I've received e-mails from kids all over the country, and the world. Here are just a few answers to the many questions they ask. Keep writing to me!
Why do you write for kids?
I've been writing stories since I was nine years old. But as I got older, I noticed that my characters weren't getting older with me. For some reason I feel really connected to that young, 12-year-old narrator. It's my natural voice. I like thinking about all of the changes kids go through at that age. And I also remember quite a bit from when I was 12 and draw on that for my fiction.
Was it hard to get published?
Yes! My first rejection came when I was 9, from a story I wrote and sent to HIGHLIGHTS magazine. Over the years I tried to get two novels and dozens of adult short stories published, but no luck. Once I focused on writing middle grade novels in 1999, I started having editors interested in my work. But I didn't get a contract for my first book, TALL TALES, until 2005. Most writers I know will tell you that it takes this long, often longer, to publish. I have dozens and dozens of rejection letters.
Didn't you ever get discouraged?
Of course! But ultimately I write because I love writing. It's all I've ever wanted to do. It's my passion. If I don't get up and write everyday then I feel as if something is wrong.
Where do you get your ideas for your books?
My books are a melting pot of personal experiences, imagination and stories I've heard that I I've then twisted and turned. When I was growing up I played little league baseball with the boys, just like Madison in NO CREAM PUFFS. I had a crush on one of the other boys who played and I worried about getting beaned (as Madison does). Like Meg in TALL TALES, I wanted to be a writer and have a best friend, but we didn't move around every couple of years. And I didn't have an alcoholic father. But this is what's so great about writing fiction. You make things up!
Will you write a sequel to TALL TALES or NO CREAM PUFFS?
Probably not. I love both main characters, Meg and Madison, but I hardly ever think about what happens to them after the story ends. I like the idea that they live on forever, at age 12, with their "problems" somewhat resolved.
What is the best thing about publishing books?
There's no better feeling than writing something that works, that I really like or that explains or shows a feeling I'm trying to get at. It's so satisfying to sit back, read it and be so happy with it. I also love hearing from kids. I think they're brave for writing to me and I like answering questions or just listening to what they have to say.
Are you working on another book?
About four years ago I started working on a novel with a boy narrator. I'm nearly finished with a draft and it's been great fun to write. And easier than I thought. It's about a boy named Matt, age 13, who is a decent tennis player and decides he wants to get "really good." But it's also about lots of other things: a mysterious uncle who comes to live at his house, a car chase, bad guys, an air soft gun, a romance, a zombie movie, and a dreaded English class. By the end Matt learns what it means to be a hero and that feeling disappointed in people doesn't mean the end of the world.