What keeps you up at night?
At various times: Panera’s iced green tea; the sound of my 18-year-old daughter raiding the fridge; playing Sudoku on my phone; and, as with everyone, a head full of this-and-that.
What is your proudest career moment?
I’m going to reach way back for this one, more than 20 years ago. I had just published my first book with Creative Education/Creative Editions. It was a biography of Edgar Allan Poe, illustrated with beautiful and haunting photographs by Tina Mucci. One day I was working at home and I received a fax from the marketing director at Creative. I watched the fax come through, bit by bit, and was elated to find that Poe had received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. The first line said, “Calling upon her significant storytelling skill, Loewen adds large measures of drama and pathos to her interpretative biography of Edgar Allan Poe.”
I had never really thought of myself as a storyteller before. To me, storytellers were those people who could spin a good yarn off the top of their heads, who could effortlessly keep young children—and anyone else—entertained. My mind doesn’t work that way. I’m more of an archeologist: digging cautiously, then slowly piecing artifacts together. But that starred review made me realize that just as there are countless stories to be told, there are also countless ways to bring them into the world.
Describe your favorite pair of pajamas ever.
Nick and Nora light blue flannel pajamas covered in sock monkeys. At one point my whole family had matching pajamas—me, my two kids, my then-husband, even my brother and sister-in-law. Made for some great family pictures!
In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?
Probably gymnastics. (Everything but the balance beam—that just does not look like fun.) I was barely able to master a cartwheel as a kid, so this is strictly in the fantasy realm. I don’t see how it’s even humanly possible to do all those flips and spins and rolls and twists. But what a joy it must be, to be airborne of your own will!
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Sometimes our bravest actions are also private ones. I’ve done a number of brave things in recent years, but what I want to tell you about is something brave—and very public—that I did way back as a sophomore in high school. It was 1980 and I was on the Mt. Lake (MN) speech team in the category of Original Oratory. I chose a difficult topic that was just starting to edge onto the public radar: incest. I had only three solid sources, but I made the most of the information I had. I sometimes look back in wonder at that 15-year-old small-town girl who knew that just because a subject was uncomfortable didn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it.
At that time, my brother was attending college in Kansas. The night before Regions, he was in a serious car accident. My parents left for Kansas immediately, but I stayed with my grandparents and went through with the competition. All I knew was that my brother had head injuries and wasn’t conscious. I walked around in a daze, but somehow, when I was standing in front of the judges, I was able to focus. I took first place, and later took first place at state as well. My brother eventually made a full recovery. But what a challenging spring that was, for all four of us.
I’ve also wrested candy bars and slimy plastic bags right out of the mouth of my very bad beagle, Dorie. And I once pulled a tick off my son’s leg, barehanded!
What’s the first book you remember reading?
I’m pretty sure it was Peppermint by Dorothy Grider, illustrated by Raymond Burns. It’s a great story about a white kitten who lives in a candy store. His brothers and sisters find homes, but no one wants scrawny little Peppermint. Then Peppermint finally does get adopted and his new owner pampers him and wants to enter him in the Best Pet contest at school. Peppermint accidentally dyes himself blue—but still wins the contest. Love that book!
What TV show can’t you turn off?
One of the perks of working at home much of the time is that I get to watch TV while I eat lunch. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is what I watch most often, now that The Colbert Report is off the air. Recently I binge-watched the second season of Orange is the New Black. I was hooked on Breaking Bad and the British Sherlock. But if I am to be completely honest, there are times when I give in to the temptation of the TLC lineup: Say Yes to the Dress, What Not to Wear, or 19 Kids and Counting. I draw the line at My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, though.