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Skinny Dip with Lisa Bullard

Lisa Bullard

Lisa Bullard (photo: Katherine Warde)

Lisa Bullard is a well-respected writing teacher in Minnesota and beyond, having shared her wisdom and her sense of humor about writing with classrooms full of adults and children (usually not at the same time). She has two books on writing, one for adults (Get Started in Writing for Children) and one for children (You Can Write a Story! A Story-Writing Recipe for Kids), as well as a series of Insider Guides co-written with Laura Purdie Salas. She has written Bookology‘s popular Writing Road Trip column for several years.

Lisa Bullard's READ Bookcase

My favorite bookcase!

How many bookcases do you have in your home?

Based on my house, this question is open to interpretation. What qualifies as a bookcase? For example, if the baker’s rack in my kitchen holds dozens of cookbooks (despite the fact that I don’t cook), does this qualify as a bookcase? Does it influence the judging if I explain that one of my absolute favorite books as a child was Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book? I spent hours “reading” the book and inventing stories to go along with the cookie creations pictured there.

But okay, back to the original question. In addition to the “kitchen bookcase” described above, I have six-and-a-half bookcases.

What’s your food weakness?

My food weakness is that I love food far beyond its nutritional purpose. It represents so much more than just that to me. Food is sneaking into the kitchen late at night with Grandma to eat pickles while Mom looks askance. Food is spitting watermelon seeds into the lake and getting brain freeze from homemade ice cream on the 4th of July. Food is the brownie you lick so that your brothers don’t eat it first.

Licking the brownie

If you’re asking about my favorite food rather than my food weakness, it’s any food that somebody else has cooked. I am fortunate enough to have several friends who love to cook, and who express their affection by cooking for me. Now that’s love!

Have you traveled outside of the United States? Which country is your favorite to visit? Why?

I’ve been lucky enough to travel outside of the U.S. to England, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Canada. I found things to love in all of those countries, but I most loved how different I became in Italy. For some reason I transformed into a whole other person there. Someone who knows me well once described me as a “cheerful pessimist;” growing up, I was heavily influenced by my stoically Scandinavian mother; and I’m typically very cautious. But under Italy’s influence, I transformed into a risk-taker who gamboled from one romantic city to the next with hardly a care in the world. I really liked that person, but she only seems to exist in Italy!

Juliet's balcony in Verona

Juliet’s balcony in Verona

A gondolier in Venice

A gondolier in Venice

What’s your favorite word because you like the way it sounds?

I love saying the word “collywobbles.” It’s such a wonderful, roly poly word, and it sounds so much more joyful than its meaning. Whenever one of us kids was sick, my mom’s first question was: “Do you have the collywobbles?” Few of my friends knew what the word meant, so they usually looked blank when I asked them the same question. For a long time I thought it was a word that belonged to my family alone; that you had to have access to some kind of Bullard Family Dictionary to be able to decode it. This was also true, by the way, of one of my most dreaded words: “potch.” My mom threatened to “potch” us when we were naughty, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I was able to figure out that this “Bullard family word” was (surprisingly, given our heritage) in fact Yiddish.

What foreign language would you like to learn?

I don’t know if it’s defined as a “foreign” language or not, but one of the things on my bucket list is to learn American Sign Language. When I attend a performance or presentation where someone is interpreting into ASL, I’m riveted—I’d love to be able to make my words dance in the air the same way that I try to make them dance on the page when I write.

Do you read the end of a book first?

I’m actually perfectly happy to start a book somewhere other than the beginning, and then to read it in sections completely out of order. But now that I’m a writer, I’ve made a rule to allow other writers the chance to tell me their story in the fashion they think is best (in other words, I make myself read it in the order it’s presented, from beginning to end). But if I grow bored a couple of chapters in, the rules change, and I revert to random reading order. In that case, I usually dip into the middle and read a bit to see if the story seems more exciting at that point. If not, I’ll read the end as my way of giving the author a final chance to sell me on their story. If I like the ending after all that, I sometimes go back and read earlier bits, dipping in and out of the story in random fashion until I get back to that end again.


End Cap: Turn Left at the Cow

Turn Left at the CowWe hope you enjoyed reading Turn Left at the Cow, solving the mystery. Did you figure out whodunit before the climactic scene? If you love puzzles and games, we hope you have a good time solving this Word Search. 

Simply use your mouse or touch pad to draw a line over your found words and the program will mark them off for you. Words can be found forwards, backwards, horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. As you find a word, it will be highlighted on the board and it will disappear from the word list.

Have fun!

Hidden Words

Puzzle by

Twisted Tots Hotdish

Twisted Tots Hotdish
Serves 8
For a delicious hot dish, which Trev's grandmother may well have cooked for him, you can't beat this slightly different take on the Tater Tot Hotdish. Because it's a Minnesota thing, don't you know?
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr
  1. 1 lb very lean ground beef
  2. 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  3. 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  4. 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  5. 1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
  6. 6 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
  7. 1/2 cup French fried onions
  8. 2 cups tater tots
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF
  2. Press uncooked ground beef into an 11x7” baking dish. Spread the tater tots evenly on top of the ground beef. Pour the soup over the tater tots. Sprinkle the diced bell peppers, bacon, and French fried onions on top of the soup. Distribute one cup of cheese over the top.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and stir the casserole, breaking the meat into chunks. Add the rest of the cheese and cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes until top of casserole looks as enticing as you’d like it to look.
Bookology Magazine

Lisa Bullard

Lisa BullardIn this interview with Lisa Bullard, author of Turn Left at the Cow, our Bookstorm™ this monthwe asked nine questions to which she gave heartfelt answers. 

Lisa, thank you for your willingness to share your writing process and your thoughts about mysteries with us. Mysteries have rabid fans and you’ve written a book that’s not only smart and funny and sassy, but it’s a taut thriller. We appreciate having such a good book to read and to share with other fans.

Turn Left at the CowAt what point in writing your novel, Turn Left at the Cow, did you know it was going to be about an unsolved bank robbery?

That’s a great question—it makes me think back to the whole exciting process of how this story evolved over time! When I first set out to write this book, I actually imagined it as a murder mystery for adult readers. And then one day, when I had about 5 or 6 chapters written, I was revising the opening to the story, and a completely different voice marched in and took over the first-person narration—and it was the voice of a young teenage boy. He had so much energy, and I could “hear” him so clearly, that I knew this was truly his story to tell. And of course he wanted to talk to other kids more than he wanted to talk to adults! But that meant I had to rethink many other elements of the novel to instead make it a story for young readers.

I thought it seemed unlikely that a 13-year-old would be able to get involved in a murder investigation in a way that felt realistic, so I brainstormed other possible mysteries. At about the same time, I read a newspaper article about a man who was convinced that infamous hijacker D.B. Cooper was actually his brother. I used one of my greatest writing tools—the question “What if?”—and started thinking along the lines of “What if my character discovers that one of his relatives was involved in a notorious robbery?”

You’ve set Turn Left at the Cow in a small, rural town. Trav’s grandma lives in a cabin on a nearby lake. Why did you decide that the “place” for this story should be in this locale?

This location was at the heart of this story from the very beginning; it stayed the same no matter what other details changed, and to me, this setting speaks so loudly that it’s like another character in the book. It’s based primarily on the location of my family’s lake cabin, which is on Green Lake (near two very small Minnesota towns, Spicer and New London), in west central Minnesota. Since my family moved around when I was a kid, it’s the one place that I’ve consistently returned to since I was a very small child, and it’s a place that has sunk deep into my bones. Our lake cabin originally belonged to my grandparents, and I’ve spent some of the most important times in my life there with family and friends. It’s even where my parents had their honeymoon, so I’ve truly been visiting there my entire life! But of course, my story is fiction, so I did take some liberties with the setting—for example, I gave the town in the book a (nonexistent in real life) giant statue of a bullhead (fish), because many of my other favorite Minnesota towns feature giant statuary.

Parade in Spicer

Travis, your protagonist, is a 13-year-old boy whose dad died before he was born. This serves as a strong motivation for him running away from his mother in California to his grandmother in Minnesota. Does your sure-footed knowledge of Trav’s motivation come from your own experience?

I have been so lucky to have a dad who has always been very active in my life. To this day, we still talk and laugh and argue with each other like we did when I was a little kid and a teenager. But many of the people I’ve been closest to throughout my life are not so lucky. I’ve been close friends with several people who lost their father when they were quite young, and my closest uncle died the summer I turned nine—so my cousins no longer had a father of their own. As my mom explained to me, that meant I needed to “share” my dad with them.

As I mentioned earlier, one of my greatest writing tools is the question “What if?” It challenges me to expand my stories beyond my own personal experiences and to live inside the experiences of a character who is very different from me. One of the biggest “What if” questions in my own life has always been: “What if I didn’t happen to have the dad that I was lucky enough to have?” I decided that this story was the place for me to try to imagine what it might be like for someone to desperately crave a relationship with a lost father.

Readers are fascinated by the “red herrings” in a whodunit, the clues that could, but don’t, solve the mystery. At what point in writing the story did you consciously work with (plant your) red herrings?

walking catfishI love quirky details, and I built a lot of them into the story: for example, there’s a human head carved out of butter, a walking catfish, and a game where the winner is chosen by a pooping chicken. But I don’t want to give away any clues to readers who haven’t yet had a chance to read my story, so I’m hesitant to tell you here which details are red herrings and which details are key clues! I’ll just say that some of the red herrings were in place before I wrote a single word of the story, some of them wandered in out of the mysterious depths of my subconscious as I was writing the first few drafts, and others were things I created quite deliberately when I was revising and reached a point where I felt I needed to mislead readers from figuring out the solution too easily.

Since that’s a really vague answer, how about this? After you’ve read the story, feel free to visit the contact page on my website ( and send me an email with any questions you have about the specific red herrings in my story—I’d be delighted to send you an answer!

Your story is very tense as it approaches its climax. Did you have to re-work your manuscript to achieve this?

Yes, absolutely! The entire story required many rounds of revision, but I received some key advice that really helped me make this section more dramatic and suspenseful. The novel took me about 3 years total to write, but one year in particular was very productive. During that year I took a series of classes from mystery writer Ellen Hart, and got great advice and feedback from her and the other students in the class. One of the things I learned was that you should write in short, choppy sentences when you want to create a scene that feels chaotic and quick-moving. Those short sentences push the reader forward through the story more quickly because they read more quickly. In my first draft, I had included lots of long and meandering sentences, and those had to be broken up or deleted altogether.

No time to think!I had also written a lot of reflective passages in those tense scenes—paragraphs where my character was doing a lot of thinking along the lines of “How did this even happen?” But in real life, when something really high-action and stressful is happening, a person usually doesn’t have time to stop and think too hard—they only have time to react and keep moving. Stopping to figure out exactly where things went wrong comes afterwards. So I went back and took out all of those places where my character was “over-thinking,” and just had him responding to the danger of the moment as best he could.

When you write a mystery, how do you know that it’s mysterious enough?

Wow, that’s another great question. I’m not sure that I know how to answer it exactly, but I’ll do my best! To me, mystery stories are puzzles: as the writer, your job is to hand the reader all the pieces of the puzzle, but to do it in such a way that the puzzle isn’t overly easy to solve. So for example, I’ve never liked mysteries where the answer is something the reader couldn’t possibly have figured out—when there’s some important clue that the author has held back, and then on the last page, the detective says something like, “This letter that was locked in a bank vault until 5 minutes ago proves that the thief was Mr. Villain!” As a reader, I want a fair chance to put together all the puzzle pieces for myself—and if the writer still fools me after playing fair, then good for them!

Clue MapSo when I was writing this mystery, I knew I had to play fair—I had to give the reader all of the important clues. It was okay if I spread out the clues over the whole book. And it was totally okay if I mislead the reader into thinking that some of those clues weren’t as important as they turned out to be in the end! After all, it’s the reader’s job to put the puzzle pieces together to get the right answer—I trust my readers to be smart, so I don’t have to make it TOO easy for them!

As far as the actual writing process, I made a long list of all the clues I knew in advance, and I thought about how I could work them into the story at intervals so there would be clues all throughout. I also built in things that seemed like fake clues to heighten the suspense and to make the puzzle more exciting. Finally, as I was writing, at any point where I felt like the story was slowing down too much, I would ask myself, “What is something really unexpected or surprising that could happen to my character next?”—and that approach provided some additional clues.

I also worked to think of metaphors and setting details that would add a spooky atmosphere to the whole story, and I tried to put my character into situations that seemed dangerous. After all, another big part of mysteries is that they’re more fun if they’re kind of scary!

Do you read mysteries? How old were you when you began reading them? Can you remember some of the first mysteries you read?

Three InvestigatorsI love mysteries! They’re still some of my absolute favorite books, and they’re some of the first books I remember reading. When I was in elementary school, I was lucky enough to be given a huge box full of books that had belonged to either my mom or my older girl cousins when they were younger. The box held a lot of mystery series, some of them pretty old-fashioned but still wonderful. The different series included Judy Bolton, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and the Three Investigators. And some of the first “grown-up” books I ever read were Agatha Christie mysteries and suspense stories by Mary Stewart. As a kid, I loved mystery stories so much that I made up my own mysteries and forced my brother and friends to “play” Three Investigators in our basement—we even wrote secret messages in invisible ink (lemon juice) and then decoded them by holding them over the toaster.

What is there about a mystery that you think appeals to kids?

puzzleIt’s fun to get that little spine-tingly feeling that comes when something is a little bit scary, so that’s part of it. Many mysteries are action-packed and fast-moving (rarely boring), so that’s another part of it. But I think a big reason is that working to put together the puzzle of the story is kind of like a game—and if, as a reader, you manage to figure out the mystery before the story’s detective does, then you also feel pretty darn proud of yourself, and smart!

Can you share with us what you’re working on now? Is it another mystery? (We hope so.)

I’ve written several nonfiction books since Turn Left at the Cow was published, and now I’m wrestling with another mystery. My writing process is pretty slow when it comes to novels (and my life in the last few years has been really complicated)—plus I write a lot of my first draft in my head before any of it actually hits paper—so there isn’t a whole lot actually written down yet. But I can tell you that this story is set in the north woods of Minnesota, and like Turn Left the mystery has to do with a complicated family story and a lot of quirky small-town characters. Including Bigfoot, by the way—now there’s a mystery for you!


Bookstorm™: Turn Left at the Cow


Turn Left at the Cow

Turn Left at the CowWho doesn’t love a mystery? Whether your find them intriguing puzzles or can’t-wait-to-know-the-solution page-turners, a good mystery is engrossing and a little tense. Throw in a little humor, a detailed setting, and well-drawn characters and you have a book you can confidently hand to young readers who are already hooked on the genre and those who have yet to become fans.

We are pleased to feature Turn Left at the Cow as our May book selection, written by the expert plotter Lisa Bullard, replete with her characteristic humor.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. You’ll find books, articles, and videos for a variety of tastes and interests. This month, we’re focusing on books for middle grade readers with mysteries, humor, and bank heists. 




Don’t miss the exceptional resources on the author’s website. Try your hand at butter carving with “Butter Head Beauties,” engaging science, art, and language arts skills. Re-create the book’s chicken poop bingo with “Chances Are,” calling on math and language arts. Lisa Bullard’s Pinterest page has more great ideas that you’ll find useful as you incorporate this book into your planning.


Middle Grade Mysteries. There are amazing books written for this age group. We’ve included a list that would help you select read-alikes or companion books, drawing on titles first printed in 1929 (yes, really) to 2015.

Butter Heads and Other State Fair Strangeness. A butter head is one of the attention-worthy objects in the book. Begin an online research assignment with a few articles about butter heads around the country.

Fish Out of Water. Travis lives in southern California. When he runs away to his grandmother’s cabin in northern Minnesota, it walks and talks like a different world, one that Travis has to learn to navigate if he’s going to solve the mystery.

Missing Parent. Even though Travis left his mother behind with her new husband, Travis is most interested in finding out about his dad, who died before he was born. Books for this age group often revolve around a parent or parents who are not present. We’ve recommended a few of them. 

Robberies and Heists. Travis has trouble believing his father could have robbed a bank but the townspeople seem to think so. We’ve included books that delineate bank or train robberies, some of them true.

Small Town Festivals. One of the most exciting scenes in Turn Left at the Cow takes place in Green Lake, Minnesota’s annual summer festival where chicken poop bingo is a tradition. We’ve found articles about other small town festivals that would make good writing prompts, research projects, or PowerPoint projects.

Mysteries offer a special pleasure to many readers, both children and adults. They provide an excellent opportunity to talk about plot and how that plot is reinforced by intriguing characters (and good writing!).

Let us know how you are making use of this Bookstorm™. Share your ideas and any other books you’d add to this Bookstorm™.


Middle Kingdom: Nebraska City, Nebraska

Middle Kingdom: Nebraska City, Nebraska

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This month’s journey takes us to Nebraska City Middle School in Nebraska City, Nebraska, where Lisa talks with Media Specialist Alice Harrison.

Lisa: What would you like to tell our readers about your community?

Alice: Nebraska City, Nebraska is home to the national holiday Arbor Day, celebrated every year the last Friday in April. J. Morton Sterling, the founder of Arbor Day, migrated to the Nebraska Territory in 1854, where he later became the Secretary of Nebraska Territory. Sterling saw the agricultural and economical benefits of planting trees, and in 1872 he convinced the Nebraska Board of Agriculture to establish a specific holiday for everyone to join in planting trees. April was chosen to correlate with Sterling’s birthday, and several presidents since then have declared Arbor Day a national holiday on the last Friday in April. Since the first Arbor Day celebration to the present day, Nebraska City has celebrated with a parade down the main street where area middle school and high school bands come to perform. Tree starters are distributed to the attendees, as well as tons of candy!

The abundance of apple trees planted in Nebraska City has led to another celebration—the AppleJack Festival  was established to celebrate the harvesting of all those apples. Taking place the third weekend in September, people come from all over to consume apple pies, apple bread, apple donuts (my favorite!), several varieties of fresh apples, apple jams, and a long list of other apple items, along with participating in other celebratory events.

Lisa: What changes are ahead this year for your school or library/media center?

Alice: Nebraska City Middle School has 325 students, predominately white with a large population of Hispanic students. It is a Title 1 school with 45.8% free and reduced lunch. The district school board passed the implementation of a technology 1:1 initiative, beginning the school year of 2015-16, as a pilot program in the Middle School. All the students, staff, and faculty will have Chromebooks to use (at school only) by checking them in and out of the homerooms or alpha classrooms. Presently, the Middle School is the only school in the district approved to participate in this pilot program. Every classroom teacher will be using Google Classroom (a Google Apps for Education app). The goal is to help teachers save time by organizing lesson plans, incorporating interactive curriculum, allowing for student and teacher collaboration, and providing immediate teacher feedback, along with displaying and accessing class assignments and grades. To incorporate this 1:1 initiative, our IT director is setting up every student with their own personal Gmail account.

To teach digital citizenship and personal responsibility with the Chromebooks, every teacher, including myself, will be teaching and utilizing the Common Sense Media curriculum. I am only a ¼-time Media Specialist at the Middle School (I teach at the elementary school for the other ¾-time), so I am fortunate to have a marvelous full-time assistant in the Middle School library. The first few days of school this coming year, all the students will be attending training sessions taught by the faculty and staff to instruct students in the use and care of Chromebooks. In the past, I have taught 6th grade keyboarding, but to date, I do not know of any plans for keyboarding instruction.

The Nebraska City Middle School band preparing to perform in the Arbor Day parade 2013

The Nebraska City Middle School band preparing to perform in the Arbor Day parade 2013

Lisa: What else will be new for the Middle School library this year?

Alice: I am excitedly anticipating this new school year at the Middle School because this past May I purchased 37 e-books, our first time to acquire this format. The e-books that I purchased were from Follett, but our library automated system is the online, cloud-based version of Library World. Follet sent me detailed instructions as to how to set up the e-books for checkout. The students and faculty will be able to read the e-books on the Chromebooks, but only online. However, they can be accessed on all other devices for online or offline reading. I’m ecstatic!

Sixteen of the e-books are our state award nominees, which are called Golden Sowers . There are a total of 30 books nominated every year for three levels, with 10 nominated in each level: Primary, Intermediate, and Young Adult. And that leads me to how I came to connect with Lisa Bullard, who asked if I would participate in this interview for Bookology—her book Turn Left at the Cow is a Golden Sower nominee for the 2015-16 school year.

Lisa: Alice, the Golden Sower nomination is such a huge honor for me, and I’m so delighted that it brought the two of us together! Can you tell us more about the impact of the Golden Sower titles on your library and student reading?

Alice: Each summer, I try to read as many Golden Sower nominees for the coming school year as I can. READING…my favorite pass-time!

As you can imagine, a major concentration of our promotion at the Middle School library is devoted to the Golden Sower state nominee books. Our literature/reading teachers also heavily promote these in their classrooms. At the end of every school year, the students are awarded certificates for four different levels of completion for reading the Golden Sowers. From these students, three names are drawn for additional prizes.

Some of the Golden Sower nominees are books from a series—then I usually purchase the whole series, because the students are so interested in the nominated books. For example, some of the series with recent Golden Sower nominated-titles are: Richard Paul Evans’ Michael Vey series, the Starters series by Lissa Price, Rob Buyea’s Mr. Terupt titles, the According to Humphrey books by Betty G. Birney, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series, and the Legend series by Marie Lu. Two years ago, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, was chosen as a Golden Sower Award winner and our Middle School selected this book as an all-school read.

Lisa: What other books and series have been popular reads in your Middle School?

Nebraska City Middle School

Nebraska City Middle School

Alice: The list includes the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, the Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord, the Selection series by Kiera Cass, Erin Hunter’s Warriors series and Seekers series, the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen, and the Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan. Other popular authors with our middle schoolers are Mike Lupica, Laurie Halse Anderson, Meg Cabot, and Carl Hiaasen.

Lisa: I’m amazed at all you have going on—especially since with your split schedule, you don’t have a lot of time to do it all! Are there any other initiatives you’d like to share?

Alice: In the past year, I have been trying to focus more on our reluctant readers in the Middle School. I’ve been purchasing more nonfiction graphic readers and fiction graphic novels. Also, this new school year I am incorporating a new promotion at the Middle School for the Golden Sowers. I have been making audio and printed text QR codes for each Golden Sower book and printing the book covers to apply them to the covers. I will be displaying them in the Middle School library and hallways. The audio portion features me reading the book’s summary, and the printed portion contains links to book trailers, author websites, and book theme links.


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.



Gifted: Up All Night

My mother had the knack of giving me a book every Christmas that kept me up all night … after I had opened it on Christmas Eve. I particularly remember the “oh-boy-it’s-dark-outside” year that I received The Lord of the Rings and accompanied the hobbits into Woody End where they first meet the Nazgul, the […]