hoi An (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Coffee (dark roast) … no sugar, no cream.

Reading on the beach

© Yudesign | Dreamstime.com

What’s your dream vacation?

A pile of books, lots of sun, a beach (and nothing to grade!)

What gives you shivers?

Spiders and snakes. It’s irrational, I know, but they creep me out (even the teeny-tiny, nonpoisonous ones). And aerial acts (circuses, the Blue Angels, etc.).

Your favorite candy as a kid …

Movie theatre candy = Jujubes

Drug store candy = candy cigarettes (Seriously! They looked so cool—and so did we—but they tasted like chalk.)

What’s the strangest tourist attraction you’ve visited?

It’s not really a tourist attraction but … when we were kids, my Dad and my best friend’s Dad took us on a field trip to a sewage treatment plant.

 

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Skinny Dip with April Halprin Wayland

April Halprin WaylandToday we welcome author and educator April Halprin Wayland to Bookology. Her most recent picture book, More Than Enough, is a story about Passover. April was one of nine Instructors of the Year honored by the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, Creative Writing.

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

I would LOVE to have coffee (one-shot latte with extra soy, extra foam) with Crockett Johnson, author/illustrator of Harold and the Purple Crayon but most notably for me, author/illustrator of Barnaby, a comic strip that ran during WWII (actually 1942-1952). I think of it as the predecessor of Calvin and Hobbes. Barnaby stars five-year-old Barnaby Baxter and his fairy godfather Jackeen J. O’Malley. Mr. O’Malley continually gets Barney into trouble. It’s brilliant.

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

You’re joking, right—one book? I’ll tell you right this very minute what books (plural) I recommend. But ask me in half an hour and my list will be completely different.

Favorite city to visit?

NYC! And Poipu, Kauai! And let’s not forget London, for heaven’s sake. And anywhere my husband, my son, or my best two friends are.

Most cherished childhood memory?

One August when I was nine or ten, I found a raft by the Feather River, which ran by our farm. I repaired it (I don’t remember if an adult helped me or not), then climbed aboard and lay back. The next month, at the beginning of the school year, my teacher asked us to choose a word and define it by writing about something that happened that summer. I wrote about that hot summer day on the river. My word? Bliss.

What’s your dream vacation?

Like my favorite books, this will change in the next half hour. For right this minute it would involve my husband, our lanky, knuckle-brained dog, Eli, our son and his girlfriend, hiking, biking, meadows, forests, and arriving at a different bed-and-breakfast each evening with farm-fresh, just-harvested food for dinner, a down quilt each night, and a one-shot latte with extra soy, extra foam each morning. 🙂

April Halprin Wayland in the classroom

Best tip for living a contented life?

I ask myself a central, touchstone question: Will this action or thought help me to like myself?

So, for example, each day I might ask myself: Should I say yes to this invitation to speak? Should I eat this whole bag of (fill in the blank)? Should I spend an extra half-hour with this person, even though I have a pile of work at home? Should I go to this political gathering? Should I volunteer to help put on an event? Should I skip meditation (or exercise or walking the dog) today? Should I pick up that piece of trash I just passed? Do I really need to eat the whole jar? Should I floss my teeth? Should I work on this poem or this book? Should I go to a meeting tonight? Should I turn off the computer and spend time with my husband, who just got home from work?

If I ask myself that question, the answer is always clear. I may not choose to act on the obvious answer, but if I do, I feel more content.

Monkey-and-Eli-read-poetry-together_600px

Monkey and Eli read poetry together.

Your hope for the world?

That we will be kind to each other.

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Skinny Dip with Polly Carlson-Voiles

Summer of the WolvesToday we welcome author Polly Carlson-Voiles to Bookology. Her book, Summer of the Wolves, has been a favorite adventure story with middle grade readers, a recent contender for the Maud Hart Lovelace Award.

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Jane Goodall.

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Most cherished childhood memory?

Spending a summer on the windward side of Oahu, in Hawaii.

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

So very many…but I would have to say, Graeme Base…

Favorite season of the year? Why?

I love the season I am in … right now I love the spring with tiny green leaves misting the tree tops, the wild white blossoms of serviceberry and chokecherry. I always reluctantly say ‘good-bye’ to the last season and then fall passionately in love with the newness of the new season, with changes, new birds, new sounds, new colors.

What’s your dream vacation?

To go to Africa and see elephants and other creatures of the African wilds.

What a way to make a Skype visit with wolves in the background at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota.

What a way to make a Skype visit with wolves in the background at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota.

Morning person? Night person?

My best writing happens right after I wake up in the morning. I get some of my best ideas in those shadowy first moments of coming awake when my brain isn’t filled with distractions. But I am not one who wakes at dawn.

Brother and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I have one older brother who was expected to do wonderful important things. Since we were raised in a sexist time and my father was very traditional, I felt very unimportant as a girl child. It made me feisty, though, to feel that girls were expected to let boys win at games, to not excel in school too much, and to be afraid of physical risks. My rebellion against this was one of the greatest gifts of my childhood.

Best tip for living a contented life?

To find your passions and cultivate them like a garden. Do things you love.

Working with a school group at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota

Working with a school group at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota

Your hope for the world?

That we all keep evolving to learn from people who are different from us, and that we all learn to treasure the gifts of wild creatures and wild places.

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Skinny Dip with Eric Rohmann

 

Today we welcome author, illustrator, and Caldecott medalist Eric Rohmann to Bookology. He agreed to give us the skinny on several topics of vital importance.

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Darwin, Newton, William Blake … and so many others I’ll need a big coffee shop.

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

The Lost CarvingLately, The Lost Carving by David Esterly.

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

Popcorn.

Favorite city to visit?

Vienna, New York, Paris, Madrid, Singapore … still gonna need a big coffee house in each one.

Most cherished childhood memory?

Traveling in the American west.

First date?

Sometime in the fog of High School.

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

Like a person could name just one!

red mug of coffeeTea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Coffee.

Favorite season of the year? Why?

Autumn. Clear, cool, and colorful.

What’s your dream vacation?

The next one I have planned … so many places to see!

What gives you shivers?

Good shivers: watching dogs run, Bad shivers: conservative talk radio.

Morning person? Night person?

Morning.

Painting you could look at again and again.

Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights; any Rembrandt self-portrait; Cezanne’s apples; Delacroix’s The Death of Sardanopolus … lots of wall space in the coffee shop!

gr_garden_of_earthly_delights

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights

What’s your hidden talent?

I can cook well, a little.

Milk DudsYour favorite candy as a kid …

Milk Duds.

Is Pluto a planet?

Is Brontosaurus really just a big Apatosaurus?

What’s the strangest tourist attraction you’ve visited?

Haw Par Villa in Singapore.

Har Paw Villa

Har Paw Villa

Brother and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

Brother and sister. Good: I was never alone. Bad: I was never alone.

Best tip for living a contented life?

Be curious.

Your hope for the world?

Wishing for anything but peace would just be selfish.

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Skinny Dip with Bobbi Miller

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

My definition of celebrity is someone whom I admire, who I think has contributed to society in his actions or words. To me, celebrity is more than a pretty face. He does more than recite words that someone else wrote, acting out a story that someone else has planned out and directs.

Eric Kimmel is my favorite celebrity. I always love talking to him. Another celebrity I can’t wait to meet is Monica Kulling.  Of course, I’d love to talk to Mark Twain, too, about his adventures riding the stagecoach west and his time in San Francisco. And Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, about the times she lived in.

But let’s be real: my friends are the celebrities in my life.

Eric A. Kimmel, Monica Kulling, Mark Twain, Abigail Adams

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

John Adams by David McCullousI am currently reading—for the second time—John Adams by David McCullough. I love McCullough’s blending of narrative and research, creating such a powerful story. Of course, we know all of history is a story. He does it so well. I just finished Einstein, by Walter Isaacson. For a long time I always thought I’d love to meet Einstein, speaking of celebrity. It turns out, while he didn’t like the label “celebrity,” he certainly lived the life. Einstein was such a hound dog. For all his lofty thought experiments about space and time, he really didn’t have a clue about life on this planet. He had an interesting, complex life, and saw a lot of history. It would be more interesting to speak to one of his friends, wives, or girlfriends, to see their reaction to navigating such a complex personality. One of my favorite movies is IQ, in which Walter Matthau plays Einstein as an old man. I like that Einstein.

Even more interesting, I bet it would be cool to listen to a conversation between Einstein and Stephen Hawking!!

Another book I just read was Happy Birthday, Alice Babette, written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by Qin Leng. This books tells a gentle story about a birthday party between two friends, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Of course, we know the history of those two celebrity writers, which makes this book all the more impressive.

Favorite city to visit?

Big River's Daughter Girls of GettysburgI’ve visited many historical cities and towns as I researched my stories. I visited Gettysburg, PA several times, walking the battlefields, as I researched my Girls of Gettysburg. I’ve driven along the Mississippi River for a ways, as I researched life along the river for my Big River’s Daughter. I’ve been to Boston and the surrounding area, which is intently interesting as it relates to John Adams. I’ve been to Washington, DC, of course, and just love that history. I’d like to go again and check it out more, especially Arlington National Cemetery.  And I’d love to go to Philadelphia, for all the history.

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Diet Coke, most definitely. Although I’ve cut down quite a bit since my young years and now drink more water. I recently had my first cup of coffee, made very weak and included sugar free hazelnut creamer. Very tasty! And it did the trick: I was up at 4, and I had a long day of traveling ahead of me. I was able to make it through without nodding off.

gr_plutoIs Pluto a planet?

What a tricky good question!

Pluto is a hound dog, and he’s every bit as loyal a friend as Lassie and Old Yeller. Just like Mickey Mouse!

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Skinny Dip with Barbara O’Connor

 

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

Missing MayMissing May by Cynthia Rylant. I read it at a time when I was struggling to find my writing voice. I was so struck by the strong sense of place in that book. It was obvious that West Virginia was Rylant’s heart’s home. So I decided to write stories that were set in my heart’s home—the South—and specifically the Smoky Mountains. I wrote her a letter to tell her the impact her book had on me and she sent me a lovely hand-written note back, signed “Take good care. Cyndi Rylant.” *swoon*

Favorite season of the year? Why?

SUMMER all the way!! I love the heat. The flowers. The long days. Love it all.

What gives you shivers?

Heights. OMG….. And one more thing: snakes. *shivers*

What’s your hidden talent?

Tap DanceI’m actually a pretty good tap dancer. I took tap lessons for years, from childhood all the way up until just a few years ago. I love to tap dance. It totally suits me much more than yoga.

Morning person? Night person?

Morning all the way. I turn into a pumpkin about 8 o’clock. My writing day never extends beyond about 3 o’clock … cause I’m heading toward Pumpkin Town. (Trivia for you: There is actually a town near my hometown of Greenville, SC, called Pumpkin Town.)

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Skinny Dip with Marsha Qualey

 Joni MitchellWhich celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Joni. And I’d come prepared with questions about her painting, not her music, because then, just maybe, she’d see beyond the gobsmacked fan. Maybe she’d draw something on a napkin for me.  

If she didn’t show, I’d be okay because I’d have a back-up date with Louisa May. 

buttered toastWhat’s your favorite late-night snack?

Buttered toast, but I can’t indulge that often now. Once upon a time, though, it was a nightly thing. Then when I was diagnosed with celiac disease I went years without it because the bread I made or could find in stores just didn’t cut it. And then along came Udi’s.

Most cherished childhood memory?

I had the best best friend any quiet, introverted, bookish girl could have. Mary was just the opposite of me, and when I was with her, adventure wasn’t just something that happened in books, it was something we made together.

earthwormsOne first grade day we were walking the six to seven blocks home for lunch. It had rained all morning and we were excited by all the earthworms still on the sidewalks. What if we gathered them all and sold them as bait? We began collecting the liveliest ones and putting them in the pockets of our raincoats. The pickings were grand and we didn’t notice the time pass. When we neared our houses, conveniently across the street from each other, something made us realize how late we were (A beckoning family member? Church bells? Kids returning to school? This detail is lost.).  We rushed to our respective homes for a quick lunch and met up again at her family car for a ride back to school—we were that late.

The sun was shining and we were in a car and neither of us wore a raincoat. The sun prevailed for many days thereafter. Only when at last we again needed our raincoats, did either of us remember the grand plan to make a seven-year-old’s fortune by selling worms.

The worms were dust in the pockets of our size 6x raincoats. There’s an old woman’s somber metaphor about dreams in there somewhere, but it wouldn’t have registered with Mary and me.  We laughed then and we still laugh about it now.  

Morning person? Night person?

Night, now and forever.

What’s the strangest tourist attraction you’ve visited?

Mary Nohl HomeI love environmental art—the concrete and bottle constructions that an individual artist builds over the years on his or her property. Thanks to the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and the Kohler Foundation several such installations in Wisconsin have been preserved. Any one of these would qualify as strange, and they are all worth a visit.

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Skinny Dip with Caroline Starr Rose

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

L.M. MontgomeryAuthor L.M. Montgomery, of Anne of Green Gables fame. I’ve read all of her books several times over, including the journals she kept from fourteen until the time of her death. In fact, I’ve committed to revisiting Maud’s journals every ten years. So far, I’ve read all five volumes twice.

Though I have a feeling Maud wouldn’t approve of me (she was not fond of free verse), she has always felt like a kindred spirit. Like me, she was a teacher, a Presbyterian pastor’s wife, a mother to two boys, and an author. I’d like to think we’d have a lot to talk about!

Later this year my best friend and I are heading to Maud’s home, Prince Edward Island—a trip six years in the making and dream come true.

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

The Phantom TollboothI adore Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. I’ve probably read it thirty times, first as a student, then as a student teacher, then with my students, and finally with my own children. It’s witty, it’s clever, it’s fun, and oh so quotable. It’s also great for teaching elements of story. There’s a reluctant hero on a classic quest, and even the climax takes place at the highest physical point in the story—the Castle in the Air.

Most cherished childhood memory?

Ernest HemingwayI’m going to change this one slightly to my most starry-eyed literary childhood memory. My family hosted a Spanish exchange student named Paula when I was in fourth grade. Since then, Paula’s family and my family have continued to remain close. The Maciciors own a home that is hundreds of years old, a grand thirty-four room structure in the Spanish countryside, near the city of Pamplona. In the 1920s Ernest Hemingway rented a room there while working on The Sun Also Rises.

I visited this house as a pre-teen and a teen. Though I hadn’t yet read anything by Hemingway, I knew his name and was thrilled to learn I’d get to stay in the room where a real-live author had temporarily lived. There are two beds in the room, and you better believe I slept in both, to cover my claim-to-fame bases.

Caroline Starr RoseBrother and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I have a half sister and half brother who are ten and twelve years older than I am.  I often describe myself as a semi-only child, as much of my childhood was spent as the only kid at home. This taught me to entertain myself, certainly, and meant I had plenty of time for reading and imagining and just making do.

Best tip for living a contented life?

This is one I’m still learning (and probably will be till I die). But so far I’ve learned contentment comes from gratitude, from realizing how many simple, wonderful, often-overlooked gifts we experience everyday. Like breathing. Have you ever considered how amazing it is that there’s air to fill your lungs every single moment? Contentment comes from loving and being loved. And it comes from acknowledging what you can control and letting go of what you can’t. Easier said than done, I know.

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Skinny Dip with Steve Palmquist

Chinese foodFavorite holiday tradition?

Well, that usually involves food—we try to have Chinese food on Christmas Eve. Our family has had a lot of changes lately, so we’ve been trying to create new traditions.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

Annunciation SchoolBoth! At times I was a model student and other times I was the class clown. I’m sure the clowning was a bit disruptive but I only got sent to the principal’s office once. This was at a parochial grade school. The principal was a nun who was about 6′3″. She was a gentle disciplinarian but it did sort of seem like her height gave her a direct line to God and all the gravitas that goes with that.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

I don’t remember the very first but the one that sticks in my mind was a report for a book about living in space. I did a horrible job with it and was allowed to redo the report. I knocked it out of the park with the second attempt—that taught me the value of revision.

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

I like the idea of wrapping presents but my execution leaves a little to be desired. Gift bags and a supply of colored tissue paper have saved my bacon on more than one occasion.

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year-old self?

You are going to be loved and cherished by someone who will inspire you to be the best person you can be.

Look beyond the hurt that some people seem to always give—that always gives a clue about where they’re truly vulnerable or hurting themselves.

Keep your mind free and open—it will be your best tool and lead you into many adventures.

What three children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

Oh, gosh, that’s a hard one. If I go historical, how about Mark Twain, Margaret Wise Brown, and Don Freeman?Mark Twain, Margaret Wise Brown, and Don Freeman

Where’s your favorite place to read?

I don’t have that overstuffed chair from my parents any longer. My favorite place to read now is anywhere near my wife, Vicki, so whenever one of us gasps or laughs at a book, we get to share with the other one.

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Skinny Dip with Michael Hall

Red: a Crayon's StoryWhat is your proudest career moment?

Several months before the publication of my book, Red: A Crayon’s Story, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial bemoaning the “gender industrial complex,” “cultural warriors,” and books—including mine—“that seek to engage the sympathies of young readers … and nudge the needle of culture.” I had written something good enough to provoke the wrath of the WJS editorial page. It was a proud moment, indeed.

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

The first thing that comes to my mind is baseball. But there are problems.

First of all, baseball isn’t an Olympic sport. (It became an official Olympic sport in 1992, but was ousted after the 2008 summer Olympics.) Nevertheless, since we’re talking about fantasy—and since I have a rich fantasy life—this is relatively easy to overcome. Let’s face it, if I can imagine the balding, pot-bellied, sixty-something me gracefully climbing the wall in left field to rob a batter of an extra-base hit (to the thundering approval of the crowd), I can certainly imagine that baseball has been reinstituted as an Olympic sport just in time for the summer of 2016.

Michael Hall sports fantasyBut there’s a more difficult problem: Having spent much of my life imagining myself as a star left fielder for the Minnesota Twins, my status as an amateur is clearly in doubt. If it came down to it, I wouldn’t sacrifice my imaginary Twins baseball star status in order to imagine winning an Olympic gold medal for the United States Olympic team.

So I’m going with table tennis.

What is your favorite line from a book?

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.”

What keeps you up at night?

These pesky creatures called should’ves. I don’t know how they get into the house, but at night, they crawl into my bed and whisper in my ear.

“You should have done this, Michael.”

“And frankly, you should have done that as well, Michael.”

This makes sleeping difficult.

It’s well known that should’ves tire easily. If you ignore them, they’ll fall asleep. So I thought I could just wait them out. But it’s less well known that they snore loudly. So, even while sleeping, they keep me awake.

One night, after the should’ves fell asleep—and were snoring horribly—I picked them up, put them in a shoe box, and took them out the back door. I went back to bed and was dozing off, when I was visited by five angry shouldn’t’ves.

“Michael, you should not have done that!”

Which of your books would make a good movie and who would be the star?

It's an Orange AardvarkThe book with the most crisply drawn characters is probably It’s An Orange Aardvark, a book about five carpenter ants who awake to a noise outside their dark nest in a tree stump. One ant tries to get clues as to what it is by drilling holes in the stump. As each new hole reveals a different color, a second ant, who is convinced that it’s a hungry aardvark, twists the information to fit his preconceived belief, even as his version of the truth becomes more and more absurd.

For me, this was always a book about scientific method. The hole-drilling ant is a wide-eyed, dedicated, idealistic scientist. I think someone like Toby Maguire would be perfect for the role. (There is no love interest here. It’s a picture book after all. But I’m sure a talented screenwriter could fix that.)

The second ant, the one who’s convinced an aardvark awaits, is sort of a cross between Dick Cheney and Cliff Clavin from Cheers. I could suggest someone like Willem Defoe, but I don’t want to play up the sinister part too much (it’s a picture book, after all), so I’ll go with John Ratzenberger from the Cheers cast. 

 

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Skinny Dip with Karen Blumenthal

Matzo ToffeeFavorite holiday tradition?

Food! I love to bake and holidays are the best excuse for baking! Peach cobbler for the Fourth of July, apple cake for the Jewish holidays, dozens and dozens of cookies for friends and family in December, and this killer candy that we call matzo toffee at Passover. I make a ton of it for friends and even send some to special editors. It’s the most addictive thing ever and it proves that chocolate makes everything better.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

Mostly a teacher’s pet. I had poor eyesight and super-thick glasses and had to sit up front. But I also have strong opinions, so I’m sure I was a challenge as well.

Mexia TexasWhat’s the first book report you ever wrote?

This is embarrassing, but I don’t remember book reports in elementary school. I remember reports on a town in Texas (I chose Mexia, pronounced Me-hay-a) and other subjects, and even a report on Nixon’s trip to China, but no book reports. Maybe I blocked them out! We did do them in junior high and I got in trouble for choosing a 1934 novel by John O’Hara that the teacher deemed too old for me.

First BookDo you like to gift wrap presents?

That’s kind of a funny question. Yes, and no. Here’s why: For the last 12 or 13 years, my family has gift-wrapped books at local bookstores during the Christmas season to raise money for a literacy organization called First Book. Some years, we worked many shifts at several bookstores and some years, we worked just a handful of shifts. But nearly all of those years, we gift-wrapped on Christmas Eve, which is a crazy day when all the last-minute or visiting-from-out-of-town shoppers come in. By the middle of the season, I could hardly bear to wrap our family’s own gifts.

All together, our wrapping raised more than $20,000 for First Book. But we decided 2014 would be our last year. Our daughters, who were 12 and 14 when we started, are now grown and live on opposite coasts and we don’t get to spend much time with them.  It was a great experience though, and I’m now an excellent wrapper!

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year-old self?

Hmmm. I enjoyed writing at that age, but was becoming self-conscious about it, and I had classmates—including another Karen—who were more skilled. Probably I would tell her that passion and persistence are about as important as anything and to keep at it.

ph_dinner_300What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

One of the really great things about being an author is that you get to meet other authors, and even have a meal with them. So I’ve gotten to meet some of my heroes, like Russell Freedman, Steve Sheinkin, and Susan Bartoletti.

Oh, this is so hard! Beverly Cleary, for sure, because she was one of my early favorites and still is.  J.K. Rowling, because that would be amazing. And maybe John Green, because he’s so cool.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Anywhere! Really! I’ll read just about anywhere, though I prefer a chair. I read a lot at my breakfast table, but also in a comfortable chair in our den, on the bike at the gym, on planes, and when I’m waiting for an appointment. 

 

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Skinny Dip with Eileen Beha

Mad MenWhat TV show can’t you turn off?

I watch very little TV; I will almost always choose to read a good book instead. However, I do admit that I’ve not missed a single episode of Mad Men since the series premiered in 2007 or Downton Abbey, which will end after its sixth season this winter. Lately, I’ve gotten into this strange habit of watching old episodes of Murder, She Wrote on Netflix. Mind candy. I’m inspired by the main character, a retired-teacher-turned-mystery author named Jessica Fletcher, peering through her oversized, horn-rimmed glasses, typing her manuscripts on an old Royal typewriter. (A few months ago, I bought a new pair of eyeglasses that are strikingly similar to hers, I just now realized.)

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

I would like to win a gold medal as a member of the U. S. Olympic women’s soccer team. All of our children—one son and three daughters—played soccer, so I have attended innumerable soccer games in my life. I really do love the sport and wish that I could have played in a league when I was growing up. Watching a soccer game is very much like the process of plotting a story, where every action on the field—pass, kick, shot, or header—is significant and contributes to the final outcome.

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

White Paterson CurtisI would invite children’s book authors E. B. White, Katherine Paterson, and Christopher Paul Curtis to my fantasy dinner. White’s Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little; Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins and Jacob I Have Loved; and Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Bud, Not Buddy are books I use as models of quality, substance, voice, and style when I write books for young readers. We would meet at Gramercy Tavern, my favorite restaurant in New York City, or in front of the fireplace in my living room in Minneapolis during a winter snowstorm. I’d serve homemade split pea soup, freshly-baked whole wheat bread, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream, made from scratch. I wouldn’t say much, I’d just sit back and listen.

What animal are you most like?

Since my husband, Ralph, knows me better than anyone else in the world, I asked him, “What animal am I most like? Say the first thing that comes into your mind.” He answered, “A black bear.” Of course, I pressed for his reasons. Apparently I’m affable but not Hello-Kitty-cute and remind him of Eva Bear, one of his favorite stuffed toys. My image of that particular mammal is one of a mother bear raising a den-full of rambunctious cubs, which I’ve experienced as a mother, stepmother, teacher, and school administrator.

What is your proudest career moment?

National Blue Ribbon School of ExcellenceMy proudest career moment happened in the mid-1990’s when St. Anthony Middle School, where I served as building principal, was selected as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. I had the honor and privilege, along with representative members of my outstanding staff, of attending a reception at the White House, hosted by President Bill Clinton, Vice-President Al Gore, and U. S. Department of Education Secretary Richard W. Riley. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

What is your favorite line from a book?

My favorite line from a book is: “Life is difficult.” This three-word sentence is the first line of The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. For the past couple of years, a confidante has been teaching me the grace and peace that comes with “radical acceptance” of this not-so-simple truth. 

 

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Skinny Dip with Stephanie Greene

bk_Posey10What keeps you up at night?

Not much. If I do wake up and start worrying about something, I put my newest plot dilemma into my brain. Puzzling over it puts me right to sleep.

What is your proudest career moment?

I guess I’m most proud that I’m still coming up with fresh ideas after twenty years. I’ve written several character-driven series, some stand-alone books, several anthropomorphic books, and new ideas continue to arrive. Maybe I should call that a professional miracle.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

The first book I remember caring about, deep down, was The Secret Garden.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

bk_SophieDepends on what grade you’re talking about. Not sure I was ever a pet, but I certainly became a challenge in middle and high school.

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

Hilary McKay, E L Konigsburg, Louise Fitzhugh

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Almost anywhere. At night, in bed. In the morning, on a bar stool at the kitchen counter. While I eat lunch, at the table. On a nice day, outside. If it’s raining … see what I mean? While in line at the grocery store, if it’s long. Anywhere, anytime.

 

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Skinny Dip with Roxanne Orgill

bk_mahaliaWhat keeps you up at night?

Thoughts of my two children: their school issues, health problems, things they said or didn’t say. What calms me and gets me to sleep, perhaps oddly, is to think about the book I’m writing at the moment. I can think about parts of it I like, what I’ll write next, and even problems whose solutions are right then, anyway, out of my grasp, and drift off, content.

What is your proudest career moment?

bk_ShoutSisterBeing at the New York Public Library presentation of its Best Books for the Teen Age with two books: Mahalia, a biography of the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, and Shout, Sister, Shout! Ten Girl Singers Who Shaped a Century.

Describe your favorite pair of pajamas ever.

Lavender cotton short pjs, a gift from my grandmother, who had a bathroom all in lavender (towels and rugs and smelling of lavender soap and sachets), which I enjoyed.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Raising (and not giving up on, not for a minute) a teen with mental illness.

bk_footworkWhat’s the first book you remember reading?

I’m afraid the first book(s) I remember reading are the Dick and Jane books, and not with any fondness, in first grade. But the first book I remember falling in love with is Pippi Longstocking.

 What TV show can’t you turn off?

The Good Wife. Really good writing, and Juliana Margulies is too good not to watch to the end.

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Skinny Dip with Loretta Ellsworth

bk_searchmockingbirdWhat keeps you up at night? 

Usually my son Andrew – he’s blind and sometimes gets day and night mixed up.

What is your proudest career moment?

Finishing a novel, meaning writing and revising until I’m satisfied with it – no matter what happens with the manuscript, I know I’ve accomplished an amazing goal.

Describe your favorite pair of pajamas ever

When I was young I had a pair of footie pajamas that I loved and wore out.

Serena_Williams_at_the_Australian_Open_2015In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal? 

I love to play tennis and would love to win a gold medal in that – if only I could play like Serena Williams!

What’s the first book you remember reading? 

My parents had a book of nursery rhymes that all seven of us children read (or were read to).  I loved the pictures in that book and memorized most of the nursery rhymes.

What TV show can’t you turn off? 

The Simpsons, because my son loves to watch it and he won’t let me turn it off.  I’m now an expert on anything Simpson-related.

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Skinny Dip with Candace Fleming

bk_stuartWhat’s the first book you remember reading?

The first book I remember reading on my own is E.B. White’s Stuart Little.  I was seven years old and it was the Saturday before Christmas – the day of St. John Lutheran’s annual holiday party. I loved that party! The potluck. The carols. The visit from Santa Claus (really Pastor Frankenfeld in a red suit). 

My father had spent the morning decorating the church’s community room. 

My mother had spent the afternoon baking sugar cookies. 

And I had spent the entire day asking how much longer until we went. 

No one noticed the snow coming down until my Uncle Howard stopped by. “Six inches and more coming,” he reported. “We’ll be snowed in by dinnertime.”

He was right. The party was cancelled. My parents were left with six-dozen cookies and one very whiny second grader. I stomped. I pouted. I flung myself on the sofa and howled. The last thing I deserved was a present. But that’s exactly what I got. My mother went to her stash of gifts meant for Christmas morning and returned with Stuart Little. She also gave me a plate of warm cookies.

ph_Skinny_FlemingCookiesI took both to the bay window in our living room. Settled in the window seat, I turned to the first page. And fell into the story. I was delighted, enchanted, completely swept into the story. I got all the way to the part where Stuart sails across the pond in Central Park before the real world returned. I blinked. It had gotten so dark I could no longer see the words on the page. I blinked again. And when had I eaten those cookies?

written by Candace Fleming  illustrated by Eric Rohmann  Atheneum, 2015

This was the first time I experienced the transporting power of a good book. I’d traveled to New York City without ever leaving Indiana. Amazing! It made me hunger for more of these “travels.” I quickly became an adventurer through books, visiting places I could never travel to on my bike, or in my parent’s Chevy. And whenever possible I bring along some cookies.

Describe your favorite pair of pajamas you’ve ever had.

My favorite pair of pajamas? That’s easy. It’s the pair I’m wearing right now, the ones made of blue flannel and patterned with black Scotty dogs sporting red hair bows. I like them because they’re big and roomy have been worn to threadbare silkiness and because the right sleeve is stained with blue ink from the Bic pen I use to write all my first drafts. They’re working jammies, the best kind.

bk_FamilyRomanovWhat is your proudest career moment?

The first time I saw my book at the public library. That was my proudest career moment.  After all, I’ve long known that libraries are sacred spaces, the repositories of all good things in life (picture books, story hour, librarians). So when I found my book on the shelf, I was overwhelmed. Me! Included in this place! I looked on in wonder. I couldn’t get over it. I still can’t. Want to know a secret? I continue to look myself up whenever I find myself in a library I haven’t visited before. I still get that electric thrill. I still look on in wonder.

What television show can’t you turn off?

ph_claire-underwoodI simply can’t turn off House of Cards. I binge-watch every new season, spending hours on the sofa, popcorn and cat in lap. Oh, that Clare Underwood is a manipulative piece of work. Looove her! I’m drooling for the next season.

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Ice dancing.  Does that seem like a typical female response? Who cares! As a person who has two left feet, I adore the notion of gliding gracefully across the ice in the arms of my partner, while performing twizzles and dance spins. I also think the costumes are pretty spiffy. Sigh. A girl can dream. 

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Skinny Dip with Catherine Urdahl

bk_emma_cv_485What’s your proudest career moment?

I had just started doing author visits and was at a small school that serves a high-risk population of students from preschool through eighth grade. I started with the little ones, and it went well. I had this. Then a group of TALL sixth through eighth graders sauntered in. They slumped in their seats and looked away.

My picture book Emma’s Question (my only published book at that time) is officially for ages 4 to 7, but someone had told me it didn’t matter because everyone liked to hear stories. I wished that someone was there. I introduced myself and started reading—though it did not seem like a good idea. When I was a few pages in, I glanced up. The body language had changed. Students sat taller. They looked up. When I was finished I read from The Great Gilly Hopkins and The London Eye Mystery—books that, like Emma’s Question, deal with difficult topics. I talked about how the students could write about their own lives.

When I finished, one of the boys walked up and said in a quiet voice, “I want to be an author when I grow up.” I think that was my proudest moment—or at least my most grateful.

bk_polka-dot_newDescribe your favorite pair of pajamas ever.

When I was about six, my grandma made matching nightgowns for my two sisters, my cousin and myself. They had a white background with pink flowers. (At least I think they were pink; the photo of us, lined up by height, is black and white.) I do remember the feel of the fabric—thick cotton flannel—not the fake-fuzzy polyester of store-bought pajamas. Most of  all I remember the sense of belonging and security that comes from matching pajamas. Last year one of my sisters bought us matching pajamas. It still works.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? 

I began telling people I was trying to write books for children. When I was writing in secret, I could quit if it was too hard or just didn’t work out. But once people knew, I felt accountable. One day I found a to-do list written by my then 9-year-old daughter. One of the items was Encourage Mom to get a book published. This was years before my first book was published—at a time I was tempted to quit. But what could I do? I kept going. Telling someone you’re pursuing a long-shot dream isn’t the same kind of brave as skydiving or picking up a snake (which I did once and will never do again). But sometimes it feels just as scary.

bk_CowSiloWhat’s the first book you remember reading? 

I remember my grandpa reading a Little Golden Book—The Cow in the Silo by Patricia Goodell—to my sisters and me every time we visited. The book is long out of print, and probably never received any awards. But I loved it. Maybe that’s because my grandpa, a quiet farmer from northern Minnesota, took time from his fieldwork and chores to read it again and again and again. And maybe because, in the end, Mrs. O’Crady solves the problem of the stuck cow by covering her in Crisco and pushing her through the door. Brilliant. And probably the best use of Crisco ever.

What TV show can’t you turn off? 

I don’t know whether I should admit this, but it’s Gilmore Girls. I love the cast of quirky characters, each of them distinct and full of enough contradictions and imperfections to make them loveable and believable in a really weird way. I also enjoy the strange pop culture references and the speedy-quick dialogue. I once read that the scripts ran about 77-78 pages, compared to 50-55 pages for a typical show with the same running time. I think about picture book writers like myself struggling to write shorter and shorter manuscripts and wonder whether we could apply the Gilmore Girls trick (or something like it). Maybe tiny type?

 

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Skinny Dip with Anne Ursu

11_25UrsuWhat keeps you up at night?

My cats biting my feet.

Describe  your favorite pair of pajamas ever

A student got me sushi pajamas. What could be better?

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Figure Skating. However, this is very unlikely.

11_25MonsterWhat’s the first book you remember reading?

There’s a Monster at the End of this Book

What TV show can’t you turn off?

Power Rangers, much as I’d like to.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

Pet! Most of the time. There was a French teacher who hated me.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

I’m not sure about the first, but I remember doing Where the Red Fern Grows, and crying on the book report.

11_25ShadowThievesWhich of your books would make a good movie and who would be the star?

I think Shadow Thieves. I don’t know who could play Charlotte and Zee, but I would love Johnny Depp to play Philonecron.

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year-old self?

You actually get to be a writer. Also, you’ll have that stuffed bear for at least thirty more years.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Next to my son.

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Skinny Dip with Maurna Rome

What keeps you up at night?

My mad dash attempts to finish a video, write an article, apply for a grant, or get to the last page of a terrific book often keep me up at night. 

bk_ElDeafo_NewberyWhat is your proudest career moment?

My proudest career moment changes each year as I discover the unique talents of a new bunch of students. My most recent would be finishing a read-aloud of the Newbery novel, El Deafo. My “kids” were gathered around the promethean board as I shared each page of the graphic novel with our doc camera. The conversations about friendship, the 70s, smoking, hearing impairments, and fitting in were priceless.

Describe  your favorite pair of pajamas ever.

My favorite PJs are my Dr. Seuss footie pajamas that I bought about 7 years ago. They are perfect for school PJ parties that sometimes take place during “I Love to Read” month.

11-18Skinny_JohnCandyIn what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Does it have to be a “real” sport? If yes, then bobsledding (I loved the movie Cool Runnings with John Candy). If no, then reading aloud while keeping kids begging for more.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

The bravest thing I’ve ever done was to move to Japan for 6 months, after graduating from college, to teach English. It was a memorable experience that affirmed my life-long desire to travel and learn about other cultures.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

bk_Little-Golden-Book-Four-PuppiesThe Four Puppies, a Little Golden book, is the first book I remember reading. I found a tattered and well-loved copy of it on Ebay and snatched it up. I read it to my students every year, and explain why the author’s message is so important to me (in a nutshell: embrace change and make the most of your situation!).

What TV show can’t you turn off?

The Good Wife. Alicia is a complex character who has a few flaws yet strives to be a “good” person (I wish they could change the title!).

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Skinny Dip with Rick Chrustowski

praying mantisWhat animal are you most like?

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?”

bk_bee_dance_300pxI 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?

bk_batHmmm. 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.

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Skinny Dip with Steve Mudd

bk_tangledwebWhat’s your favorite holiday tradition?

A Christmas tree!

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

Sadly, pet.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

bk-ShaneThe first one I can remember that made an impression on me was an oral report on Shane (with which the teacher, one of my favorites, was not overly impressed).

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

When I have the time and resources, indeed.

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?

Quit worrying so much and enjoy life more.

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

Eleanor Cameron, for children’s authors. In addition, Ray Bradbury and Roger Zelazny. And Andre Norton.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

A rocking chair or a recliner in my living room.

 

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Skinny Dip with Emilie Buchwald

bk_FloramelWhat keeps you up at night? 

All that I didn’t accomplish during the day. All that I hope to accomplish the next day.

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

The marathon. The long distance performance inspires me.  I’ve driven a marathon course of 26.2 miles and can’t imagine being able to run it. However, the idea of a long distance journey of the intellectual or imaginative kind is very appealing to me.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? 

Since I’m a klutz, the bravest thing I’ve done is to learn to ski after the age of 40. I fell a number of times getting off the lift at our local ski hill before I successfully skied off.  It was worth it to stand at the top of a mountain and experience the panorama—and then to ski very slowly down.

 What is your proudest career moment?

The first time I dared to stand up, go to the lectern, and read my poems before an audience. Like learning to ski, the experience of sharing those poems was worth going through the trepidation.

What TV show can’t you turn off?   

The West Wing.

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Skinny Dip with Diana Star Helmer

What animal are you most like?

My answer to this question could unwind like an endless ball of yarn! But I shall try to be brief.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved cats. Looking back at my life, I can see how I am cat-like. I watch; I always have. When I first went to school, I was an “elective mute” for some time, just watching and figuring things out. (A cat may look at a king, you know.) Like certain cats I have known, I can do things that absolutely must be done, even things I’d rather not do. But I am happiest to simply be, with the sun and the rain and the grass and the trees, and all the mysterious creatures.

bk_Dog'sBestFriendWhich book of yours was the most difficult to write?

My Kindle novel, A Dog’s Best Friend, is by far the most difficult writing I’ve undertaken to date. There are a few reasons:

First, the story’s hero is a dog, and I have lived only with cats. Yet, I felt this character needed to be a dog: dogs seem, to me, to be Everyman.

Secondly, A Dog’s Best Friend is my first long work. I had been writing for newspapers and magazines for many years when I began the novel. I’d become quite sure of my ability to tell an entire story in 600-800 words. I thought such skills would translate easily to novel-writing.

Ha!

Which of your books would make a good movie and who would be the star?

bk_threescroogesI cross my fingers and hope that all of my stories would make good movies, because good storytelling is cinematic: visual and concise.

Because most of my novels are about non-human animals, this means animation would be marvelous, and I love animation! The voices could then be any fantastic performers—no famous names required.

A Dog’s Best Friend would be nice as a film because it’s a buddy/road trip, a classic film situation.

Elsie’s Afghan would be amazing because of the magical transformation required.

The Three Scrooges would be a great candidate because half of its inspiration—the Stooges, of course—began as film characters!

What’s your favorite line from a book?

Good heavens, that’s like asking what is my favorite shell on the beach!

I’ll try to narrow it down:

Favorite line from another writer: 

Thoreau:

“My life is the poem I would have writ / but I could not both live and utter it.”

My favorite line from the book I’m working on:

“Oh, do not seek wisdom, my dear. If you find it, you’ll never be fit for mixed company.”  

What book do you tell everyone to read?

I seldom recommend books. It seems so personal! But I have mentioned to a few people The Book, by Alan Watts. I have gone back to it many times over the years.

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Skinny Dip with Amy Baum

gr_sleepy-hollow-moonWhat keeps you up at night?

The Disney version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I had to sleep in my sister’s room for 6 months after that terrifying cartoon.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik. I loved Little Bear and his very functional family. Also, I thought it was simply magical that all of the letters spelled out a story. I am still a fan of large type (though that could be my age).

Disclaimer: There was one story that caused many sleepless nights: “Goblin Story” in Little Bear’s Visit. I highly recommend reading this story during a clear, bright day. A big shout out to Kim Faurot at the Saint Paul Public Library Children’s Room.

What’s Your favorite holiday tradition?

Giving Presents for all occasions – I am most certain that there is a holiday packed into every week of the year.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

Oy, such a challenge. I have dyslexia, but that wasn’t a “thing” back in the sixties – hence I was trundled off to speech therapy. It was great fun. We did a lot of puppet shows with Steiff puppets – and while they were very itchy I was a proud porcupine.

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

gr_aaxmanwithlogoYes, shopping, presents and holidays all go hand-in-hand. I have a closet full of cool gift wrap which I buy all year round. I must admit to using gift bags on unwieldy items. Though one can get some swell boxes at The Ax-Man surplus store. It also delights me to watch the painstaking measures some recipients will go to in an effort to preserve the wrapping paper. You people know who you are.

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

Such an unfair question. I would require the capacity of the Algonquin Round Table and I would try to accommodate SOME list of some of my heroes:

  1. Maurice Sendak
  2. Ursula Nordstrom, aside from being a fabulous editor she wrote one of my favorite books of second grade, The Secret Language.
  3. Edward Gorey
  4. ph_wedgewoodMargaret Wise Brown
  5. A.A. Milne
  6. E.L. Konigsburg
  7. Eric Carle
  8. Nancy Ekholm Burkert
  9. Walter Dean Myers
  10. Beatrix Potter – I eat off her Peter Rabbit Wedgewood every day
  11. E.B. White
  12. Tomi Ungerer
  13. Charlotte Zolotow
  14. Dr. Seuss
  15. M.E. Kerr

I am quite certain that I am leaving several important guests out. By the way – I would not cook out of deference of my guests – catering all the way! I do not use my stove – I occasionally dust it.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”– Charlotte’s Web

What book do you tell everyone to read?

The Phantom Tollbooth, Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, The Nutshell Library, The Moon Man, A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver. It depends on who my audience is and what their needs are at the time.

Are you a night owl or an early bird?

Both – nighttime is for reading and hanging with my faithful dog. Morning is for “catching up.”

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Skinny Dip with Nancy Bo Flood

ph_popcornWhat keeps you up at night?

Popcorn in the brain. Ideas are popping and images are streaming through my brain. I know that if I don’t get up (ugh, really, 3 am?) and write them down, I won’t have a clue in the morning what they were. All those brilliant ideas, gone! I like to read a chapter from my current work just before I go to bed. The thoughts stir up new ideas, sometimes even solutions to problems. Of course sometimes I look at what I’ve written in the middle of the night and there are no treasures, just stale popcorn. Sometimes there are some real jewels, like finding the magic ring in a box of Cracker Jacks.

What is your proudest career moment?

Cowboy Up!Two very happy moments—from this past year. I was asked to read from Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo at the Poetry Roundup session of the Texas Library Conference. Me, a poet? Watching kids race horses around barrels, throw a lasso from on top a galloping horse to snag a dodging calf’s back hoof—now that’s poetry. My favorite is watching the “mutton busting” three– and four–year-olds ride a bucking sheep. That was the inspiration for my favorite poem. When I shared this poem with about 200 librarians at their Texas conference, they all kindly stood up and pretended to ride along. Librarians are heroic. They got right on that imaginary sheep, held one hand up high, and grabbed tight onto a fistful of wool.

My happiest career moments happen when I’m with students, especially the responses I’ve received from Navajo school children. During author visits they give me a big smile and say, “You wrote Navajo Year? That is my favorite book.” The very best moment of all occurred while reading from Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo to a classroom of second-graders at Many Farms Elementary. This little guy wearing a too-big tee shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots, looked at me, grinned, and raised his hand. Then he said, “I am in your book.”

Less than 1% of the books published for children are by or about contemporary American Indians. Childhood is short; children grow up fast. All children need to see themselves in books, now.

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Equestrian! I have imagined competing on the combined equestrian event which includes dressage, cross-country, and jumping. As a child I wished for, begged for, even plotted for getting a horse of my own. No luck. But as soon as I was grown up and living in the country with room for a horse, I bought a horse, a strong beautiful, calm golden palomino, Natchee. My next dream was to be become a “real rider,” which meant not being scared of the horse. I wanted to be able to walk out into a pasture through wild waving grass, catch my horse with just a rope halter, slip on a bridle, and ride. Fast. Leap over ditches and splash through creeks. And I did. Once I even jumped over a picnic table! Natchee and I were riding in the Olympics.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

bk_BoFloodWarriorsSwim with sharks. As part of my research for Warriors in the Crossfire, I needed to paddle my kayak over the reef, leave the safe calm lagoon behind, and head to the open ocean. I loved snorkeling in the lagoon. I could see bottom—white sand 30 or 40 feet below with fish of all colors nibbling on coral heads. But in the open ocean, when I looked down, there was blue that continued until it became black. That alone sent shivers up my back. But my main character in Warriors jumps out of his outrigger to save the life of his friend. They had been hunting turtle in the open ocean and, meanwhile, a shark had begun hunting them.

So I paddled out. I put on mask and snorkel and slipped overboard. The rise and fall of the waves made me a bit nauseated. I was so scared my heart was pounding, and I was still holding on to the side of the kayak. I needed to let go and drift around a bit. Every shadow and shift of light under the sea’s surface looked like the silhouette of some kind of hungry sea creature. I kicked away from the kayak and then I saw them. Beneath me. The sleek backs of three reef sharks! I watched them circle around and then one shark slowly come directly at me. There was no time to haul myself back into the kayak. If I could have walked on water, I ph_Grey_reef_shark2would have. The shark was so close I couldn’t think, I automatically did what I’d been taught in those boring diving lessons. I fisted my hand and punched him in the nose. He turned and disappeared. Would he return? With my arms pummeling like a crazed wind mill, I swam to the kayak, without breathing, without caring how much I was splashing. I pulled myself up over the side expecting to feel teeth chomp through my legs. Finally all of me was in the kayak. My whole body was shaking but I paddled back over the reef and straight to shore. I lay on the warm wet sand, closed my eyes, felt the safe, hot sun.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

Bugs and Insects, the World Book Encyclopedia, and comic books.  I grew up in a rural farm area of Illinois. We did not have a library or a bookstore. My parents valued education and the first step was learning to read. My older brother could read and I was determined to read, too. But there wasn’t much available. My parents bought a set of World Book and Childcraft Encyclopedias. My dad was a basketball coach and the team earned extra money to pay for “away” tournaments by collecting newspapers for recycling. Dad drove a pick-up truck and my brother and I got to help load tied-up stacks of newspapers into the back of the truck. Our payment was when we unloaded the stacks, we could search through the piles of newspapers for discarded comic books.

I read one book of the encyclopedia at a time, alternating with Bugs and Insects, and comic books. For many years that was my summer reading!

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Skinny Dip with Melanie Heuiser Hill

9_30RamonaWhat’s the first book you remember reading?

Ramona the Pest. My elementary school was visited by RIF (Reading is Fundamental) twice a year—the best days of the year. You had to be in second grade to peruse the tables of novels that were set up in the entry-way to our school. It was enormously exciting—so many to choose from! I picked that slim Ramona volume from all the other books piled high on the table and I read it “hidden” in my lap during math class that afternoon. I can’t imagine I fooled my teacher, Mrs. Perkins, but she had commended me on my choice earlier, so perhaps she didn’t mind…even at the expense of math.

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?

That someday I would actually love being tall. I was 5’10” at the age of ten and it was rough. I’m six feet tall now and really enjoy being tall—but it took a long time to get here. I suppose my 10-year old self would have just rolled her eyes—what an adultish thing to say to a kid! But it’s true and I wish I could’ve believed it then.

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?  

Only three?! Well, I’d have to have a series of dinners, I guess. Here are two in that series: If I could invite three who are no longer living, I’d invite L.M. Montgomery, Arthur Ransome, and E. L. Konigsburg. If I had to limit myself to the living (reasonable, I suppose) I’d invite Virginia Euwer Wolff, Kevin Henkes, and Deborah Wiles. Now to plan my additional dinners….

Where’s your favorite place to read?

This week it’s my new bright red Adirondack chair in the garden. SO comfortable, big wide arms for a glass of iced tea and a pile of books, and beauty all around. It is bliss.

9_30SwallowsWhat book do you tell everyone to read?

For the last ten years I tell everyone about Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series—mostly because American readers have almost never read it and it has been A Formative Series for my kids. It’s a series of tremendous adventures with quotidian details—somehow a magic combination. Several of the books feature the Walker kids—four dear siblings who are afforded a tremendous amount of freedom on their summer holidays and know just how to use it. In other books in the series there are frightful pirates and ne’er-do-wells. We have read them almost exclusively on vacations—a big novel each trip, me growing hoarse reading by lantern in the tent, on picnic blankets, and in hotel rooms. The audiobooks done by Gabriel Woolf are tremendous and hours and hours of time in the car have been filled with these books.

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Skinny Dip with Candice Ransom

9_23SkinnyRebelDo you like to gift wrap presents?

Yes! I’ll buy the gift wrap before I buy the present! Years ago when I was a teenager, Hallmark started carrying their products in Dart Drug. I lathered over the Hallmark section, spending my allowance on Peanuts cards and gift tags and wrapping paper, yarn and fancy bows. My sister once said that I always spent more on the wrapping than the actual gift.

Even now I buy beautiful paper in museum gift shops. In April I took a trip to New York. I bought so many paper goods I had to buy an extra suitcase. My favorites? Sheets of Cavallini gift wrap from the American Museum of Natural History. I carried the rolled tube on the train like the Holy Grail.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

I don’t remember the very first book report, but I do remember writing a wonderful book review of The Yearling for eighth grade English. And then, the teacher lowered the boom. Instead of turning them in, we had to give them orally. I froze. At that time, I was so shy I couldn’t even answer the phone. Only a certain number of students read each day. Each day I waited in terror for my name to be called. On the fourth day, it was. I could not—simply could not—get up in front of the class. So I lied and told my teacher I hadn’t done my report, even though it was in my notebook, beautifully written, and I took a zero.

What book do you tell everyone to read? 

9_23DiamondWhen I was eleven, the most wonderful book ever fell into my hands, A Diamond in the Window, by Jane Langton. Even now, I chase everyone down and beg them to read this fantasy-mystery-historical-family story liberally sprinkled with Thoreau, Emerson, and Louisa May Alcott. It changed my life. I had to be married on Valentine’s Day because of a chapter in the book (try explaining that to your husband-to-be during the Blizzard of ’79—three feet of snow on the ground, but we made it).

Ten years ago I met Jane Langton and told her how much her book meant to me. I was so eager, so, I don’t know, hero-worshipful that I was not ready when she said in her kind voice, “Oh, every year people tell me the exact same thing.” The breath left my body. No! Her book only changed my life!

Well, I still tell everyone to read it, if they can get hold of a copy. It might change their life, but not the way it changed mine.

Describe your most favorite pair of pajamas ever. 

I was five and we had just moved into a house in the country (read: sticks). I had my own bedroom for the first time, and my own bed (until then, I lived in someone else’s house and slept in a crib—that’s why I’m so short). My mother bought—or made, she sewed all of our clothes—a pair of Donald Duck pajamas. The print was turquoise and yellow. I loved those pajamas beyond all reason. When I finally outgrew them, my mother tucked them in her bottom dresser drawer with her sewing supplies.

When I was in my twenties and on my own, my mother made me a twin-size quilt. Not a fancy quilted quilt, just a nine-patch tied off. She’d used fabric from some of clothes she’d made me. There in the center is a piece of the Donald Duck pajamas. I still have the quilt. I love it beyond all reason.

What do you wish you could tell your ten-year-old self? 

9_23FitnessOh, my. She was such a brave, funny girl. Shy and yet adventurous. Smart but she failed math and the President’s Physical Fitness tests (she was proud of walking the 600, earning the slowest time in the history of field day—over 13 minutes). She wanted so many things, that girl. She wanted to be a writer and a detective and maybe a vet and, secretly, a ballerina even though she was stiffer than barn wood and had never had a dance class in her life. She also wanted to be an artist and she believed she could do all of those things!

Part of me wants to warn her of what’s coming, but a bigger part of me wants her to stay in the dark, let her be herself as long as possible. I wouldn’t tell her that she won’t be able to do all the things she wanted: the sight of blood makes her faint, she can’t stay up long enough to be a detective (all those night stake-outs), and, saddest of all, that she won’t be able to go to art school. Or any school, really, until she’s 50. No, I won’t tell her that.

I think I would tell her to remember better where she lived, every little bit of it. The trees, the garden, the strawberry patch in June, the martin house she asked her stepfather to build but stayed empty, the blue candle lights in the picture window at Christmas, the canning-jar smell of the basement, the rumbly sound of Half-Pint purring, the taste of fried squash washed down with sweet iced tea on a hot July evening, the feel of the brush as Mama worked the tangles from my hair.

Yes, that’s what I’d tell her. Remember better, girl, because your sixty-three-year old self will have trouble. And she needs the gifts of those memories to get through the day. They don’t even have to be wrapped in fancy paper.

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Skinny Dip with Vicki Palmquist

Rice Lake Carnegie Library

Rice Lake Carnegie Library

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year-old self?

A good many things, but most emphatically I would tell myself to not listen to the comments about being too smart or showing off by using big words or being too curious. I have always enjoyed learning about new things and sharing what I’ve learned. I love discussing ideas and unknown-to-me corners of the world and people who have accomplished great things and shown great imagination. In hindsight, my 10-year-old self would have found more joy in school and in life without accepting those limitations. “To thine own self be true” is something I’ve learned to live by, but it’s taken many years.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Start my own business in partnership with my husband. There’s the working-with-your-husband aspect twenty-four/seven, which I’m happy to say has been rewarding and enlivening. Being in business (which was always anathema to me when I was in my teens and twenties—I may have coined the term “suits”) has been a process of continually reinventing ourselves, keeping ahead of the changes in a rapidly globalizing world, and learning every single day. Most of all, it’s been the kind of challenge I’ve needed for the past 27 years.

From what public library did you get your first card?

The Rice Lake Public Library in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. I was ten. I could ride my bike there during the summers when I visited my grandparents. They gave me a wicker bike basket for my birthday in June. I rode to the library every other day and filled up that basket with new treasures. It was a Carnegie library, upon a hill, with the adult collection upstairs and the children’s collection downstairs. We weren’t allowed to go upstairs. Who knows what trouble we might have gotten into!

Did your elementary school have a librarian?

I adored my elementary school librarian at Ethel Baston in Saint Louis Park, Minnesota. I don’t think I ever knew her name. Is that possible? She always had a new book to recommend when I ran out of steam. I remember reading the Boxcar Children books, racing through the mysteries, and the Landmark History books. When I’d finished all of them, she had wonderful new suggestions. In sixth grade, our librarian and my teacher, Mr. Gordon Rausch, cooked up a scavenger hunt in the library, asking us all kinds of questions that could only be found in specific books in that library. It was one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever participated in. Then and there, I decided that I would become a librarian, too. I’m not but I do have a minor in library science.

What’s on your nightstand?

My Kindle. A clock radio that plays internet stations. It’s on all night, playing jazz or classical music. A beautiful coral rose that a friend brought me today.  Samurai Rising, a new book by Pamela S. Turner and Gareth Hinds. The Most Important Thing by Avi. Grayling’s Song by Karen Cushman. I’m a very lucky woman—I have to read for my job!

 

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Skinny Dip with Augusta Scattergood

What is your proudest career moment?

bk_Destiny_5x8_300My proudest career moment? Being invited to the American Library Association’s mid-winter conference to introduce my new book. As a career librarian turned middle-grade novelist, it doesn’t get much better than that.

I was also honored to have my first novel, Glory Be, which takes place during Freedom Summer, chosen by several groups highlighting the fiftieth anniversary of that event. Como, Mississippi and Oxford, Ohio were both important to the Civil Rights movement, and both places invited me to their commemorative events.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

A green, oversized Better Homes and Gardens Storybook collection. Classic children’s books, poetry, a few original stories. I can still quote almost the entire poem that begins “The Goops they lick their fingers. The Goops they lick their knives…”

What TV show can’t you turn off?

bk_BetterHomesWay too many to confess to. Breaking Bad would be at the top of that list.

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

Kirby Larson, Barbara O’Connor, and Susan Hill Long. Because I’ve had a couple of dinners with them and the fun never ended.

Were you most likely to visit the school office to deliver attendance/get supplies, visit the nurse, or meet with the principal?

Deliver attendance and get supplies while chatting with the principal.

 

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Skinny Dip with Anita Silvey

bk_UntamedWhat keeps you up at night?

Usually one of my beautiful Bernese Mountain Dogs. My girl developed a love affair with the local raccoon and woke me every time he came near the premises.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Left a nine to five job with benefits to become a full-time writer.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

 Seuss’s Horton Hatches the Egg

What TV show can’t you turn off?

Newsroom or Nashville

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

I’m dangerous with scissors and tape, so as few as I can.

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?

Relax and enjoy the journey; it is going to be okay.

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Skinny Dip with Avi

bk_OldWolfWhat keeps you up at night?

Meeting deadlines.

What is your proudest career moment?

When, after fourteen years of trying to write, I published my first book, Things that Sometimes Happen (1970).

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

I don’t know if the game of Squash is part of the Olympics, but if so, that would be it.

bk_ThingsWhat’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Becoming a step-parent.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

Otto the Giant Dog.

What TV show can’t you turn off?

I don’t turn any show on.

 

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