The Proust-Esque Questionnaire is based on a set of 36 standardized questions designed by Marcel Proust in the 1890’s to give an overview of the respondent’s personality. Our goals are less lofty, but hopefully will provide some insight into how your favorite authors and illustrators work and what they love.
The first books I remember reading were The Bobbsey Twins, which makes me sound ancient because the first of this series came out in 1904 (says Wikipedia). But they published new books through 1979, and 30 more between 1987 and 1992. I was very fond of those twins (Nan & Bert, and Freddie & Flossie).
The truthful answer is: All of them. I love climbing inside a character’s head and finding ways we are the same. But if I must pick just one, I’m going with Kizzy from Lips Touch by Laini Taylor. She is the main character in the first story, “Goblin Fruit,” a fantastical tale that bears no resemblance to my own life. But, like Kizzy, I was largely ignored by boys in high school. I can easily imagine my teen self struggling to resist the attentions of such a swoony boy as Jack Husk!
3. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR? ILLUSTRATOR?
My favorite illustrator is Marla Frazee. I discovered her work in The Seven Silly Eaters, by Mary Ann Hoberman, a book I read to my kids when they were little. I absolutely adored the illustrations and wanted to live in that house with that family! My kids and I went on to love her illustrations in Harriet You Drive Me Wild and the Clementine series as well.
4. IF YOU WERE THROWING A KINDERLIT PARTY FOR FIVE GUESTS, WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?
Ahhh, here’s my chance to mention a few of my other favorite authors. I’d invite Laurie Halse Anderson, Libba Bray, Aaron Hartzler, Jandy Nelson and Kwame Alexander (left).
Would that be a great conversation or what?
5. WHICH QUALITY DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT IN GOOD CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
6. IF YOUR OWN WORK HAS A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, WHAT WHAT IS IT?
Uh… Relatability? Haha. At least, I hope so. Also vulnerability.
7. IF YOU WERE TO DIE AND COME BACK AS A CHARACTER FROM CHILDREN’S LITERATURE, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE?
How about Junie B. Jones? I bet she grows up to be a very interesting adult.
Oh, God. One thing? How about every thing? It’s difficult to read anything I’ve written without editing it in my head. If my editor hadn’t basically torn the final draft of Between the Notes out of my hands, I’d still be revising it today. I’m constantly learning from this process, so rather than change what I’ve done in the past, I’ll try to apply what I’ve learned to my future work.
9. WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
“Do it.” I casually mentioned to an author I met several years ago that I’d love to write a novel someday. She encouraged me to go for it. She smacked away all of the obstacles I raised. She told me to do it and I did it!
10. DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS.
My work process is constantly changing, depending on my mood, where I am on a project, the seasons, phases of the moon… you name it. For my new novel, How to Disappear, which is tentatively scheduled for winter 2017 publication, I was on a short deadline to get a first draft to my editor. So, I wrote a synopsis and I outlined. I strayed from it a bit, but not too far. I tried to write a chapter or scene every day, and then shared it with my 15-year-old son. It was helpful to have him waiting to read at the end of each day. On other projects I’ve set daily word counts, and when I’m revising on deadline, it’s a hunker-down-and-ignore-everything-else sort of process!