If You Give an Author a Pencil...
By the time I was nine years old, I loved to write and tell stories and knew someday I would be an author. But when I was fifteen, I decided I wanted to be a designer, just like my big sister, Emily. I went to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York to study fashion design. But after my first year of college, I realized it wasn't my cup of tea. So, I took classes in illustration, animation, photography...and a class called "Writing and Illustrating Children's Books" with Barbara Bottner.
...She's Going to Need Some Paper to Write On... In that class, we had a homework assignment to write and illustrate our own children's book. I ended up selling my homework, and Amy For Short was published by Macmillan in 1975, just before I graduated.
That's when I realized that writing for children combined my three favorite things to do: writing stories, drawing, and reading!
...and a Library Card. I am and have always been an avid reader.
I was thrilled when they told me I could take home any six books! I would lie on my bed and read for hours. Then as soon as I finished the six books, I went back to the library for more. Two of my favorite books were Stuart Little, about a mouse in New York, and Eloise, about a little girl in New York. Now I love biographies, nonfiction, and stories dealing with travel.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie was the tenth book I wrote. The idea came to me on a long, boring car trip.
I don't know about you, but I get silly when I get bored.
On the way from San Francisco to Oregon in the car, I tried to make my friend laugh by telling a story about a mouse nibbling on a cookie. “He'd want some milk to go with it. And then he'd probably need a straw. Then he'd want a napkin..." and by the time we reached Oregon, I had told the whole story!
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie was turned down nine times — but my motto is "never give up." I continued to submit it to publishers until it found a home at Harper.
Now, I visit classrooms all over the country and read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. For fun, I'll warn them that I may make a mistake while I'm reading and I hope they can catch it. Then I'll say something like "If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to want a banana." You should hear the shouts of protest go up. There's also a dance I made up to the song "Doin' the Mouse Cookie" which I teach the kids.
It's fun to see kids growing up with Mouse, Moose, and Pig. And so many exciting things are happening with these characters — they even have Hollywood knocking at the door.
If You Give a Writer a Day Off... I'm a film freak; one year I saw seventy-two movies. I enjoy exploring California (where I live) and get a kick from just driving through the country and watching cows (I spent twenty-five years in New York City). To supplement my income when I first started out, I had such odd jobs as running a merry-go-round and doing private investigation.
My work is my life. I can draw no distinction between the words "work" and "spare time." I love what I'm doing. I'd eventually like to write screenplays and adult fiction, but I'll always have a first love for children's books. I hope to be writing until my last days.