How did you become an author and how long have you been doing this?
It depends on how you cut it. This is my first book! So in a way, I've only been doing this since today, October 4th, 2016.
I was a very long time children's bookseller for the independent bookstore chain, Books Inc. I ran the children's department for the company, and did storytimes for years, and all that wonderful time with kids inspired me to write for them.
I studied writing in college and have an MFA in writing, but the best education I ever got was just reading to kids all the time. They're such savvy readers. They don't feel obligated to pay attention if a story doesn't interest them, and they don't force themselves to like things they don't love. You can learn so much about craft just by reading out loud to kids-- whether you write for kids or not.
So, if doing this refers to reading to kids? My whole adult life. If it refers to being an author more specifically, I think when I won a prize for writing in college was probably the first time I really thought of myself as a real life writer, not just a weirdo with a laptop and an obsessive nature. They gave me a check, and I was like: This is a real thing.
How would you describe your style?
Silly. I don't think I've ever written anything that didn't have a wink in it somewhere. I write this way for kids and for adults in equal measure, but I think writing for kids was what gave me the confidence to look at my world view and realize it was one with a heavy dose of humor in it. I think, sometimes, we're able to grapple with really tough things-- disappointment, disillusionment, disaster-- more profoundly with laughter. Laughter lets it all in.
What other writers or artists have influenced your work?
Kurt Vonnegut was the author who made me want to be a writer. M.T. Anderson was the author who made me want to write for kids. Oliver Jeffers was the author who made me want to write a picture book. Jon Klassen is the author who inspired me to actually do it. And when I grow up, I hope I can write with the humor and emotional acuity of Kate DiCamillo who is, I think, the greatest kids' author alive right now.
Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?
Right now, I'm traveling South America with my husband in a Toyota 4Runner that's our home. So I'm in an inspiration gathering phase of life, and I'm relishing every minute of it. Recently, I met some flamingos, so I have that going for me, which is nice.
Do you have a favorite picture book?
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen is formative for me, and is the inspiration for Also an Octopus. I think it's a perfect book. I also love, LOVE The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers, The Dark by Lemony Snicket, I'm a Shark by Bob Shea and Maggie and the Monster by Elizabeth Winthrop. Oh, and Doctor DeSoto, which I remember my mother reading to me over and over again. And Gorilla by Anthony Browne. And Big Rabbit's Bad Mood by Ramona Badescu. And I anxiously await every book Rowboat Watkins has written.
I have a lot of favorites.