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Harper is named after her mother's favorite author. What would you be named if your mother did the same thing?

I am very grateful that my mom didn't name me "Roald"!  But I do share her love of Roald Dahl.  She read all of his books to my brother and me!  She always had time to read to us and I think she enjoyed it as much as we did.  Coincidentally,  I do have the same name as her favorite non-fiction writer.  My mom loved true crime.  She once went to an Ann Rule booksigning and gave her her own theory of the Green River Killer!  I smile every time I think of it!

What about your own children?

I have two daughters, Jessica and Holly.  They aren't named after anyone, but I think it would have been cool to name a girl "Harper", or a boy "Steinbeck". Another one of my favorite writers is Patricia Reilly Giff, but my grandpa moved to the U.S. from Ireland, so my family already has every possible version of that name about a million times over!

What were you like when you were in 5th grade?

I read constantly, and in the fifth grade, I was heavily into Nancy Drew and Judy Blume books.  I can still remember the exact smell of the Auburn Public Library in Auburn, Washington.  I can also still picture vividly in my mind the shelves where my favorite books were located!  I had a best friend, Leslie, who lived across the street from me.  We used to create these elaborate Barbie houses out of old boxes and parts of her living room furniture.  We also wrote together.  She had a tree house in the back yard and we used to drag all of our writing materials up an old rope ladder!

Harper is an aspiring poet. Do you write poetry? Who is your favorite poet?

I love poetry, but I don't write a lot of it.  My favorite poets are Billy Collins and Mary Jo Scott.  I also really like a lot of Irish poets.

Why did you choose to write about poverty?

I don't think I ever set out to write about poverty as a subject.  I just wanted to tell Harper's story as honestly as I could.

Why do you think it's important for children to read about difficult subjects?

This is going to sound so cliche, but life is full of difficulties, and I think that a huge part of growing up is learning different strategies to deal with those difficulties.

Harper has a mean neighbor. Have you ever had a mean neighbor?

Oh, yes!  She was a big bully, and she was an adult!  She was also the mother of three kids and they lived right on our street.  She used to say the most hurtful things.  But my friend, Leslie, and I fought back in print!  We'd go up in her tree house and write songs about her.  We even created an entire paper doll family where we'd act out the horrible things she did!

Will you describe a time in your life when you had to persevere like Harper does?

I was a single mother for a while.  I definitely think it made me a stronger person.  What set me apart from Harper's mother is that she didn't have anyone to help her.  I was lucky; my parents were wonderful.  They helped with my daughter when I was taking classes at night and they even paid for my daycare for a year. Harper's mom didn't have anyone to do that for her.

You're a teacher. How does that influence your writing?

It definitely does influence my writing.  I love to see how the kids interact with each other.  Their comments can be priceless!

What are you working on next?

I am working on another middle grade novel, due out next year, also with Henry Holt.



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Oct. 29th, 2010 06:20 am (UTC)
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