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You Want to Know WHAT?

Do you brush your hair?

Of course I brush my hair. But my hair's natural desire to be messy is more powerful than any brush.

Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere. Seriously. And that's a problem! Wherever I am, I find myself noticing someone doing something, and then imagining it going very, very wrong . That's how I build a story: imagining things going wrong for a character. So I could be in a grocery store, see someone buying tuna fish, and then imagine a story where the tuna in the can is still actually alive and...well, you can see that most of these ideas aren't going to make good books. So I have to work very hard at narrowing my ideas down to only the ones that I love and that lots of people would want to read about.

Do you have any kids?

Yep, a boy and a girl. They're grown-ups now, but when they were kids they were nutballs.

What's your favorite writing snack?

Well, I always keep some dark chocolate in my desk drawer - that's just a daily need. Then I go through snack-phases.: gingersnaps, mangos chunks with lime juice, popcorn...right now it's wasabi soy nuts.

How long does it take to write a book?

About a year on average. The picture books take a little less time, and the novels take a couple of years. Sounds like a long time, right? That's because I'm so crazy about revising - I need to make every sentence as perfect as it can be. I probably spend ten hours rewriting for every hour I spend writing.

How many kinds of palm trees are there?

I'm glad you asked that - not enough people ask that question. There are over 2,500 kinds all across the planet, and I have now seen about 150 of them - I have become obsessed with palm trees since moving to Florida.

Do you have a special writing outfit?

Usually pajamas, nice and comfy. But I swim almost every day, and when I swim, I'm always writing. (Writing doesn't just happen at a desk, you know! Most of writing is thinking, and I find I think well when I'm swimming.) So I guess you could say I wear a bathing suit to work in also. Pajamas and bathing suits - writing is a really good job!

Why do you write for kids?

Oh, boy. That questions is a little like asking me why I breathe air. I write because I need to do it, because it challenges and satisfies me, and because I'm pretty good at it. It feels like what I'm meant to do. The reason I write for kids is that they're the best readers - they read more than grown-ups, and they love books more. Writing for people who care so much makes me want to do my best.

What was your favorite book as a kid?

I loved to read, just loved it. Black Beauty, Robinson Crusoe, The Borrowers, Old Yeller, and a series about a girl named Milly-Molly-Mandy were some favorites. I also remember loving MAD magazine - when each month's issue came, I'd run up to my room and devour it.

Maybe the book I remember most was HEIDI. I was so obsessed with Heidi that I begged my parents to let me sleep in the attic on hay (they said NO) and to eat only goat cheese and bread (they said NO) and to have a goat (amazingly, they said YES to that!)

How old are you?

Why do you always want to know that??? I'm a little older than The Cat in the Hat, and that's all I'm going to say about that.

Do you have any advice for people who want to write?

Read. Read, read, read, read, read. When you find a book you really love, read it again and try to figure out how the author gripped you.

Do you have any favorite words?

I do! I love "chandelier" and "jubilee" and "giclee" (pronounced zhee-klay, it's a type of printmaking process.) I love made-up words, too. I once heard someone use the word "bloopy" and I thought it was so great I put it in a picture book. (I asked his permission first, of course.) And for the final Clementine I made up a new word - "glozzled" - for how you feel when you see someone you're in love with. Words are supposed to sound good, look good on the page, and express something - I have lots of favorites, and they change all the time, like my snack phases.

What is Clementine's little brother's name?

Sorry, my mouth is on fire from eating wasabi soy nuts, so I can't answer you...

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