If you are thinking about writing me a letter or an e-mail, read this first and maybe you will find that your questions are already answered!
How do you get your ideas?It makes me sigh in exhaustion when I am asked that question because it is simply one for which there isn't any answer. And yet everyone asks it! Ideas come from your imagination. What triggers your imagination? Things that you read, see, overhear, dream, or wonder about. Anything that makes you think: "What if…? " is the start of a story.
My school is having a fund-raising auction. Will you send a donation for it?I used to do that. But I have run out of stuff to send. (Do you know that authors have to buy their own books? We don't have stacks of them sitting around). So I am not able to send donations; I get too many requests…maybe ten a week. Just can't do it!
What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?Reading is the best way to learn to write well. Read as much as you can. Think about what you read: how the author made it interesting, or funny, or suspenseful. And write as much as you can, too. Keep a journal. Get together with friends who enjoy writing, and read things aloud to each other and talk about them.
I've written lots of stories. How can I get them published?There are a few magazines that publish things by kids (look in a book called Writer's Markets to find them, and also for instructions on how to submit things). But my personal opinion is that you should not worry about "being published." You should enjoy writing, and writing more and more, so that you become better at it. I always sort of cringe when I hear, "I want to be a published writer" from a kid. I'd rather hear, "I love to write."
But I want to be rich and famous.Very, very few writers become rich and famous. Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. They are very unusual. Most writers don't even make a living by writing. If you want to become rich, then you should invent something like EBay; or maybe be an orthodontist. But writing won't do it.
Do you have a pet?I have a Tibetan terrier named Alfie who is one of my best friends: a very cuddly, affectionate guy. But when Martin, my partner, died recently, Alfie was clearly lonely. I didn’t want to deal with a second dog! But I got Alfie a kitten. My grandsons chose her at the Animal Shelter, and I asked them to name her for one of the flowers in my garden. I thought I’d end up with a Daisy or a Hollyhock! But they named her Lupine. Lupine is one of Maine’s most wonderful flowers...(There is even a picture book named Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney, which is about lupine)... We call the kitten Lulu, and she is very lovable, and good company for Alfie.
Do you know other writers?Yes, I have a lot of friends who are writers both for kids and adults. We all choose our friends because we have interests in common, so it is not surprising that many of my friends are also writers. I suppose professional basketball players hang out with other professional basketball players. And doctors probably sit and schmooze with other doctors.
What did you read when you were a kid?I read everything. I was lucky that I grew up in a family that valued books. I went to the library all the time starting at about age 5 or 6. My mom read to me. I read to myself. I loved an author named Lois Lenski, and now I laugh because sometimes kids write to me and say, "I loved your book Strawberry Girl and I have to tell them it was by Lois Lenski.
I am writing a paper about (The Giver) or (Number the Stars) or…..whatever. Please tell me….I can't do school assignments for kids. The reason a teacher gives an assignment…sometimes a HARD one…is to make you think, because by thinking you learn. If I do your thinking for you, you won't learn anything.
A parent from my school wants to ban The Giver. What do you think about that?I think banning books is a very, very dangerous thing. It takes away an important freedom. Any time there is an attempt to ban a book, you should fight it as hard as you can. It's okay for a parent to say, "I don't want my child to read this book." But it is not okay for anyone to try to make that decision for other people. The world portrayed in The Giver is a world where choice has been taken away. It is a frightening world. Let's work hard to keep it from truly happening.
Do kids ever send you rude emails?Oh, yes. I think when people can be anonymous, by not signing their name, they like to use it as a way of being hateful. I just delete those emails. But I feel kind of sorry for those kids, because they missed out on an opportunity to have a conversation with an author. If a kid writes me and says simply, "Your book sucks" I delete the email and don't reply and I never think about it again. But if they say, "I didn't much like your book for the following reasons…" then I read it with interest; maybe I learn from it; and I will answer it.
You know the emails I most dislike, though? Even if a kid loves a book? Ones that use abbreviated spelling and no punctuation, like the example below. It would be so easy---and helpful---to PUNCTUATE! And it seems sloppy not to bother. I sometimes write back and ask them to send the question, or comments, again, with punctuation, so that I can understand what they are sayinng.
dear lois I had to read yr book the giver in school and I tht I wld hate it but it turned out to be okay cuz I liked that guy jonas he was like cool why don't you wrote more about him I would prolly read those boks if u wrot them okay?