Sometimes I get pictures of myself from readers!
Thank you for reading my books! This page was created for you. I can’t guarantee you an A on your next research report, but here are the answers to some of the author questions I’m asked most often:
Where do you find your ideas?
I’m kind of an obsessive “idea collector.” Whether I’m traveling, or reading, or just driving around town — I’m constantly looking for odd and interesting things to write about. Here are a few of the recent ones I’ve collected. Feel free to invent your own stories for them…
How do you choose what topic to write about?
I’m never predictable as a writer, that’s for sure. I like to choose topics that challenge me. I’m definitely drawn to journeys — real journeys and emotional journeys. Because I spend a year or two (or more) writing a book, characters have to speak to my heart. They need to have deeper layers and some surprises below the surface. Sometimes, I don’t even know what all of those surprises will be!
How did you get started as a writer?
It all started in elementary school when my first grade teacher told me to write a story on the other side of a math worksheet while the rest of the class finished the page. Well, you can guess what happened! After that, I couldn’t WAIT to finish my math assignments, so I could turn my paper over and write a story on the other side. (And that also explains why I am better at writing than long division today!) When I was in 3rd and 4th grade, I often wrote scripts for my friends based on the books we were reading. Check out our Little House on the Prairie photo.
What advice would you give to kids who want to write?
Write and read a lot! It sounds simple, but it is the only way to learn the craft. Put away the technology, and observe, eavesdrop, daydream… Be courageous with your words and persistent in reaching for your dream despite what others think.
If you are interested in writing contests and opportunities, check out this page.
What do you do for fun?
When I’m not writing, I like to read, travel, swim, go to art museums, catch a play at a local theater, watch some football, listen to 80’s rock bands, and spend time with my family. My family includes my British husband Mike, teenager Ethan, and our cat Charlie.
What dreams do you have?
Seeing one of my books made into a movie…driving the Ring Road around Iceland…writing a play for the theater…winning the Newbery Medal…learning to speak Italian…having lunch (or tea) with J.K. Rowling…
Do you have any favorite children’s books?
When I was growing up, I read everything–even the backs of cereal boxes at breakfast. My favorite books were mysteries, The Borrowers series, Victoria Holt romances, and The Chronicles of Narnia series. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson made the biggest impact on me, as a young reader and writer.
How did you get interested in writing historical stories?
We have a lot of history in my family! My great-great grandpa was a Civil War veteran, my great-grandpa fought in World War I, and I have other ancestors who were early Iowa pioneers. In high school, I competed in National History Day contests (check out www.nhd.org). As a college student, I had the chance to live and work in Colonial Williamsburg for eight months, which was so cool!
What things would people be surprised to know about you?
I love talking to HUGE audiences of people, but I’m really shy and awkward in small groups. I’m afraid of thunderstorms. I will only set my alarm clock to even numbers. “Worm days” (worms on the sidewalk) in the spring, freak me out. I’ve always dreamed of singing on Broadway…but unfortunately, I can’t carry a note.