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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 né’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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Skinny Dip with Lynne Jonell

bk_SignCatFavorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

One of my favorite things ever is when we sit around the table at Thanks­giv­ing and take turns telling what we are par­tic­u­lar­ly thank­ful for, that year. I get a lit­tle choked up, espe­cial­ly when I lis­ten to my sons.

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

I was a teacher’s pet up through sixth grade, and then teacher’s night­mare there­after. (My ninth grade Eng­lish teacher hat­ed me so much, she slot­ted me into the slow class for tenth grade Eng­lish. I couldn’t fig­ure out why I was in a class with a high pro­por­tion of good-look­ing jocks, but I wasn’t com­plain­ing! My moth­er dis­cov­ered what had hap­pened in my senior year, but by then it was too late.)

Upon reflec­tion, I think I was prob­a­bly a fair­ly chal­leng­ing teacher’s pet, as well.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

bk_WitchFamilyI can’t be absolute­ly cer­tain, but I think it was The Witch Fam­i­ly by Eleanor Estes. Besides the fab­u­lous mix of real­i­ty and fan­ta­sy, which I have always loved, the great thing about that book was that I dis­cov­ered it when it was my turn to choose library books for our small in-class­room library. All the oth­er third grade girls loved my choice, and begged to read it after me; and for a week, I was pop­u­lar!

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

Yes, and I thought I was pret­ty good at it until we had an all-fam­i­ly Olympics one sum­mer. One of the events was gift-wrapping—blindfolded—and my team put me head-to-head with my old­er sis­ter, Kathy. Not to put too fine a point on it, she mopped the floor with me.

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

In the immor­tal words of Bob Mar­ley, “Don’t wor­ry ‘bout a thing, ‘cause every lit­tle thing gonna be all right.”

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

gr_authorsLouisa May Alcott: She cap­ti­vat­ed me on a fam­i­ly vaca­tion with Lit­tle Women. I had already read through the stack of books I’d brought for the car trip, and my moth­er bought that book for me instead of the com­ic book I want­ed. Though I com­plained at first, I read the first page—and I was hooked for­ev­er.

C.S. Lewis: He pulled me into his mag­i­cal world of Nar­nia, with its great themes of good and evil and chil­dren whose choic­es had pow­er­ful reper­cus­sions, and I only wished he had writ­ten a hun­dred sto­ries for me to devour, instead of just sev­en.

Madeleine L’Engle: I still remem­ber exact­ly where I was when I read A Wrin­kle in Time in sixth grade, and how I reread the final chap­ter because I couldn’t bear for it to be over. When I closed the book at last, I knew that what I want­ed to do most of all was to write sto­ries like that, for kids like me.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

It depends on the sea­son!

Win­ter: curled up in bed with my elec­tric blan­ket on high. Sum­mer: on the back patio, in the wood­en swing, with cush­ions and a tall glass of some­thing cool. And in spring or fall, on a com­fort­able sag­ging cor­ner of my favorite couch, next to my grandfather’s old glass-front­ed book­case (which hous­es my favorite children’s books.)

 

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Skinny Dip with Terri Evans

bk_EleanorParkWhat keeps you up at night?

Just about every­thing – I am a wor­ri­er and haven’t had eight straight hours of sleep in almost two years.

What is your proud­est career moment?

There are two, both of which occurred in the past cou­ple of years. The first began two years ago (as did my inabil­i­ty to sleep well) when the par­ents of a child involved in a sum­mer read­ing pro­gram, on which my Library Media Spe­cial­ists col­leagues and I were col­lab­o­rat­ing, chal­lenged the book we had cho­sen on the grounds that it con­tained graph­ic lan­guage and sex. The Par­ents Action League (one of eight groups in Min­neso­ta that the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter has deemed a hate group) got behind the chal­lenge and made sev­er­al demands—that the book be removed from all schools in the dis­trict, that the author not be allowed to vis­it our schools, and that the Library Media Spe­cial­ists who chose the book be dis­ci­plined. The sto­ry went nation­al. One of my proud­est moments was when I spoke in front of our school board, along with two of my col­leagues, in order to defend the book (the award-win­ning Eleanor and Park by Rain­bow Row­ell). I am pas­sion­ate about the free­dom to read and the free­dom of information—and pro­vid­ing my stu­dents with books in which they see them­selves reflect­ed, even if their lives aren’t pret­ty. This free­dom also allows these stu­dents to look into the lives of oth­ers and devel­op empa­thy. Hav­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to express this pas­sion, and even­tu­al­ly win­ning this bat­tle (the com­mit­tee charged with decid­ing the fate of the book vot­ed unan­i­mous­ly to keep the book on the shelves in our schools), changed me for­ev­er. The fol­low­ing fall I was award­ed the Lars Steltzn­er Intel­lec­tu­al Free­dom Award. In addi­tion, that year I was named a final­ist for Min­neso­ta Teacher of the Year. One of the most chal­leng­ing times in my life was also one of the most reward­ing.

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

Gym­nas­tics or fig­ure skat­ing. In fifth grade my teacher told me I was clum­sy. It would be a great “so there” moment!

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

bk_Little-Women-book-cover-2As a child, my par­ents could not afford to buy me or my four sib­lings books, nor did we ever go to the library. I was not a read­er. The sum­mer between fourth and fifth grade, my fam­i­ly and I moved back to Min­neso­ta from Michi­gan.  As a going-away gift, my friends gave me a copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Lit­tle Women. It was the first book that I ever owned and the first book I remem­ber read­ing cov­er to cov­er. That was the begin­ning of my jour­ney to becom­ing a read­er. I trea­sure that mem­o­ry and that book (which I keep in a safe spot and look at fre­quent­ly).

What TV show can’t you turn off?

So You Think You Can Dance – real­i­ty com­pe­ti­tion shows, espe­cial­ly those that involve some­thing artis­tic, are my guilty plea­sure (Sur­vivor, Danc­ing with the Stars, Amer­i­can Idol, America’s Next Top Mod­el, Project Run­way – I LOVE them all!)

 

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Skinny Dip with Mary Casanova

Grace coverWhat keeps you up at night?

I have two kinds of sleep­ers in me: 1) the one who sleeps sound­ly from the moment my head hits the pil­low until morn­ing and 2) the rest­less non-sleep­er (usu­al­ly hor­mone induced) who keeps an ear open for the cat, Apol­lo, meow­ing at the door; who hears one of our three dogs—Kito, Sam, or Mattie—every time they get up to lap at the water bowl, which I imag­ine must be get­ting low and so I climb from under my cov­ers to go check; the sleep­er whose mind starts whip­ping through a “rolodex of wor­ries” or pos­si­ble sto­ry ideas (I have a one-word mantra I use to stop the whirring and it’s SLEEP); and the sleep­er with rest­less legs syn­drome, which feels exact­ly like worms crawl­ing in my legs until I move them around, or as I’ve dis­cov­ered, get up and do ten min­utes of stretch­ing. Sleep­er #2 needs three cups of strong cof­fee to get going in the morn­ing.

What is your proud­est career moment?

One Dog coverOh, there have been many mov­ing, hum­bling, amaz­ing expe­ri­ences with fans. But just recent­ly, at an ele­men­tary school in Duluth, Min­neso­ta I had anoth­er. I’d picked kids to come up and help act out One-Dog Canoe in front of the audi­ence with a lam­i­nat­ed red paper canoe and pup­pets. As we neared the end of the skit, one boy who hadn’t been select­ed, bar­reled up unex­pect­ed­ly, seized the micro­phone from my hand, and shout­ed into it “Can I come, too?!!!” I was sur­prised, but before I knew it he ran off as an adult made a dash for him. Turned out, he was a boy with autism who rarely tuned in to what was going on around him. But from the back of the audi­to­ri­um, he’d become ful­ly engaged in the sto­ry and skit and want­ed to be part of it. As the teacher said, “You con­nect­ed with him and he was right there with you!”

Describe your most favorite pair of paja­mas ever.

Two years ago I ordered paja­mas for myself for Christ­mas from Bed­Head. Pricey. More than the cheap pj’s I had always set­tled for. The red, gray, and light blue pais­ley pat­tern has fad­ed (they were pret­ty wild at first), but from the start, they’ve been soft and com­fy and wel­com­ing. Paja­mas should say “Ahhh.” These do.

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

Because I love hors­es (we own three: Sable, Gin­ger, and Mid­night,) I’d def­i­nite­ly do an equine event. And if I knew I’d win gold and not break my neck, I’d go for three-day event­ing, which involves cross-coun­try jump­ing, dres­sage, and sta­di­um jump­ing. Short of that, I’ll have to set­tle for occa­sion­al 3-day horse-camp­ing trips, trail-rid­ing, and rid­ing at a friend’s indoor are­na, just a few miles down the road.

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

bk_Dick_JaneThe bravest thing? I wrote a first nov­el and fin­ished the draft. And sec­ond, once pub­lished, I braved my deep and pro­found fear of speak­ing. Only by speak­ing count­less times, over and over and over, did I grad­u­al­ly over­come the clenched stom­ach, vis­i­ble shak­ing, and sense of impend­ing death. I told myself, “Do this for your books. It won’t kill you, even if it feels like it will.” And now, to my utter amaze­ment, the fear is 99% gone and I enjoy shar­ing with audi­ences. I nev­er thought that would be pos­si­ble.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

I remem­ber Dick and Jane books in 1st grade and thought they were incred­i­bly dull and bor­ing sto­ries. If this was “read­ing,” I wasn’t impressed. It took Charlotte’s Web, per­haps in 3rd or 4th grade, to change my atti­tude toward books.

 

 

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Skinny Dip with Will Hobbs

Never Say Die coverWhat ani­mal are you most like?

Sea tur­tle.

Which book of yours was the most dif­fi­cult to write or illus­trate?

Bear­stone, my first book, had six drafts writ­ten over an 8-year peri­od. It even had sev­er­al dif­fer­ent titles, includ­ing Pride of the West. When I wrote the sixth draft I knew it was a quan­tum leap.

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

Crossing coverI’d love to see a movie of Cross­ing the Wire. The star would be an unknown Mex­i­can teenag­er. Are you lis­ten­ing, Hol­ly­wood?

What’s your favorite line from a book?

The last line of John­ny Raven’s let­ter in Far North: “Take care of the land, take care of your­self, take care of each oth­er.”

What book do you tell every­one to read?

The Wind in the Wil­lows. Mr. Toad is one of my all-time favorite lit­er­ary char­ac­ters.

 

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Skinny Dip with Debra Frasier

ph_orangesWhat is your favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion:

When I was four­teen years old I assumed the role of Christ­mas Ambrosia Mak­er in my south­ern-nov­el of a fam­i­ly. I was the youngest appointee, ever, and sur­pris­ing, as it requires weld­ing a very sharp ser­rat­ed knife, but I had a knack for it. We were a “fruit-rich” fam­i­ly due to a small, scrag­gly orange grove west of Vero Beach, FL. You need­ed to be fruit-rich because my fam­i­ly ambrosia method requires cut­ting deep into the naval skin to not only remove the white pith, but to also cut into the tiny juicy orange cells, leav­ing a lit­tle rib­bon of actu­al orange on the spi­ral skin. This is why our ambrosia is bet­ter than any oth­er you will taste. Ever. But. You need a lot of oranges for this method.

When I was six­teen, and had faith­ful­ly repeat­ed the recipe for two years, I removed the tra­di­tion­al canned pineap­ple. Scan­dal! There were arched eye­brows from my grand­moth­er. When I was sev­en­teen, I removed the coconut, and my moth­er raised her eye­brows. But once the knife had been passed, it turned out you can do what you want, my first taste of fam­i­ly matri­ar­chal pow­er. Now we have ambrosia just how I like it: plain, un-doc­tored naval oranges in a brim­ming bowl. And I now add fine­ly chopped mint. My daugh­ter will prob­a­bly remove it one day.

Long answer to a short ques­tion.

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

My teach­ers loved me because I was a per­fec­tion­ist amid a pack of wild Flori­da boys. In those days we received paper report cards where teach­ers could write, in gor­geous script, com­ments for each child. A reoc­cur­ring com­ment was: “Deb­bie is an excel­lent stu­dent how­ev­er she is very hard on her­self.”

Lit­tle did I know that this would be the report card for my life…

What was the first book report you ever wrote?

bk_YearlingI don’t remem­ber my first book report but I remem­ber Book Reports. I always drew the cov­er and an illus­tra­tion in a care­ful­ly mea­sured box. My favorite book was read aloud in the fourth grade by a long-term sub­sti­tute. It was a des­per­ate attempt to con­trol an unruly class—and it worked mirac­u­lous­ly well: The Year­ling, by Mar­jorie Ken­nan Rawl­ings, trumped 25 Flori­da ruf­fi­ans com­mit­ted to ruin­ing a substitute’s life. My report on the book was filled with pic­tures of fawns, curled in the Flori­da scrub, and bound­ing in the cab­in yard. This book changed my life for­ev­er, as hear­ing it kept the divorce–wracked world at bay, and I real­ized that sto­ries were the ulti­mate mag­ic, some kind of med­i­cine for the heart.

Do you like to gift-wrap presents?

When I was grow­ing up wrap­ping presents was con­sid­ered An Art. I was taught to care­ful­ly fold tucked in cor­ners, and to make sure the scotch tape was per­pen­dic­u­lar to the gift’s base line. My moth­er, some­how, got on the mail­ing list for the Neiman Mar­cus Christ­mas cat­a­log. She could nev­er have afford­ed to order any­thing but she stud­ied the wrap­ping meth­ods in the over-the-top sec­tion. I remem­ber one par­tic­u­lar wrap­ping that she showed me with such amaze­ment: Take ten cash­mere sweaters, each a dif­fer­ent bright col­or. Find a very tall glass con­tain­er, prefer­ably shaped like a foun­tain soda glass. Lay each sweater in the glass so as to appear to be a lay­er of ice cream. Add a bow to the base, and save a white sweater for the whipped-cream top.

So, yes, I grew up lov­ing to wrap presents, wrapped at a depart­ment store for a teen job, and now…am the worst present-wrap­per you ever met. Slop­py, I use recy­cled paper and bags, and nev­er match my cor­ners. What hap­pened?! But I STILL often think about my mother’s delight in the ice cream glass filled with cash­mere sweaters—

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

Laugh more. I was a seri­ous child, and had this thing for doing every­thing too, too per­fect­ly. The report cards were right: Light­en up, for heaven’s sake, Debra! But I could tell myself that TODAY, too!

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

OK, defy­ing The Rules of Time my guests would be: Mar­jorie Kin­nan Rawl­ings, after orange sea­son so she is relaxed and she can bring Max Perkins as her date, Ursu­la Nord­strom, after fin­ish­ing Car­rot Seed with Ruth Krauss so she is pleased as punch, and Ursu­la LeGuin, so things are always look­ing for­ward with her remark­able mind and its insis­tence on rec­og­niz­ing the fem­i­nine in us all.

Let’s make the din­ner in NYC, some­where street lev­el, with red leather booths but we take the round table in the win­dow, beneath the tied back drapes…Candles on the table, wine ordered.

bk_spike_228Where’s your favorite place to read?

My favorite place to read has more to do with time than place—I most like to read wher­ev­er I feel there is space, psy­chic space, I mean. I love to read, for exam­ple, when trav­el­ing, espe­cial­ly in the air if it is not bumpy. There is a lot of psy­chic space in an air­plane, unteth­ered to all those strings below. I also have a lit­tle sleep­ing loft in a North Car­oli­na cab­in that you get to by a rope sus­pend­ed ladder—perfect read­ing space, and once again, up high, always sum­mer, always unteth­ered. But if I wait­ed for an air­plane or sum­mer, I’d nev­er read, so I squeeze read­ing into a lot of odd spaces: before sleep, wait­ing in lines, over lunch, in my studio…In lat­er life I have devel­oped a severe addic­tion to nar­ra­tive so I have to ration myself or I will stay up all night try­ing to find out the age old question’s answer: What hap­pens NEXT? At night I have to read only cook­books because it does not mat­ter so much what hap­pens next and I can turn the light off at a sen­si­ble time and go to sleep. Seri­ous­ly. It’s a prob­lem.

 

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Skinny Dip with John Coy

7_15HoopWhat ani­mal are you most like?

I have a strong love for the Gray­wolf.

Which book of yours was the most dif­fi­cult to write or illus­trate?

All the ones that have not yet found a pub­lish­er.

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

Lots of stu­dents think Crack­back would. I’d be hap­py with any star.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

Go, Dog. Go!”

What book do you tell every­one to read?

The Wat­son go to Birmingham—1963

Are you a night owl or an ear­ly bird?

I used to be a night owl. Now I’m much more of an ear­ly bird.

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

I hard­ly ever vis­it­ed the school office for any of these rea­sons. Our ele­men­tary school was so small we didn’t even have a reg­u­lar nurse. We hard­ly ever saw the prin­ci­pal and we had no lunch at school. We all walked home every day for lunch. And the idea of being too cold to go out­side for recess hadn’t been invent­ed yet.

 

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Skinny Dip with Heather Vogel Frederick

7_8patienceWhat is your proud­est career moment?

I don’t think any­thing will ever beat get­ting that phone call over a dozen years ago from Simon & Schus­ter (edi­tor Kevin Lewis, to be exact) let­ting me know that they were going to pub­lish my first book, The Voy­age of Patience Good­speed. I hung up the phone after­wards and burst into tears. I’d worked so hard on that nov­el, for so many years! I was float­ing on air for weeks. In some ways, I still am.

Describe your favorite pair of paja­mas ever.

I was five, they were leop­ard print, and I thought I was the coolest thing ever. I loved those jam­mies to shreds. I had match­ing leop­ard print slip­pers, too—which met an untime­ly end when I acci­den­tal­ly stepped in the toi­let. But that’s anoth­er sto­ry.

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

Curl­ing. Just to see the looks on people’s faces when I told them.

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

Twen­ty-three years ago, my hus­band and I picked up and moved from the East Coast to Port­land, Ore­gon, sight unseen, no jobs. Friends and fam­i­ly thought we were nuts. We prob­a­bly were, but it was also a fab­u­lous adven­ture. We fell in love with Ore­gon the minute we drove across the bor­der. The Pacif­ic North­west is absolute­ly gor­geous, and it’s been a great place to raise our boys.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

7_8WestWindOn my own? This is a tough one, because my mem­o­ries of read­ing on my own are so tight­ly inter­laced with night­ly read-alouds with my father. I remem­ber him read­ing Thorn­ton Burgess’s Old Moth­er West Wind sto­ries to me, which were his favorites when he was grow­ing up, and I also remem­ber sound­ing the words out myself and read­ing them back to him. As a solo read, though, I think it was either Gene Zion’s Har­ry the Dirty Dog or Vir­ginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mul­li­gan and His Steam Shov­el (both of which I lat­er read to my boys, who also loved them—isn’t that one of the best things about books?).

What TV show can’t you turn off?

Believe it or not, The West Wing. Some­how we missed it the first time around when it aired over a decade ago, and now we’re stream­ing it on Net­flix and can’t pull our­selves away. It’s held up remark­ably well, and in many ways is still top­i­cal and time­ly. And the writ­ing! Don’t get me start­ed on the writ­ing. Sharp, fun­ny, smart, infor­ma­tive. I can’t get enough of it.

 

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Skinny Dip with Susan Cooper

7_1GhostHawkWhat ani­mal are you most like?

I’m a giraffe. A medi­um-sized giraffe, because I was tall when I was young, but now—to my fury—I’ve passed the age when you begin to shrink. A giraffe is shy, and doesn’t make much noise: that’s me, I think. The giraffe and I are both good at look­ing around and notic­ing things—though in my case I’m col­lect­ing mate­r­i­al for books, and in hers she’s look­ing out for the lion who wants to eat her. The giraffe is good at pol­li­nat­ing flow­ers and spread­ing seeds while she’s brows­ing on tree­tops, and I do those things while I’m gar­den­ing. And we both have spe­cial friends, though we don’t belong to a herd.

Oh yes, and we both have long eye­lash­es.

Which book of yours was the most dif­fi­cult to write?

It’s called Sil­ver on the Tree, and it drove me mad. It was the last in a sequence of five books called The Dark Is Ris­ing, so it had to tie togeth­er all the strands of sto­ry in the first four books, and rise to a ter­rif­ic cli­max in which good tri­umphs over evil. Writ­ing it took twice as long as any of the oth­er four. There are things in it that I love, though I nev­er did feel the cli­max was ter­rif­ic enough. But when I wrote the last page, I cried, because I’d lived with my fam­i­ly of char­ac­ters through five books and I was nev­er going to see them again.

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

One of my books has been a bad movie, with a sto­ry remark­ably unlike the one I wrote. But I’d love to see a book called King of Shad­ows made into a film, ide­al­ly by Wes Ander­son. It’s about a mod­ern boy actor who finds him­self back in Eliz­a­bethan Eng­land, act­ing oppo­site William Shake­speare in the Globe The­atre. So the star would be a boy actor whom nobody’s yet heard about. And Shake­speare would be played by.……got any ideas?

What book do you tell every­one to read?

The next one by Mar­cus Sedg­wick or William Alexan­der.

Are you a night owl or an ear­ly bird?

In my twen­ties I was a night owl, sit­ting up late writ­ing books after spend­ing the day as a news­pa­per reporter. In my thir­ties I had young chil­dren, so I was up both ear­ly and late. Grad­u­al­ly since then I’ve turned into an ear­ly bird—because today I live on an island in an estu­ary salt­marsh, where I open my eyes in the morn­ing to the sun­rise. Every day it’s dif­fer­ent, every day it’s beau­ti­ful. Can I show you one?

7_1CooperSunrise

 

 

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Skinny Dip with Jen Bryant

What ani­mal are you most like?

Prob­a­bly a cat. I’m very inde­pen­dent, I love to sit in a pud­dle of warm sun, I spend a lot of my free time watch­ing birds, and I’m very attached to my home. (I would have said a dog, but I’m not that obe­di­ent!) 

Which book of yours was the most dif­fi­cult to write or illus­trate?

book coverThere were sev­er­al rea­sons why my verse nov­el Ring­side 1925: Views from the Scopes Tri­al was the most dif­fi­cult to write. I want­ed to tell the sto­ry in many voic­es, so I had to exper­i­ment with how to keep the real/ his­tor­i­cal events mov­ing for­ward, while at the same time keep­ing track of the fic­tion­al char­ac­ters and how they were grow­ing and chang­ing and inter­act­ing with one anoth­er. I used a LOT of those bright­ly col­ored sticky notes! I also used my husband’s pool table to peri­od­i­cal­ly lay out the pages for each sec­tion so that I could phys­i­cal­ly see where and how each char­ac­ter was con­tribut­ing to the sto­ry. I also faced the chal­lenge of mak­ing a tri­al that was (quite unlike the Lind­bergh baby kid­nap­ping tri­al, which cen­tered on a bru­tal crime) very philo­soph­i­cal and full of “legalese” into an enter­tain­ing and more eas­i­ly under­stand­able nar­ra­tive. 

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

book coverI think sev­er­al of my nov­els would be good screen­play mate­r­i­al, but I think if Pieces of Geor­gia is ever made into a fea­ture film, I would want Robert Duvall to play Andrew Wyeth, Sab­ri­na Car­pen­ter (a south­east­ern PA native) to play Geor­gia, and Matthew McConaugh­ey to play Georgia’s father.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

There’s no place like home.” –from L. Frank Baum’s The Won­der­ful Wiz­ard of OZ.

What book do you tell every­one to read?

The Sto­ry of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wrob­lews­ki. It’s bril­liant. I was so relieved to read in the back mat­ter that it took him more than 10 years to write. It’s scaf­fold­ed on the Ham­let tale, but set in rur­al Wis­con­sin in the 1970’s. (It’s also a book that I only rec­om­mend to peo­ple who love dogs and who are empa­thet­ic.)  

Are you a night owl or an ear­ly bird?

Actu­al­ly, I’m nei­ther one. I’m very bor­ing in that regard—my best, most pro­duc­tive hours are gen­er­al­ly 9am to 5pm.

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

Hmmm…. That was a long time ago! I’d say prob­a­bly to deliv­er attendance/ get sup­plies. I was a reli­able kid, although I’ll bet I made sev­er­al unsched­uled stops on the way there and back. I’ve always been pret­ty dis­tractible!

 

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Skinny Dip with Virginia Euwer Wolff

book coverWhat’s your favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

I have so many favorites. One of them is the hang­ing of the Christ­mas stock­ings. My aunt made felt and appliqué stock­ings for my two tiny chil­dren in the 1960s. Thir­ty years lat­er, my daugh­ter made felt and appliqué stock­ings for her hus­band, their two chil­dren, and me. She designed the appliqué motifs to reflect each fam­i­ly mem­ber. For instance, my son-in-law’s has an abstract paint­ing in felt pieces; mine has a vio­lin, com­plete with frag­ile strings made of thread. We hang these old and new stock­ings on Christ­mas Eve. The youngest fam­i­ly mem­bers go to bed. The old­er gen­er­a­tion sneak to the man­tel, one by one, and put Santa’s gifts into the stock­ings. San­ta gives small sur­pris­es that will fit in the stock­ing, sou­venir post­cards, car­toons, lac­tose pills, always a can­dy cane, always a lump of coal. First thing on Christ­mas morn­ing we open our stock­ings, one by one with every­one watch­ing. Many laughs, many mem­o­ries of pre­vi­ous Christ­mas morn­ings, and Christ­mas spir­it in abun­dance.

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

gr_campfireAs a small child whose father had died when I was five, liv­ing in a rur­al com­mu­ni­ty where every­one knew my fam­i­ly, I was at first han­dled care­ful­ly and ten­der­ly by teach­ers. As a painful­ly shy per­son and the last child in my first grade class to learn to read, I must have need­ed some extra cod­dling. And it turned out that I was a good read­er (at long last) and a very good speller. Those went a long way up the rungs to teacher’s pet. That and pity for our wid­owed and orphaned fam­i­ly in wartime, as well as the pub­lic fact that our moth­er was now run­ning the orchard busi­ness and play­ing the organ for church and serv­ing in the PTA and super­vis­ing our Camp Fire Girls’ group and see­ing that we had music lessons and Sun­day School. (And we didn’t have elec­tric­i­ty yet.) Soon, though, That Thing hap­pened to me. That mys­ti­fy­ing Thing that some mid­dle school girls are sus­cep­ti­ble to. I became a prob­lem. Loud, irri­tat­ing, gos­sip­ing and whis­per­ing, near­ly blind to the beau­ties of sci­ence and math. And it turned out that I was actu­al­ly hav­ing to study in order to suc­ceed aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly. Oh, cru­el world, to have thrust such bur­dens upon me. These extremes, teacher’s pet and teacher’s irri­tant, have stood me in good stead as a watch­er, lis­ten­er, teacher, and sto­ry mak­er.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

We did some some oral ones in ear­ly grades, but I can’t remem­ber a writ­ten one till a ghast­ly hor­ri­ble inad­e­quate one I wrote in sev­enth grade (Jane Eyre), or maybe it was the ghast­ly hor­ri­ble inad­e­quate one I wrote in eighth grade (A Tale of Two Cities). Both still make me ashamed, which may be why I can’t remem­ber which was which, try­ing to dilute the guilt by drap­ing a cloud over the mem­o­ry.

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

I LOVE gift-wrap­ping presents. Like iron­ing, it’s a craft that can sat­is­fy in min­utes. Unlike writ­ing a book or learn­ing a sonata, which can take years (and the grat­i­fi­ca­tion with these lat­ter two is nev­er com­plete), gift-wrap­ping is its own reward. I iron papers and rib­bons from pre­vi­ous gifts, and in our fam­i­ly we often wrap in maps from Nation­al Geo­graph­ic.

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

Get a grip. Read more broad­ly, more deeply. Prac­tice the vio­lin much, much, much more method­i­cal­ly. Leave less and less to chance. In a cou­ple of years you’re going to find that math is get­ting hard­er and you’re going to have to have more tenac­i­ty than you’ve even dreamed of. Learn at least a cou­ple of new words each week. Yes, you will get breasts. Yes, you will even­tu­al­ly get your peri­od. No, your father is not going to come back to life. Be con­sid­er­ably more grate­ful to your moth­er, who’s work­ing hard­er than any oth­er five moth­ers you know. On the oth­er hand, you’re begin­ning to do some things OK: You’ve already learned at your mother’s knee that all peo­ple are cre­at­ed equal, but you will have to keep re-learn­ing how to deploy that truth. You’ve got some basic opti­mism; hang on to it. And anoth­er thing: Even­tu­al­ly, you’ll learn the word ‘hal­cy­on’. And then you’ll know the name for these sum­mer days on the lawn, read­ing about Bet­sy and Tacy and Nan­cy Drew, and play­ing with the cat and dog, and look­ing up at fly­ing squir­rels dart­ing among the tow­er­ing Dou­glas firs at the edge of the world.”

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

Ter­ry Pratch­ett, Ash­ley Bryan, A.A. Milne.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Any­where. The light has to be good, though. Indoors, out­doors, upstairs, down­stairs, in libraries, on trains, on porch­es, in the woods, on beach­es, on air­planes, in bed­rooms, in air­ports. At break­fast, at sun­set, in the mid­dle of the night. With clas­si­cal music in the back­ground or silence. And I love being read to, so in my car I always have a book going.

 

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Skinny Dip with Maryann Weidt

book coverWhat’s your favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

I love get­ting togeth­er with my children—all grown-ups now—at Christ­mas. My daugh­ter-in-law majored in ‘enter­tain­ing’ and she always has ‘Pop­pers’ and we always play games. One year she taped a ques­tion on the bot­tom of each plate. Ques­tions like these: What is the best Christ­mas present you ever received—and we each had a chance to answer the ques­tion. It was a great way to get to know each oth­er a lit­tle better—and to enjoy a laugh togeth­er too.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

I think the first book report I ever wrote was on Clara Bar­ton. It was one of those very old orange biogra­phies. Do they still exist? I kind of hope not. That might have been in 4th grade. Then in 9th grade, I wrote my first research paper and chose Eleanor Roo­sevelt as my sub­ject. When I was asked to write the Car­ol­rho­da biog­ra­phy of Eleanor, I kind of wished I had saved that paper.

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

Who wraps presents any­more? Don’t we all just tuck them into a gift bag and stuff in lots of tis­sue paper? In fact, I loved wrap­ping presents when I was in my teens. I worked a few hours a week at Esther’s Gift Shop in my home town of Hutchin­son, MN. Peo­ple came in to buy wed­ding gifts, Mother’s Day gifts, gifts for every occa­sion. There was a machine we used to make bows. I became a wrap­ping whiz.

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

I’ve been very for­tu­nate to in fact have din­ner with sev­er­al authors—Judy Blume, Made­line L’Engle, Jane Resh Thomas, Mary Casano­va, and Mar­gi Preus, among oth­ers. But if I could sit down and have a chat with Eleanor Roo­sevelt, that would be a mighty thrill. O.k., I guess she wasn’t a children’s author—but she was an author.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Nowa­days I read in bed every night before going to sleep. I real­ly have to lim­it the amount of time I read and some­times I fall asleep with the book in my hands and the light on. When I was grow­ing up, my favorite place to read was lying on my bel­ly on a plaid wool blan­ket under the giant oak tree in the front yard of the farm. I could hold that posi­tion for hours, read­ing Bet­sy, Tacy and Tib and all the rest. I’d read the entire series and then start over.

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Skinny Dip with Phyllis Root

cover imageWhat keeps you up at night?

My cat Catali­na keeps me up at night, meow­ing and wan­der­ing back and forth over me, look­ing for our oth­er cat Spike, who died last fall and with whom she’d been togeth­er since kit­ten­hood.

What is your proud­est career moment?

I have two, and they hap­pened close togeth­er. When Big Mom­ma Makes the World had its launch in Lon­don, the Lon­don plan­e­tar­i­um was filled with chil­dren, and some­one nar­rat­ed the text while Helen Oxenbury’s amaz­ing art was pro­ject­ed onto the plan­e­tar­i­um ceil­ing. The lights all went out when Big Mom­ma made the dark, and then the stars filled the sky. At the end of the book the Lon­don Gospel choir sang, and all the chil­dren waved the bal­loon sculp­tures and swords in time to the music.

cover imageNot long after, I vis­it­ed a school on the Nava­jo reser­va­tion where my daugh­ter was vol­un­teer­ing and read Rat­tle­trap Car to all the class­es at the school. Back in the trail­er where she stayed, I was help­ing my daugh­ter pack when one of the lit­tle boys from the school, maybe six years old, burst in, saw me, cried, “Bing Bang Pop!” and laughed and laughed. Sel­dom has a book of mine received such a joy­ous reac­tion.

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

ph_ZambeziRiver

Zam­bezi Riv­er, Africa

Some days I think just get­ting out of bed and sit­ting down to write is the bravest thing I ever do. Oth­er times I think it was stand­ing on the edge of a live vol­cano or white­wa­ter raft­ing down the Zam­bezi riv­er. Almost every­thing scares me, and I like the quote (although I can’t remem­ber who said it and I’m prob­a­bly man­gling it), “Use all your courage today. We’ll get more tomor­row.”

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

A Babar book, writ­ten in long­hand rather than type­set, in the book­mo­bile that came at the foot of the hill where we lived.

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

Bas­ket­ball. Unless there’s a medal for read­ing.

What TV show can’t you turn off?

I no longer have a tele­vi­sion, so this one is hard to answer. I watch a few shows on my lap­top once in a while, and the one I watch most is the Rachel Mad­dow Show.

 

 

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Skinny Dip with Liza Ketchum

Which book of yours was the most dif­fi­cult to write or illus­trate?

cover imageMy non-fic­tion books required the most intense peri­ods of research, but the YA nov­el, Blue Coy­ote, was the most per­son­al­ly chal­leng­ing. How could I, a straight woman, take on the char­ac­ter and voice of a young male teen who was explor­ing his sex­u­al­i­ty? Yet a num­ber of read­ers who had read the novel’s pre­quel, Twelve Days in August, had writ­ten to ask, “What about Alex? What hap­pened to him?” They also asked the ques­tion I couldn’t answer myself, with­out writ­ing the book: “Is Alex gay—or not?” I felt these read­ers deserved answers. As I worked through many drafts, I received won­der­ful insights and sug­ges­tions from my writer’s group, as well as from a cou­ple of gay friends who read the man­u­script in draft form. Writ­ing the sto­ry in a third per­son lim­it­ed point of view also gave me some need­ed dis­tance. When stu­dents in schools ask me which book I’m proud­est of, Blue Coy­ote is at the top of the list.

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

cover imageNews­girl—because it is an adven­ture sto­ry with plen­ty of action, an excit­ing set­ting (Gold Rush San Fran­cis­co), and a diverse cast of char­ac­ters. Amelia should be played by a feisty, deter­mined 12 or 13 year old girl who can hold her own in a gang of boys. And since she goes fly­ing off in an unex­pect­ed bal­loon ascent, she shouldn’t be afraid of heights.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

I will cheat and cite three. The first is the famous open­ing line from One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude, by Gabriel Mar­cia Mar­quez: “Many years lat­er, as he faced the fir­ing squad, Colonel Aure­liano Buen­dia was to remem­ber that dis­tant after­noon when his father took him to dis­cov­er ice.”

I also love the open­ing sen­tence of M.T. Anderson’s nov­el, The Aston­ish­ing Life of Octa­vian Noth­ing, Trai­tor to the Nation: “I was raised in a gaunt house with a gar­den; my ear­li­est rec­ol­lec­tions are of float­ing lights in the apple trees.” This is fol­lowed by six more breath­tak­ing sen­tences that intro­duce the narrator’s amaz­ing voice and set the tone for the sto­ry that fol­lows.

The last sen­tence of Eliz­a­beth Bowen’s nov­el, A World of Love, has stayed with me for­ev­er. While many final sen­tences wrap up a sto­ry, this one opens the reader’s mind to a whole new begin­ning for the pro­tag­o­nist, who has been through a dif­fi­cult time: “They no soon­er looked but they loved.”

What book do you tell every­one to read?

cover imageA tough ques­tion, when there are so many great books out there! I often men­tion Philip Hoose’s mag­nif­i­cent non-fic­tion book, The Race to Save the Lord God Bird (Melanie Kroupa books, Far­rar, Straus and Giroux). It is one of the few non-fic­tion books that I have reread a num­ber of times; I even read and stud­ied the foot­notes at the end. It’s a true sto­ry with the dra­ma, pac­ing, and char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the best fic­tion. I learned a lot about birds, avid bird­ers, and about the inter­con­nect­ed­ness of com­merce and the envi­ron­ment. Who knew that the dis­ap­pear­ance of the ivory-billed wood­peck­er in Louisiana was linked to the rise of the Singer sewing machine? I cer­tain­ly didn’t.

Are you a night owl or an ear­ly bird?

I’m an ear­ly bird. I raised my sons in Ver­mont, where the school bus came ear­ly, and we had ani­mals to feed before start­ing the day (a small flock of sheep and a goat or two to feed and milk). My sons were also ear­ly ris­ers, so I got into the habit of being up with the sun. In good weath­er, I love to walk or gar­den first thing in the morn­ing. When I was teach­ing at Ham­line Uni­ver­si­ty, I was lucky to room with Jack­ie Brig­gs Mar­tin. We woke up at the same ear­ly hour dur­ing the July res­i­den­cies and explored Hamline’s St. Paul neigh­bor­hood, admir­ing the gar­dens, but­ter­flies, and birds as we walked the qui­et streets.

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

cover imageI hat­ed school from the mid­dle of kindergarten—when we moved from Ver­mont to Wash­ing­ton, D.C.—to the end of third grade. I had stom­ach cramps every day. When I com­plained of pain, my teach­ers sent me to the principal’s office. She was a fierce old­er woman who scold­ed me and accused me of invent­ing my symp­toms. When I was grown and liv­ing in Ver­mont years lat­er, I learned that a close writer friend had attend­ed the same school, a few years ahead of me. She, too, suf­fered from repeat­ed stom­ach trou­ble. “It was because of recess,” she said. “Remem­ber how the boys played war?” I had for­got­ten, but it all came back: the gangs of boys on the play­ground, who tor­tured and bul­lied us girls. They chased us until we fell and skinned our knees; they yanked our hair and called us names, while the staff—who were sup­posed to be watching—ignored the whole scene. When we moved to New York State—where I attend­ed a won­der­ful pub­lic school—the stom­ach aches dis­ap­peared, and so did my trips to the principal’s office.

 

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Skinny Dip with Nancy Loewen

cover image

 illus­trat­ed by Sachiko Yoshikawa Two Lions Pub­lish­ing, 2011

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.”

cover image

Pho­to­graph­ic inter­pre­ta­tion by Tina Muc­ci Cre­ative Edu­ca­tion, 1993

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?

gymnastProb­a­bly 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?

cover imageI’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.

 

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Skinny Dip with Karen Cushman

 

Will Sparrow's Road coverWhat’s your favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

Phil is Jew­ish so we cel­e­brate Hanukkah. I light the house with candles—one hun­dred or so white can­dles of all sizes and shapes. It looks beau­ti­ful but makes the house very, very warm.

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

Oh, teacher’s pet, with­out a doubt. I was too ner­vous to mis­be­have, smart enough to learn quick­ly, and qui­et enough not to show off (see ques­tion #5).

 Do you like to gift wrap presents?

Love it. I dec­o­rate pack­ages with green­ery, rose­mary springs, red berries, what­ev­er is grow­ing out­side that I can gath­er and tie to a pack­age. My career goal as a young teen was to be a pack­age wrap­per at Wal­greens at Christ­mas time. Haven’t made it yet but I have hope.

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

Not to be so ner­vous and qui­et. I don’t know what I was afraid would hap­pen if I ever spoke up but I was too fear­ful to test it.

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

Kir­by Lar­son, Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins, and Sher­man Alex­ie when he’s in a good mood.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

In bed. No con­test.

 

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Skinny Dip with Marion Dane Bauer

 

Newbery HonorWhat is your proud­est career moment?

My proud­est career moment I sup­pose should be the day in 1986 when On My Hon­or won a New­bery Hon­or Award. But though that was the moment that changed my career more than any oth­er, it’s not my proud­est.

My proud­est was when I was just begin­ning writ­ing, had fin­ished my first nov­el and had no idea whether what I was doing had any val­ue at all. I had no one to read it to tell me. So I pre­sent­ed this first manuscript—it was Fos­ter Child—at a writer’s work­shop where the New­bery-Award-win­ning author Maia Woj­ciechows­ka read it. She made an announce­ment telling the entire con­fer­ence that “Mar­i­on Dane Bauer has writ­ten a nov­el called Fos­ter Child, and it’s good! It’s going to be pub­lished!”

That’s the moment when I knew for the first time that I could do this thing I want­ed so bad­ly to do, and I’ve nev­er been proud­er. From that moment on I’ve believed in myself and my work.

Describe your favorite pair of paja­mas ever

pinsThey were new­ly made, pink with cheer­ful kit­tens all over them, and they were coör­di­nat­ed with paja­mas made new for my iden­ti­cal-twin friends, Bet­ty and Bev­er­ly.  Their grand­moth­er had made the paja­mas for the three of us and fin­ished them just in time for an overnight togeth­er. The only problem—and this is what makes the paja­mas par­tic­u­lar­ly memorable—was that their grandmother’s sight was no longer very good, and she sim­ply sewed all the straight pins into the seams and left them there. We spent the whole night, all three of us in the same dou­ble bed, say­ing “Ouch!” every time we moved and pulling out more pins.

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

No ques­tion … hav­ing chil­dren was the bravest thing I’ve ever done and, as well, as being the thing I’m most grate­ful I did. I didn’t have chil­dren because I was con­scious­ly brave but because I had no way of know­ing what lay ahead, all the dif­fi­cul­ties, all the joys. When you have a child you con­nect your­self to anoth­er human being—a com­plete stranger—for the rest of your two lives. No divorce pos­si­ble. And that, if you stop to think about it, is real­ly scary! For­tu­nate­ly, few of us stop to think those thoughts before we bring a child into our lives.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

I’ve for­got­ten the title and have no idea who the author was, but I can still see the fuzzy pink lamb on the pale blue cov­er. It was a sto­ry of a lamb with pet­table pink fuzz who got lost and couldn’t find his moth­er. Things got so bad that on one turn of the page light­ning cracked in the sky and rain fell and the pet­table pink fuzz went away entire­ly. All the col­ors went away, too. That whole spread was done in grays. I remem­ber touch­ing the smooth gray lamb again and again, want­i­ng to bring the pink fuzz back. Of course, anoth­er turn of the page brought every­thing back and the lamb’s fuzzy, pink glo­ry. The lamb’s moth­er came back, too. Such a sur­pris­ing and sat­is­fy­ing end­ing!

What TV show can’t you turn off?

I sel­dom watch TV, but I’ll admit to being in love with Down­ton Abbey. When an hour’s show ends, I always want more!

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Skinny Dip with Sharon Chmielarz

What keeps you up at night?

bk_ChmielarzNoth­ing keeps me up at night (knock on wood). I have a cou­ple of glass­es of red wine, then show­er (usu­al­ly), hit the mat­tress, do some leg exer­cis­es, and I’m a goner until the next morn­ing. If I slip from that rou­tine and drink some­thing with caf­feine too close to 6:30 pm or so, then it’s a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. Then in the dark at 11:00 pm I wor­ry when and if I’m ever going to fall asleep. 

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

What’s the bravest thing I’ve ever done? Try to stab my father in the back with a scis­sor when he was attack­ing my moth­er.

Describe your favorite paja­mas ever.

Oh, yes, I remem­ber my fav PJ’s. My moth­er worked at a cloth­ing store (Barton’s) and got a dis­count on what­ev­er she bought. One day she brought home a pair of pink and char­coal gray dia­mond-pat­terned cot­ton PJ’s. The dia­monds repeat­ed them­selves as in a Har­le­quin cos­tume. Each pink dia­mond had a tuft of gray in its cen­ter. But the pièce de resis­tance was the robe that matched it. Knee length. Big side pock­ets. Sleeves just past the elbow. Any paja­ma out­fit fea­tured in Sev­en­teen would be jeal­ous. The com­plete out­fit was a bit warm in the sum­mer in our non air-con­di­tioned, no-fan house, but I wore it any­way.

What TV show can’t you turn off?

Cur­rent­ly, Down­ton Abbey is my favorite TV show. Don’t call me at 8:00 p.m. Sun­days. When the clock’s hand in the TV room edges toward 8:50, I think, “Oh, (exple­tive).It’s almost over.”

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

Slalom ski­ing has it all for me. First, it takes place in a beau­ti­ful land­scape. Second—or maybe first—the skiers are beau­ti­ful, schuss­ing down a moun­tain, sashay­ing this way and that through the gates, leav­ing a trail of pow­der spray. I’m amazed by the strength in their legs. I’m very sor­ry Lind­sey Vonn didn’t make the world cham­pi­onship giant slalom finals this year. She has such grace and pow­er schuss­ing down a slope.

 

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Skinny Dip with Elizabeth Verdick

bk_PeepLeap140What keeps you up at night?

Read­ing much, much too late!

What is your proud­est career moment?

In 2005 I won the Hen­ry Bergh Award, which hon­ors books that rec­og­nize the need to treat ani­mals with kind­ness and car­ing (for my book Tails Are Not for Pulling). I got to stand on a stage in New Orleans with Nor­man Brid­well, author/illustrator of the Clif­ford books. I couldn’t believe I was in the same room with him. Plus, he was just as nice as I’d imag­ined he’d be.

Describe your favorite pair of paja­mas ever.

I had a bright red pair of long johns in col­lege, the kind that are all one piece with a flap in the behind. I have no idea when, where, or why I bought them, but I remem­ber one very strange par­ty in the Car­leton Col­lege dorms where every­one was wear­ing long johns and this bright red pair came in handy. They got soaked with beer, stained my skin, and went in the trash when I got back to my room. I’m pret­ty sure beery dorm par­ties are no longer allowed at my alma mater.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

Golden BookWhen I was lit­tle, I had a lot of Lit­tle Gold­en Books. Baby’s Moth­er Goose Pat-a-Cake was one of my ear­ly favorites. (I was obsessed with any­thing that had a cat on it. Still am.) The pages of the book are now fad­ed, yel­lowed, and torn. The art was by Aure­lius Battaglia, and one inte­ri­or illus­tra­tion looks a lot like my cat Tom, a tuxe­do cat with per­fect white mit­tens and bright green eyes. Now all he needs is a big red bow.

Which book of yours was the most dif­fi­cult to write or illus­trate?

Peep Leap, my first pub­lished work of fic­tion for chil­dren. It took me years! I had writ­ten non­fic­tion but not stories…I had a long learn­ing curve.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

I still love “Let the wild rum­pus start!” It gives me shiv­ers. I feel pow­er­ful like Max in Where the Wild Things Are.

What book do you tell every­one to read?

The Absolute­ly True Diary of a Part-time Indi­an. It made me laugh so hard I almost peed.

 

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Skinny Dip with Margo Sorenson

Tori and the SleighWhat is your proud­est career moment?

My proud­est career moment was doing my first author vis­it at Hale Kula Ele­men­tary School, Wahi­awa, HI, the Schofield Bar­racks ele­men­tary, where I spoke to 200 kinder­garten­ers and their par­ents, many of whom were in cam­mies, about Alo­ha for Car­ol Ann. Tears came to my eyes as I watched the par­ents and kids inter­act in the activ­i­ty the librar­i­an (SLJ Librar­i­an of the Year Michelle Colte) had designed for them, based on my book. To think these par­ents, who put their lives on the line for our coun­try, took the time to show their kids how impor­tant read­ing and writ­ing are by their atten­dance and involve­ment was tru­ly inspi­ra­tional.

Describe your favorite pair of paja­mas ever.

My favorite pair of paja­mas ever are my Roy­al Stu­art red plaid flan­nels – espe­cial­ly in Min­neso­ta!

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

Fenc­ing would be my pick, being a medieval his­to­ry major, but, sad­ly, I’ve nev­er even tak­en one les­son or held a foil in my hand.

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

The bravest thing I’ve ever done was punch the neigh­bor­hood bul­ly when I was twelve years old, because he was throw­ing rocks at two oth­er lit­tle neigh­bor­hood kids. I’ve not punched any­one since—at least, not that I remem­ber!

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

The first book I remem­ber read­ing was Our Island Sto­ry, by H.E. Mar­shall, the clas­sic children’s sto­ry­book about Eng­lish his­to­ry from its pur­port­ed begin­ning to the 1950’s, with its sto­ries of all the kings and queens and intrigue. The his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ters came to life on the page and they seemed so real to me. It is still on my desk for inspi­ra­tion. Yes, it’s true; I am a geek!

What TV show can’t you turn off?

The TV show I can’t turn off is Down­ton Abbey. The char­ac­ters are clas­sic, the dia­logue wit­ty, the plots and sub­plots intrigu­ing, and the act­ing mar­velous. I wish it would go on for­ev­er; it is such a kick!

 

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Skinny Dip with Joanne Anderson Reisberg

Zachary ZormerWhat is your proud­est career moment?

I entered a Writer’s Digest Con­test and received an Achieve­ment Cer­tifi­cate for hav­ing placed 37th out of 100 in ‘pic­ture books.” I felt thrilled to be includ­ed, and then I read the con­test had received 11,000 entries in 5 dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories. Woo Hoo.

 Describe your favorite pair of paja­mas ever

When I was ten, I received an out­ra­geous pair of silk paja­mas from a child­less aunt in Chica­go. The bot­toms were Chi­nese red with a black silk top and a man­darin col­lar, so dif­fer­ent from the cud­dly flan­nel PJ’s most of us wore. And that made them…awesome. It’s the out-of-the-ordi­nary that makes life excit­ing.

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

The bravest thing in writ­ing has to have been send­ing in a qua­train to The Wall Street Journal’s Pep­per and Salt, a small car­toon with a quip below it. I haven’t seen it in print, but I made sure to take a pic­ture of the check I received from Dow Jones Pub­lish­ing Inc.,

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

Years ago books were giv­en at birth­days and by the church at Christ­mas. I received a Grimm’s Fairy Tales and mem­o­rized bit’s of the 51 sto­ries as I escaped into fas­ci­nat­ing words, yet I always felt safe.

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

A gold medal in ten­nis would be the one. I played com­pet­i­tive ten­nis for a club at one time, brought in a younger play­er for a tour­na­ment, and had a blast. I still play ten­nis and love poach­ing at the net.

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Skinny Dip with Lisa Bullard

Turn Left at the CowWhat keeps you up at night?

I don’t need any­thing to keep me up at night—I am almost always up at night no mat­ter what! When I have morn­ing oblig­a­tions, I force myself to go to bed at a rea­son­able time. But when I have a few days in a row where I don’t have to get up “ear­ly,” my bed­time slips to a lat­er and lat­er time—until I am reg­u­lar­ly stay­ing up until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morn­ing. The very ear­ly morn­ing hours (before I have been to bed) are a very cre­ative time for me. But very ear­ly morn­ing hours AFTER I have been to bed—on days I have to get up super-early—are a night­mare!

What is your proud­est career moment?

See­ing my name on the cov­er of a book for the first time (it was my pic­ture book Not Enough Beds!) still ranks as one of the biggest thrills of my life. I deter­mined in 5th grade that some­day I would become a pub­lished author, and I was real­ly proud to have made that dream come true.

Describe  your favorite pair of paja­mas ever

When I was a lit­tle girl, my grand­ma gave me a light-blue night­gown that had light-blue fake fur around the neck and the bot­tom of the sleeves. I thought it was the most glam­orous thing I had ever owned, and I wore it until it was in tat­ters.

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

I grew up in the north­ern part of Min­neso­ta, where I took fig­ure skat­ing lessons and skat­ed in ice shows. I would love to win a gold medal in fig­ure skating—it’s such a beau­ti­ful and ath­let­ic sport!

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

I don’t know if it was brave or stu­pid, but I did scare off a bad guy when I was in col­lege. I was on a trip to Europe with class­mates, and some of us were walk­ing through the Lon­don sub­way sys­tem late at night when a guy start­ed in our direc­tion in a men­ac­ing fash­ion. Rather than run­ning away, which prob­a­bly would have been the smart thing to do, I threw myself in front of my com­pan­ions, lift­ed my chin, and growled at him. He took one look at me mak­ing my “Dude, I’m scari­er than you are” face and ran off. I’ve since fig­ured out that I can be very brave when I’m pro­tect­ing oth­er peo­ple, but not nec­es­sar­i­ly when it’s just about me!

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

I think it might have been Snow by Roy McK­ie and P.D. East­man, one of Dr. Seuss’ Begin­ner Books. It was def­i­nite­ly from that series. I was real­ly proud that I could read the entire book to my mom, but my teacher secret­ly told her that rather than actu­al­ly read­ing, I had mem­o­rized the whole book and was recit­ing it back.

What TV show can’t you turn off?

I like goofy things, so I am a huge fan of Fnd­ing Big­foot—noth­ing makes me laugh hard­er than watch­ing those true believ­ers (and one skep­tic) roam­ing through the woods, howl­ing and knock­ing on trees in the hopes of attract­ing the atten­tion of Big­foots (and yes, that is a cor­rect plur­al usage). There is some­thing about the seek­ers’ wide-eyed cer­tain­ty that some­day Big­foot will show up for the cam­eras that I can’t resist.

 

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Skinny Dip with Melissa Stewart

Feathers

Charles­bridge, 2014

What keeps you up at night? 

Noth­ing. I fall asleep the instant my head touch­es the pil­low, and I’m prob­a­bly the world’s sound­est sleep­er.

Describe your all-time favorite pair of paja­mas.

When I was in col­lege, I spent a term at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bath in Bath, Eng­land, and rent­ed a room at a house near­by. Because heat­ing oil is so expen­sive in Great Britain, most peo­ple keep their homes very cool in win­ter. My lit­tle room at the top of the house was freez­ing. Luck­i­ly, my mom found a pair of adult-size paja­mas with feet and sent them to me along with a very warm hat and mit­tens. I was so grate­ful.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing? 

Mr. Mys­te­ri­ous and Com­pa­ny by Sid Fleis­chman. I’m thrilled that I was able to meet Mr. Fleis­chman and tell him how much his book meant to me.

What TV show can’t you turn off? 

The Voice.

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

I’m not very ath­let­ic, but I do like minia­ture golf. I don’t think that’s an Olympic sport, but it should be.

 

 

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Skinny Dip with David LaRochelle

Favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

Moo

by David LaRochelle Walk­er Books, 2013 illus. by Mike Wohnout­ka

 With­out a doubt my favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion is carv­ing pump­kins. It has become such a trade­mark of mine that peo­ple start ask­ing in Sep­tem­ber what I plan to carve for the upcom­ing Hal­loween. I’ve learned to jot down pos­si­ble pump­kin ideas in my sketch­book through­out the year, but it usu­al­ly comes down to crunch time (the week before Hal­loween) before I final­ly decid­ed on the 4–6 pump­kins I carve each year. I have a gallery of past pump­kin designs, includ­ing some I’ve carved for Good Morn­ing Amer­i­ca, on my web­site.

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

Hope­ful­ly I wasn’t obnox­ious, but I was very much a teacher’s pet. I would stay after school and go from room to room ask­ing teach­ers if they need­ed help putting up bul­letin boards or cor­rect­ing papers. I usu­al­ly spent the first day or two of sum­mer vaca­tion help­ing teach­ers pack up their rooms for the year (it helped that we lived right across the street from the ele­men­tary school), and one of my favorite things to do the first week of sum­mer was to “play school” with the extra work­sheets that teach­ers had giv­en me. No won­der I became an ele­men­tary school teacher myself!

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

Mr. PudgensWe had an inde­pen­dent read­ing pro­gram when I was in third grade where instead of writ­ing book reports, we could make a dio­ra­ma, draw a poster, etc. I often enlist­ed the help of a few class­mates and put on a short play based on the book I had read (we loved get­ting out of class to rehearse on the school’s old stage!). One of the books I have vivid mem­o­ries of per­form­ing was “Mr. Pud­gins” by Ruth Christof­fer Carlsen about a mag­i­cal babysit­ter and a fly­ing bath­tub. In one scene a bush begins to make pop­corn. One of my friends brought in a huge plas­tic trash bag of pop­corn and hid behind a chair. The class went crazy when he began to throw hand­ful after hand­ful of the pop­corn out into the audi­ence. We loved it!

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

Some day you will have the last laugh on all the bul­lies who are call­ing you “fag” and “homo.” You will also become a pub­lished author and illus­tra­tor and make lots of kids hap­py with your fun­ny books.

Or more sim­ply, I wish I could tell my 10-year-old self, “Every­thing is going to turn out okay.”

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

I would love to vis­it with George Selden (author of “The Crick­et in Times Square” series, Mac Bar­nett (author of “Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” and many oth­er incred­i­bly cre­ative books) and famed children’s edi­tor Ursu­la Nord­strom.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

On a plane, head­ing off on vaca­tion.

 

 

 

 

 

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Skinny Dip with Toni Buzzeo

bk_whosetools_140

Avail­able May 2015

What’s your favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

Although only my father is Ital­ian, I grew up with a strong con­nec­tion to my Ital­ian her­itage. And real­ly, when does one’s her­itage shine more bright­ly than the hol­i­days? So, every Christ­mas Eve finds me with my fam­i­ly in our Maine farm­house kitchen mak­ing home­made ravi­o­li. My hus­band Ken rolls out the dough that has been rest­ing on the counter under a bowl for sev­er­al hours while my son Topher and I wres­tle the cir­cles of dough he pro­vides us into fold­ed cush­ions of deli­cious­ness that we drop into a boil­ing pot of salt­ed water. Lat­er, we light the can­dles in our for­mal din­ing room and sit down with our grand­ba­by Cam­den and our daugh­ter-in-law Caitlin to a feast of baked ravi­o­li, home­made rolls, green sal­ad, and glass­es of red wine—the per­fect Christ­mas Eve feast.

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

Oh good­ness, I was nei­ther teacher’s pet nor teacher’s chal­lenge. Instead, I was the invis­i­ble child. If my best friend, Lin­da Benko, was absent, I spoke to no one the entire day, includ­ing my teacher! I was so des­per­ate­ly shy, and lived in a cocoon from which I didn’t emerge until I was six­teen years old when I sud­den­ly and quite unex­pect­ed­ly meta­mor­phosed into the gal I am now, ver­bal­ly exu­ber­ant and high­ly inter­per­son­al.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

While I don’t remem­ber writ­ing my first book report, I am absolute­ly sure that, as an enor­mous­ly pas­sion­ate read­er, I wrote it with great enthu­si­asm and ardor.

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

Presents! I adore presents—getting them and espe­cial­ly GIVING them. For me, a deeply sat­is­fy­ing part of prepar­ing a gift for giv­ing is the wrap­ping, the berib­bon­ing, the embell­ish­ing. Of course, that means that I keep a five-foot- wide draw­er full to the top with a tan­gle of wrap­ping paper, rib­bons, tags, flow­ers, gauzy bags, and all man­ner of doo-dads.

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

As you gob­ble those piles and piles of library books, Toni Marie, think about what it would be like to WRITE books like those. Dream the dream of being an author.” Sad­ly, I was nev­er encour­aged to write, even in high school when sure­ly, I’d begun to show signs of tal­ent, which is why it took me so very long to launch my career writ­ing for chil­dren. How much ear­li­er I might have begun had I heard that advice!

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

Here’s one of the best things about being a children’s author. I often get to have din­ner with my favorite (liv­ing) writ­ers. So, giv­en this oppor­tu­ni­ty, I’d like to go to my child­hood favorites and invite 98-year-old Bev­er­ly Cleary, author of my beloved Beezus and Ramona and Hen­ry books; Maud Hart Lovelace, author of the Bet­sy-Tacy books I read over and over; and Car­olyn Hay­wood, author of my oth­er favorite Bet­sy books. And before that din­ner, I would re-read every sin­gle one of those child­hood favorites.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

For me, there is some­thing com­plete­ly lux­u­ri­ous about crawl­ing back into bed, of a morn­ing, with a cup of tea and pil­lows piled all around, and spend­ing an hour or two with a book and not a sin­gle elec­tron­ic device in sight.

 

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Skinny Dip with Nikki Grimes

bk_chasingfreedom_140What keeps you up at night?

My brain! I can’t shut it off. I’m con­stant­ly bom­bard­ed with thoughts about what’s on my to-do list (I live or die by the list), what arrange­ments I need to make for the next con­fer­ence, book fes­ti­val, or school vis­it; what work I need to do to ele­vate the rela­tion­ships of my char­ac­ters or ways to make them more authen­tic; what man­u­script I need to con­cen­trate on next (I’m always jug­gling three or four at one time). When those things aren’t keep­ing me up, it’s one of my mouthy char­ac­ters, decid­ing he or she has some­thing to say that just can’t wait until morn­ing!

What is your proud­est career moment?

Enter­ing the White House as a guest for the first time, on the invi­ta­tion of First Lady Lau­ra Bush, as part of the Nation­al Book Fes­ti­val in 2003, with my sister—my old­est fan—on my arm, beam­ing! Win­ning the Coret­ta Scott King Award for Bronx Mas­quer­ade is what got me there.

bk_bronx140In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Ice-skat­ing! I have absolute­ly no tal­ent in this area, but ice-skat­ing is the one Olympic sport that keeps me glued to the tele­vi­sion screen. That com­bi­na­tion of lyri­cal move­ment and tech­ni­cal skill fas­ci­nates me. I espe­cial­ly love those moments of spon­tane­ity when each athlete’s per­son­al­i­ty shines through. The pro­grams are planned and chore­o­graphed, but the per­for­mances are very much in the moment. Any­thing can hap­pen, and I love that! I feel that way when I’m writ­ing a sto­ry. Any­thing is pos­si­ble. Any­thing can hap­pen! I put in the work, I lay in the struc­ture, set my character’s back-sto­ries, and then, some­where along the way, I get into the zone, and—boom! Mag­ic hap­pens, and I score tens across the board—in my mind, at least! Yeah. Ice-skat­ing.

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

Face down an armed rob­ber, high on drugs, in a Swedish bou­tique I man­aged in Stock­holm. I was work­ing behind the counter when this guy came into the store and con­front­ed me, his hand in his pock­et point­ing a gun in my direc­tion. He demand­ed the mon­ey in the reg­is­ter and, when I did not com­ply, he bared a mouth­ful of yel­lowed teeth.

I will blow you straight to hell,” he told me.

No,” I said. “You’ll blow me straight to heav­en.”

That got him off his game, I think. He took a step back from the counter and gave me a long, hard look.

What? What did you say?” he asked.

I, calm as the prover­bial cucum­ber, explained to him that, as a Chris­t­ian, when I died, I was going to heav­en, not to hell. Then, blan­ket­ed in the per­fect peace of God, I pro­ceed­ed to share with him the gospel of Christ, and invit­ed him to accept Jesus.

Now, mind you, this was an out-of-body expe­ri­ence, because part of me was stand­ing back, watch­ing, ask­ing myself, “Are you crazy?! This man’s got a gun!” But, some­how, in that moment, by God’s grace, I felt no fear.

I talked with him qui­et­ly, slow­ly as if I had all the time in the world.

He asked me a few hon­est ques­tions about faith and for­give­ness, which I answered. As the scene played out, his pos­ture changed. His shoul­ders soft­ened, his head began to bow, the hand in his pock­et relaxed and he let the gun drop.  Even­tu­al­ly, with both hands at his side, he shuf­fled out of the store, whis­per­ing a string of apolo­gies. 

Once he was gone, I returned to my body and trem­bled from head to foot, like a nor­mal per­son! It was an extra­or­di­nary moment that taught me the real­i­ty of the pow­er of God and the per­fect peace he can offer in any cir­cum­stance. Okay, so maybe this is as much a sto­ry about faith as it is about brav­ery. Any­way, there you have it.

What TV show can’t you turn off?

There are a few, but the one that most sur­pris­es me is Shark Tank!

There is some­thing riv­et­ing about a per­son bar­ing his heart in pur­suit of a dream, and fight­ing for that dream in a do-or-die moment, when self-con­fi­dence is the key to suc­cess. I have wres­tled in pur­suit of my dreams my entire life. Maybe that’s why this show res­onates with me.

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Skinny Dip with Gennifer Choldenko

Chasing Secrets

Avail­able August 2015

What keeps you up at night?

Gen­er­al­ly I wake up wor­ry­ing about my kids or my career. The mid­dle-of-the-night sce­nar­ios are dire: acci­dents, Alzheimer’s, awful reviews, abject humil­i­a­tion in one form or anoth­er. Unfor­tu­nate­ly I’m a world-class wor­ri­er, so there I am lying in a pool of sweat whipped into a fret­ting fren­zy when sud­den­ly an idea pops into my head. A good idea. An idea that solves a writ­ing prob­lem I’ve been grap­pling with for days. But I don’t know it because mid­dle-of-the-night ideas come in dis­guise. An image, a line of dia­logue, a name, a char­ac­ter I hadn’t thought was impor­tant that sud­den­ly begins to speak to me. I write every­thing down but I often don’t under­stand the sig­nif­i­cance of what I’ve writ­ten until the next morn­ing.

What is your proud­est career moment?

I’m the kid in the back-back of the sta­tion wag­on. The one who tries hard and every­one says: is such a nice girl. I’m not the star. I don’t have a his­to­ry of win­ning any­thing. The day I won the New­bery Hon­or changed my life. It made me believe in my dreams in a way noth­ing else ever has.

Describe your favorite pair of paja­mas.

My favorite PJs look like an 18th cen­tu­ry orphan’s rags. They are worn to threads, the elas­tic frayed down to one thin rub­ber band. I live in fear that some­one out­side my fam­i­ly will see me wear­ing them, but I sim­ply can’t give them up. They feel like me.

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

I’d like to win a gold medal in gym­nas­tics or ten­nis although in my mind’s eye I look good in those skimpy lit­tle out­fits. Clear­ly, I have a great imag­i­na­tion.

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

Putting the Monkeys to Bed

Avail­able June 2015

Once, I spoke to 1500 mid­dle school kids in a gym­na­si­um the size of the state of Texas. The screen where my lap­top pro­ject­ed the images essen­tial for the pre­sen­ta­tion was the size of a for­tune cook­ie. The audi­ence could not see it. I was the only speak­er for an entire hour. I thought I was going to faint when I walked into this sit­u­a­tion but the kids had read my books. They want­ed to hear what I had to say. You could have heard an ant cross that gym­na­si­um floor. I will always be indebt­ed to the teach­ers who pre­pared those kids so well.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

The Car­rot Seed by Ruth Strauss and Crock­ett John­son. I still remem­ber hold­ing it in my chub­by lit­tle hand, read­ing it for the very first time. I believed I was the main char­ac­ter. In one hun­dred and one words, Strauss and John­son told a pow­er­ful sto­ry that spoke to me on the deep­est lev­el. Incred­i­ble!

What TV show can’t you turn off?

Inter­est­ing the way you phrased this ques­tion: “can’t turn off” which implies that you should be turn­ing TV off. Or in fact you shouldn’t turn it on in the first place. Hon­est­ly, I think that’s a dat­ed point of view. The best writ­ing is in books. No doubt about that. But a close sec­ond is writ­ing for tele­vi­sion. The Sopra­nos, House of Cards, Break­ing Bad, The Left­overs, Mad­men, Trans­par­ent . . . this is fine, fine char­ac­ter writ­ing. Writ­ing for movies, on the oth­er hand, is not near­ly as strong as it was ten years ago.

What book do you tell every­one to read?

Not sur­pris­ing­ly I have a lot of favorite books so I will just talk about this month’s favorite books. For YAs: All the Light We Can­not See by Antho­ny Doerr. For MG read­ers: Nest by Esther Ehrlich.

 

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Skinny Dip with Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamilloDo you remem­ber any book reports you wrote or gave while in ele­men­tary school?

No one has ever asked me this ques­tion before! Here is the truth: I don’t remem­ber doing one, sin­gle book report. Have I blocked the mem­o­ries out? Or did I real­ly not do any? I’m think­ing it’s the lat­ter. Tru­ly.

Describe your all-time favorite pair of paja­mas.

Red flan­nel. Dec­o­rat­ed with dogs. And Milk bones. Divine.

What was the best Hal­loween cos­tume you’ve ever worn or seen?

I love the Bugs Bun­ny mask I wore when I was three. I can still smell the inte­ri­or of that mask. I can still feel the pow­er of *hid­ing* behind that mask.

Are you good at wrap­ping presents?

Ha ha ha. I am laugh­ing. And I can hear my moth­er laugh­ing from the great beyond. I inher­it­ed my inabil­i­ty to wrap presents from her. Present-wrap­ping always ends up with me in the mid­dle of a great big snarl of wrap­ping paper and scotch tape. Imag­ine Bink wrap­ping a present and you get the right visu­al.

Do you like to cook for friends or meet them at a restau­rant?

Still laugh­ing. Cook for friends? Me? I like to go to *their* hous­es and eat *their* food. But I do take them out to restau­rants to return the favor.

Which out­door activ­i­ty are you most like­ly to par­tic­i­pate in: run­ning; fish­ing; leaf rak­ing; parade watch­ing?

Parade watch­ing. I love a parade. And it’s all a parade.

When did you get your first library card, and from what library?

*Swoon* I got my first library card when was I sev­en. I got it from the Coop­er Memo­r­i­al Pub­lic Library.

Favorite bird?

Crow.

 Which children’s book do you wish you’d read as a child?

Matil­da. It wasn’t in our school library or the pub­lic library. Strange, huh?

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