By the time I was nine years old I knew I wanted to be a writer. I would watch my favorite TV shows, like Dukes of Hazard and MacGyver and then rewrite the episodes adding myself in as a young character. This was my favorite activity for years! I kept notebooks crammed under my bed so nobody would read my secret masterpieces. Even though I don't have time for that type of writing anymore, I still think it's a lot of fun.
Why do you write for middle grade readers?
I was blessed with parents who read to me from the time I was tiny. But I think it was about age 10 that I truly fell in love with books for myself. Kids between 8-12 are facing so many changes and learning so much. When you're that age you know you're no longer a little kid, though sometimes you wish you were. And you're certainly not an adult either, though sometimes you wish you were. And I think it's that mix of feelings, that tug of war, that make tweens connect so strongly with characters and stories. It's just a magical age to write for. That and the fact that maybe I'm still a kid inside :)
What motivated you to become an indie author?
My first two books--A Smidgen of Sky, and A Million Ways Home--are traditionally published, and I hope to have more middle grade novels published that way in the near future. But after writing A Sliver of Sun, the sequel to A Smidgen of Sky, my original publisher decided not to buy the book. But my agent and I both loved the sequel and wanted to see it out in the world. Plus, I had a number of young fans who wrote to ask what happened with Piper Lee when the first story ended, and i really wanted to be able to answer that question for them. So my agent encouraged me to try self publishing A Sliver of Sun.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Falling in love with my characters and being able to tell their stories for them! The second greatest joy is receiving fan mail from young readers who tell me they connected every bit as strongly with the story and characters as I did.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I remember the first story I ever sold. It was called, Mrs. Getty and the Little Dipper, and was published by Clubhouse magazine. I was nineteen years old and had just completed the beginning course with the Institute of Children's Literature. I got $30 for that story, and I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I was!
What do your fans mean to you?
The fans are everything really. If not for the readers, teachers, parents and librarians who connect with my stories, writing would be a futile pursuit.
Describe your desk
My desk is simply a typing table with about a foot more space on either side of my laptop. I have enough room for some note pads, pens, research pages for whatever project I'm currently working on, and a pair of bookends to hold the few books I simply must have within reach--Webster's New World Thesaurus, and the Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman. Writing description is really tough for me, and these two books make it much easier.
Who are your favorite authors?
This is a tough one as I have so many authors I like. But just to name a few who have had an influence on me from the time I was young and moving forward--E.B. White, Wilson Rawls, S.E. Hinton, Kate DiCamillo, Jennifer Neilsen, Bobbie Pyron, Torey Hayden, and Lisa Genova.
What do you read for pleasure?
I love stories that make me feel. I read middle grade, YA, light romance, true stories of strange medical conditions, books about animals--especially dogs. I read mostly fiction, but non-fiction as well. For example, I just finished Gone With the Wind, and now I'll be starting Sophie--The Incredible True Story of the Castaway Dog.
What are you working on next?
Another contemporary middle grade, of course!
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