- I always loved to read, but knew I wanted to be a writer after I read a series of books
called The Garden Gang, which were written & illustrated by Jayne Fisher. Jayne was nine years old when the first of these books was published, and I clearly remember thinking, I’m only six! I have three years to figure out how to get published! It took just a little longer than that for my first book to come out (oh, well). If you love something, keep working at it.
- I was born in England (the picture to the right is obviously not a typical school day because I’m not wearing my uniform). I moved to California when I was seven and since then, I’ve lived in Florida, New Mexico, and New York, and in Cairo, Egypt as an exchange student in high school. How to Stage a Catastrophe is set in the Florida panhandle, in a fictional town based on the area around Eglin Air Force Base, where I used to live.
- I was a good student in school, but not a great one. The worst trouble I got in as a younger child was after fifth grade, when I got caught throwing wet paper towels at the bathroom ceiling at my old elementary school. “They’ll dry and stick there,” said the ringleader of this excellent adventure. And they did. Don’t ask me why I let myself get talked into this. I got in trouble with my old school and with my family. Serves me right.
- I didn’t participate in many activities outside school, unless you count eating M&Ms and reading comic strips. My crowning achievement in sixth grade was auditioning for a part in the Alameda Children’s Musical Theater’s (non-musical) production of James and the Giant Peach and getting cast as Miss Spider. In seventh grade, I played Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. By eighth grade I was no longer cute enough to play Becky Thatcher in Tom Sawyer, even though we had the same first name, so I played a couple of bit parts and my stage dreams were over. Almost twenty-five years later, I based How to Stage a Catastrophe on my days at ACMT. So don’t worry about what you’re doing with yourself now–it’s all useful experience later on.
- My favorite books as a kid were The BFG (and anything else, really) by Roald Dahl, the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, the Babysitters Club series by Ann M. Martin, and the abovementioned comic strips, mostly Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes. My mother and my grandparents were big readers, but they never tried to control what I read. They didn’t tell me I was reading the same thing too many times, or reading things that were too easy or babyish. We didn’t focus on reading levels much when I was a kid. The grownups around me knew that the important thing was that I was reading for fun. As a grownup librarian and a writer, I can tell you that reading for fun is the most important thing for you, too.
- My grandmother never told me what to read, but she did correct my grammar. She would object to my use of the word “kid” instead of “children,” because a kid, as you know, is a baby goat. She also taught me never to say “those ones” (just “those,” the “ones” is redundant) or “so fun” (“such fun” or “so much fun,” although what kid, I mean, child, ever says “That was such fun!”). You might find this annoying. I thought it was great (and a little annoying). But you never know when someone in your life is trying to hand you a tool. If you can recognize the tool, good for you. If you can use it, that’s even better.