What was your favorite book when you were a child?
- I read constantly as a child—and I still do. It’s very difficult to choose a favorite book. I remember reading Winnie the Pooh many times over. When I was a little older, I read a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction, by Isaac Asimov. As a teenager, I loved the Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein.
What’s your favorite line from a book?
- Again, there are many. One of my favorite passages is from The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkein—in which Gandalf stands on the bridge at Khazad-Dhum and battles the Balrog, deep in the mines of Moria.
Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?
Again, it’s difficult to choose. Perhaps Mark Twain, John McPhee, and Edward O. Wilson.
Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
- It wasn’t so much "wanting" to become an author. In school, writing was something I liked to do—maybe even had to do. In college I had an assignment to write a children’s book for a children’s literature class, and that started me thinking about the possibility of writing as a second career. Early in my career, I wrote humorous essays – but I soon discovered there’s a very limited market for them. (Maybe I just wasn’t that funny.) Later I realized there were other ideas I wanted to share with readers, so I started writing about classroom techniques, nature study, and other topics that interested me and that I had some expertise in. Eventually, I got the nerve to try writing entire books. Much of my early writing began with activities and instructional units I created for the students in my own classroom. Several of my books include activities students themselves created as part of those units.
Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
- You can’t just wait for inspiration to strike. Write. Just like anything else, you get better with practice.Writing also gives you a great opportunity to exercise your curiosity. Being a writer gives you a good excuse to ask anybody about almost anything you’d like to learn more about. Perhaps the most fun thing about being a writer for me is leaning about new subjects and new ideas as I research and write.