Q & A
Where did you get the idea for And I Thought About You?
And I Thought About You grew out of an everyday event - a bedtime routine my first son and I invented when we lived in Hong Kong. After reading books together, we would share our day's activities with each other always ending it with "and I thought about you."
Where do you get your other ideas for writing?
I get my ideas from my life. However, the stories are not exactly what happened. I embellish to make the stories more interesting to the reader and more universal. For example, when my son and I created the "And I Thought About You" routine, the building I was working in did not have a shiny new elevator. I was working at a school in Hong Kong in a beautiful old building. Since there were no elevators, I had to climb over 100 stairs just to get to my office.
One story I wrote called Hunting the Moon is about a time when my two sons and I woke up at 4:00 in the morning to see the lunar eclipse. It was cloudy that morning but we were determined. We spent the next couple hours searching for the moon all over town. We were still in our pajamas.
Another story, When it Snows comes from memories of my childhood. We used to go to upstate New York in the winter. With no friends and no TV, one would think my brother and I would be really bored. But we weren't, we would have snowball fights, go sledding, ice-skate on the frozen pond and have the most thrilling time together, espcially when it snowed.
How many drafts do you usually do?
For a 300-800 words picture book, which is what I mostly write, I'd say I go through 10-20 drafts. And that's before I even send it to a publisher or agent. They of course, have ideas for editing and revision as well.
Where do you write?
I really write everywhere. I used to carry a notebook (but that's so last year). Now I use my phone. I have a running list of ideas, snippets of talk, and descriptions I collect. I incorporate those into different pieces. Somtimes, I write on single pieces of paper if I'm inspired to write more than just a few lines. I find that I get inspiration when I change my environment so I often move my computer to different rooms in my house. Sometimes I go to a local coffee shop or bring my writing to my son's sporting events. The surrounding noise relaxes me so my writing seems to flow better.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I always liked writing. When I was 10 I remember writing stories when I had nothing else to do. I also, always kept a journal where I wrote about life, my wonderings, and things I observed. My college application essay was actually excerpted from my journal.
What are your favorite picture books?
Stand Tall Mary-Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
My Momma Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray
Ish by Peter Reynolds
All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan
What are your favorite kids and adult chapter books?
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Baby by Patricia MacLachlan
Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Holes by Louis Sacher
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
For One More Day by Mitch Albom
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
What other jobs have you had?
When I was in graduate school I was a hostess, a bartender, and a camp counselor. I've also worked as a media specialist in an advertising agency. I've been a teacher and administrator and now I'm a part-time professor and writer for educational publishing companies.
What do you do when you're not working?
When I'm not working I'm hanging out with my family. We play lots of cards and board games. Some of our favorites are Kings in the Corner and Rummy 500 or Rummy Cube. We often have gaming tournaments. Recently we've been playing Sorry. I think we played 15 games before I actually won.
I also like to ski, play tennis, and go to the beach. The beach at 5:00 in the afternoon is one of my favorite places - skin salty and still warmed by the summer sun, sitting with friends or family just enjoying the sound of the waves and talking.
What are some things you still want to learn?
I want to learn to be a graphic designer. I'd also like to learn to speak another language. When we lived in Hong Kong I tried to learn Cantonese, that's the dialect of Chinese spoken in Hong Kong. I say tried, because I took classes and spoke whenever I could but when a taxi driver told me he could understand my English better, "so please use English," I knew I was doomed.
What do you wish you could do?
I wish I could sing. I love to sing but my voice just doesn't have a nice sound. When I was a teacher, when the students weren't listening. I would start singing Start Spreading the News by Frank Sinatra. That would get their attention. They'd beg me to stop singing and when I did they were all looking at me and listening.