Marlene Targ Brill

Marlene is an award-winning author of almost 70 titles for readers preschool through adult. She began writing while teaching children with disabilities, producing materials to help her students learn. With time, the desire to write grew stronger. Soon she was writing for a variety of formats—magazines, internet, newspapers, scripts, books, and textbooks for readers of all ages. Yet, she never forgets where the dream of writing originated—through work with children. She is drawn back into classrooms to share the wonders of research and writing, and, of course, reading books.

Interview

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Hands down The Carrot Seed. It’s the earliest book I remember getting and the one that became my philosophy of writing. It’s about a boy who finds a carrot seed and wants to plant it, but everyone says it will never come up. When I started writing, everyone said writing a book was difficult and I’d never get published. The boy and I each had patience and persistence. Today, I have 67 published titles for readers of all ages.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

"If each person promises that in the next 24 hours beginning the very next day she or he will do at least one outrageous act in the cause of simple justice, then I promise I will, too."
Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?

Whoa! That’s a hard one. One favorite author/illustrator is Patricia Polacco. She’s an amazing storyteller in words and pictures. Her stories come from the heart—and usually a family experience. Another favorite author is Jane Yolen.  What a range of writing she does, from poetry to historical fiction, a favorite of mine, and she writes them so well. I also like the adult historical fiction of Rita Mae Brown and Anita Diamant. But I read lots of nonfiction, which I also write. I enjoy the excellent research and writing of books for kids by Russell Freedman, Jim Murphy, and some books by Judith and Dennis Fradin and Candace Fleming.  For adult nonfiction, I always like to read books by Barbara Erhenreich, Gloria Steinem and Studs Terkel, to name a few.

Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?

First, I love creating in all forms. I’m an amateur painter and love crafts. Writing fits into the category of creating for me. Second, I loved making materials for my students, so I thought I’d like to reach a wider audience. I saw where there were holes in what was offered to young readers and tried to fill those holes. Third, I love to read. What better way to share that love than to produce books for others to read.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?

The best advice I can think of is to read, read, read. I wasn’t a trained author, so I learned to write by reading and discovering what I liked about certain books. Two other important qualities of authors are patience and persistence. Getting published takes really believing in your work and sending it out again and again, even if you get lots of rejections, those no letters from editors at publishing houses that say they don’t want to make your story into a book. Even when a editor agrees to publish your book, the process can take years. So patience and persistence are definitely a plus.