It’s hard for me to talk about myself without asking myself questions! Otherwise, I don’t know where to start. Here are some SAQs, partially purloined from my beloved Austin SCBWI, which interviewed me for its website.
First, some basics. Where do you live?
That should be an easy one. But our friends often wonder about this, too. My husband, a law prof, and I live in two places. Most of the year, we hang out in Austin, Texas. In the fall, we’re in Boston, Mass.
Did you always want to be a writer?
No, I didn’t always want to become a writer but a college friend always wanted me to. She was right but I had to wait for the right time. I’m awed by writers who also have day jobs and children at home. It was only after our children got through college and we paid off those bills that I could take the risk of leaving my job at a state education agency and dip a toe into writing.
Did you say, “children?”
Yep. We’ve got two of them. And each of them has two. We’re inordinately proud of our daughters and their spice, who do phenomenal change-the-world things in education, health, law, and social justice. And we’re always tickled by our grandchildren, who do pretty much age-appropriate things. Bruno, the Whoodle grandpuppy is ever-amusing, too.
Do you write other things besides books?
I’ve written LOTS of magazine articles for kids about pandemics, Moko, the mind-body problem, civil rights, and a bunch of other topics.
If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?
Fortunately, my office has a comfy couch. Anyone following me wouldn’t get very far. Mostly, I sit at my desk reading, thinking, researching, writing, erasing, and staring. Every couple of hours, I get up to stir the soup or take a walk. But my stalker should bring a good book and settle in for the long haul.
Do you do anything else?
When I have the headspace, I like to cook—anything with saffron and lemongrass but nothing with okra. Blech. I also go to plays, movies, concerts, museums, and art galleries. I garden—mostly plants that tolerate my indifferent watering “schedule.” And we travel—six continents, so far, of which we’ve lived on three. What else? Yoga, gym, swim. READ—I’m in three book groups. But, mostly, I write—or try to.
How does your everyday life feed your work?
There are two things that feed my work—curiosity and deadlines. The former amounts to my antennae. I’m always listening and reading for possible stories to delve into. And deadlines keep me rooted to my desk. (See question above.)
What surprises you about the creative life?
How hard it is! Creativity takes a lot of work. And, frankly, as a nonfiction writer, I’m not all that creative. Like people who can work, raise children, and write, those who can make up stories, settings, characters, and emotional valence astonish me.
When your readers open one of your books, what do you hope they find?
Surprise. I hope my readers learn about other people their age who do remarkable things and make a difference, just as they can.
Happily, I am represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I’ve blogged at EMU’s Debuts and blog regularly at Fault Lines in the Constitution. I support We Need Diverse Books, An Open Book, and First Book.