When did you first feel like a writer?
In 5th grade I considered myself an author/illustrator. I had a thick manuscript of poems and stories written in large, loopy handwriting on lined paper with pencil and crayon illustrations. Most of the stories were mysteries but some were humorous. One title was “Lucky: The Story of a Dog Who Wore Black Lace Underwear.” When I tell kids in schools today about this one, they crack up laughing.
What’s your philosophy about teaching a writing class?
I try to help writers get over the fear of not writing a perfect first draft because that’s something I have had to deal with. Once you give yourself permission to produce a bad first draft, you’re free to discover your truth and identify your material. In class, I try to be a supportive coach, encouraging writers to develop ideas and explore, to push themselves to write more, to experiment, to revise, to give and receive honest feedback. Sometimes it takes a bit of courage to move out of your comfort zone and submit your work to others, but the rewards are great.
If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Can’t pick just one. I’d like to take a spin with Nancy Drew and her pals Bess and George. I’d like to spend a winter afternoon with Jo March and her sisters dressing up and putting on plays. I’d love to go rafting down the Mississippi with Huck Finn. How about visiting James in his giant peach pit house in Central Park? Delightful!