Do you base your characters on yourself?
To some extent. I write fiction, not autobiography. But there’s always a bit of me in all of my main characters. I think if you don’t explore the joy and pain in your own heart, you end up writing characters who seem flat and fake.
Why do you write about serious topics like eating disorders, cancer recovery and sexual harassment?
I’ve faced some tough challenges in my life, and I know many kids have, too. Reading about characters who face similar challenges can be empowering. And if you’re a kid who hasn’t personally faced those challenges, reading can open your heart, help you to develop empathy.
Oh, and by the way: just because a book is about a serious subject doesn’t mean it can’t be fun or funny! My goal is to write about serious topics in a humorous, kid-friendly way.
What’s your favorite thing to write?
Dialogue. I try to write how kids actually speak. This means I do plenty of eavesdropping on kids’ conversations!
What do you do when you have writer’s block?
I read a play or a screenplay. Hearing characters in my head often gets me unstuck! If that doesn’t work, I take my dog Ripley for a long walk.
What advice do you have for kids who want to be writers?
First, read constantly. Read what you love. Second, get comfortable sharing your work. Find readers who will give constructive advice, and try to listen with an open mind. Third, get to love revising! Think of it as a chance to make your work the best it can be. Fourth, and most important, don’t give up!
Do you always make an outline?
I used to hate outlines. Lately I’ve become convinced that outlining the plot ahead of time makes the actual writing easier, faster and more fun!
When you were a kid, did you want to be a writer?
Yes! In fact, I used to tell people I wanted to be an “authoress.” But I also went through a period when I wanted to be a ballerina, and look how that turned out!
What do you do for fun?
Read, of course. Listen to music–especially my favorite band, Radiohead. Go to concerts. See movies. Follow my favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees.
Will you visit my school?
If I write, will you answer?
Yes, but I get a lot of mail, so please understand if I don’t answer right away!