About J.C. Greenburg
“With all these questions spinning around in my head, I never had a boring moment.”—J. C. Greenburg
J. C. Greenburg is the author of many books for young people in the library and reference field. She's a frequent visitor to schools and pays close attention to kid feedback. She's married to Dan Greenburg, author of The Zack Files, and lives in New York.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
“I’ll be landing at the airport in thirty minutes,” said Uncle Al. “Right now I want you to think about the sign over my office door.”
“Oh yeah!” Andrew nodded. “It says, ‘Questions have many answers.’”
“You’ve got it!” said Uncle Al. “It’s the best magic I know. It works for anything. You can use it to make a pizza, find new planets, or get unshrunk!”—from Andrew Lost in the Garden
“I just want you to be normal!” my mother used to say pleadingly—and often. She said it when she found me digging for dinosaur bones in the backyard. She said it when she found the orchid plants I was growing under my bed. (That was before I knew plants need light!) She said it in the grocery store when, instead of asking for candy or cereal, I asked for a Venus Fly Trap.
Poor Mom. She wanted a normal kid. I wanted to see platypuses and figure out how flies walk across the ceiling without falling off. And just how giant is a Giant Gippsland Earthworm anyway? With all these questions spinning around in my head, I never had a boring moment.
I also loved to write. So when I graduated from college, I found the perfect job for me. I became an editor of science books. I worked on books about volcanoes and stars and weather and math. I especially loved helping authors who wrote about living things. The biologists were such fun!. And they, too, loved to ask questions.
Now here was the best part about my job: If I had a question about anything, I could call an expert anywhere in the world to find an answer. Experts are people who love to study things like earthquakes and ants and octopuses. Experts are people who want to tell you what they know about what they love!
After many happy years of working on other people’s books, I decided it was time to write my own. I had learned a lot about things that interested me: why spiders don’t stick to their own webs, why insects can never grow as big as the ones in horror movies, what the inside of the earth is made of. And I still had a TON of questions. Maybe there were kids who were interested in the things I was interested in. That’s when I came up with the idea for “Andrew Lost.”
Now there are two favorite parts of my work as an author. I still get to call anyone in the world to ask questions. For example, a little while ago, I needed facts on blue whales, the biggest creatures that have ever lived, for Andrew Lost in the Whale. I called two experts. We had interesting conversations about what a blue whale’s tongue looks like and whether a 10-year-old could squeeze through a whale’s intestines.
My other favorite part of being an author is visiting schools and talking to kids about everything from the cute creatures that live upside down in our eyelashes to the giant squid that lives in the deepest ocean.
If you asked me how to guarantee that your life would be interesting, I’d tell you this:
Come up with some questions and look for answers. You’ll meet some terrific people, have lots of fun, and you will never ever be bored.
About Mary Pope Osborne
“I’m one of those very lucky people who absolutely loves what they do for a living. There is no career better suited to my eccentricities, strengths, and passions than that of a children’s book author.”—Mary Pope Osborne
Mary Pope Osborne is the author of the popular Magic Tree House series. She works with her husband Will and her sister Natalie on the nonfiction companion series, Magic Tree House Research Guides. Many of her books have been named to best-books lists.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
“I grew up in the military. By the time I was 15, I had lived in Oklahoma, Austria, Florida, and four different army posts in Virginia and North Carolina. Moving was never traumatic for me, but staying in one place was. When my dad finally retired to a small town in North Carolina, I nearly went crazy with boredom. I craved the adventure and changing scenery of our military life. Miraculously, one day I found these things, literally only a block away—at the local community theater. From then on, I spent nearly every waking hour after school there.
“After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the early 1970s, I lived an intensely varied life. For a while I camped in a cave on the island of Crete. Then I joined up with a small band of European young people heading to ‘The East.’ We traveled through 11 Asian countries and nearly lost our lives, first in an earthquake in northern Afghanistan and then in a riot in Kabul. My trip came to an abrupt halt in Katmandu when I got blood poisoning. During the two weeks I spent in a missionary hospital there, I read all of the Tolkien trilogy. To this day, my journey to ‘The East’ is tangled up in my mind with Frodo’s adventures.
“After I returned home and recovered from my illness, I promptly headed back into the real world. I worked as a window dresser, as a medical assistant, and as a Russian travel consultant. One night I attended the opening of a musical about Jesse James. From the balcony, I fell in love with Will Osborne, the actor/musician playing Jesse. I loved his boots and his white cowboy hat; I loved how he sang and strummed the guitar. A year later, in New York City, we were married.
“Thereafter, when I wasn’t on the road with Will, I worked as a waitress, taught acting classes in a nursing home, was a bartender, and had a job as an assistant editor for a children’s magazine.
“Then one day, out of the blue, I began writing a story about an 11-year-old girl in the South. The girl was a lot like me, and many of the incidents in the story were similar to happenings in my childhood. The first draft was crudely written, but it must have communicated something to an editor, because shortly after I finished, it became a young adult novel called Run, Run Fast as You Can. Finally, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
"Now 24 years and 80 books later, I think I’m one of the most fortunate people on earth. Whenever I work on a book, I feel as if I’ve traveled to some amazing place in the world. Writing Tales from the Odyssey, I sailed with Odysseus through the ancient Greek world. Working on the Spider Kane Mysteries, I spent time in an abandoned cottage garden with a group of nutty and wonderful insects. Working on my novel Haunted Waters, I lived in a haunted castle with a sea spirit. While working on my new picture book, Pompeii: Lost and Found, I felt as if I myself were excavating an ancient Roman city. And of course, with my Magic Tree House series, I take daily journeys with Jack and Annie to different times and places, from the prehistoric world of dinosaurs to the world of Camelot. Though there are 36 books of fiction and 13 non-fiction books in the Magic Tree House series now, I don’t think I’ll ever run out of places to travel to in my imagination.
"The Magic Tree House has also whisked me to schools all over the country, and the contact I now have with millions of readers has brought overwhelming joy into my life. I love the letters I get and I love reading the countless Magic Tree House stories that children themselves have written. I feel as if my readers and I are all exploring the creative process together, using our imaginations and writing skills to take us wherever we want to go. This, I tell my small fellow authors, is true magic."
MARY POPE OSBORNE ON THE MAGIC TREE HOUSE SERIES
We passed an old dilapidated tree house . . .
I spent a year trying different ways to get two kids back in time. I tried an enchanted cellar with magic whistles, an enchanted museum, and an enchanted artist’s studio. I wrote seven different manuscripts using different magical devices and nothing worked. Then on a walk in the country with my husband, we passed an old dilapidated tree house. We started talking about the tree house . . . and continued talking about it. The next day I tried writing about it—to see if it might possibly be magic. And it was.
I’m aching to hang out with penguins . . .
My stories always coincide with my personal interests, which seem fairly unlimited at this point. I find that the more you learn, the more you want to learn. I want to take Jack and Annie to Antarctica. I’m aching to hang out with penguins.
They started dreaming me up . . .
At first I just dreamed Jack and Annie up. They seem so happy and complete. I don’t want to subject them to the awful peer pressure that comes with growing older. They’d probably start hanging around the mall instead of climbing into the tree house.
My brothers and I had great adventures on our bikes and in the woods and on the beach where we lived. We felt as though we’d been to far distant worlds by the time we came home—adventures we happily kept to ourselves. I want kids to live through Jack and Annie’s independent journeys as well as their own!
It’s harmonious teamwork . . .
My editor has had an incalculable impact on these books. She has worked on all [the] books to date, and has been a great inspiration and guide. The series has a wonderful illustrator, Sal Murdocca. Sal researches the illustrations himself, and he’s very flexible and open to my ideas. The series’ designer and editor also have input into the art. It’s harmonious teamwork.
MARY POPE OSBORNE ON MARY POPE OSBORNE
I’m a creature of constant change . . .
No two days of writing for the last 20 odd years have been the same. I write at every time of the day. I carry my laptop to every part of the house—or to places outside the house. I’m a creature of constant change. I do a lot of research before I start writing, but I do a great deal more after I start writing, as I confront more and more questions about the subject matter.
I’m living an extraordinary life . . .
The best part of being a writer is being transported to other places and living other experiences. By surrounding myself with the smells, weather, animals, and people of imaginary landscapes, I feel as if I’m living an extraordinary life. The worst part of being a writer is not having enough time or energy to write all the things I want to write.
I started writing poetry in high school . . .
I was living in North Carolina and I loved the work of Thomas Wolfe. Not until my late twenties did I have any idea I could be a writer. I only knew that I loved living in my imagination, and that no matter what job I was doing, my mind and thoughts were elsewhere. I was ready to settle for being a professional daydreamer.
I’ve had too many favorite authors to list . . .
As a child, I loved Frances Hodgson Burnett and Laura Ingalls Wilder. In my teen years: Thomas Wolfe, J. D. Salinger, Hermann Hesse, and Jack Kerouac. In my twenties: Tolstoy, Nabokov, E. B. White, and Colette. Since then I’ve had too many to list. The Little Princess, The Three Ugly Sisters, and Big Farmer Big were my favorite books.
To aspiring writers:
Write, write, write. Always try to have fun and at the same time always do the hard work of rewriting.
Mary Pope Osborne is the author of many highly acclaimed books for children and young adults, including novels, picture books, biographies, mysteries, and retellings of fairy tales, myths, and tall tales. She has completed two terms as president of the Author’s Guild, the leading organization for professional writers in the United States.
THE MAGIC TREE HOUSE SERIES
“Mary Pope Osborne provides nicely paced excitement for young readers, and there’s just enough information mixed in so that children will take away some historical fact along with a sense of accomplishment at having completed a chapter book.”—Children’s Literature on the Magic Tree House series
“A rousing adventure tale filled with dancing fairies, white stags, and hideous beasts.”—School Library Journal on Christmas in Camelot
AMERICAN TALL TALES
—A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
—A Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
—An NCSS–CBC Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
—An ABC Children’s Booksellers’ Choice Award
—An American Bookseller Pick of the Lists
—A Parents Magazine Best Book of the Year
SPIDER KANE AND THE MYSTERY AT JUMBO NIGHTCRAWLER’S
—An Edgar Award Nominee for Best Juvenile Mystery
SPIDER KANE AND THE MYSTERY UNDER THE MAY-APPLE
—A Parents’ Choice Story Book Honor
—A Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Book of the Year
ONE WORLD, MANY RELIGIONS
The Ways We Worship
—An Orbis Pictus Honor Book, National Council of Teachers of English
About Barbara Park
Barbara Park was best-known as the creator and author of the New York Times bestselling Junie B. Jones series, the stories of an outrageously funny kindergartener who has kept kids (and their grownups) laughing—and reading—for over two decades. Published by Random House Books for Young Readers, the series has sold 55 million copies in North America alone, has been translated into multiple languages and is a beloved and time-honored staple in elementary school classrooms around the world.
The series was consistently a #1 New York Times bestseller, spending over 180 weeks on the list, and Barbara and her books were profiled in such national outlets as Time, Newsweek, USA Today, The New York Times, and Today.
Park died on November 15, 2013 after fighting ovarian cancer heroically for seven and a half years.
Barbara Park arrived at the writing profession through an indirect route. Before becoming a bestselling and beloved children’s author, she originally intended to teach high school history and political science. She got her secondary education degree but quickly realized that her calling was to be a writer. She said, “My senior year of high school, I was voted ‘Wittiest.’ So several years later, I decided to try my hand at writing humor and see if I could be witty enough to make some money.”
After several rejections, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers acquired her first manuscript, Operation: Dump the Chump and two others. Don’t Make Me Smile was published first in 1981, followed by Operation: Dump the Chump (1982) and Skinnybones (1982).
She went on to write over fifty books, from the picture book Ma! There’s Nothing to Do Here!, a love letter to her grandson, to middle grade novels such as Skinnybones, The Kid in the Red Jacket, Mick Harte Was Here, and The Graduation of Jake Moon. Barbara won more than forty children’s book awards, including several Children’s Choice Awards.
On writing books for kids, Barbara once said: “There are those who believe that the value of a children’s book can be measured only in terms of the moral lessons it tries to impose or the perfect role models it offers. Personally, I happen to think that a book is of extraordinary value if it gives the reader nothing more than a smile or two. In fact, I happen to think that’s huge.”
Every bit as funny and as outrageous as her best-known character, Barbara shared a special connection with Junie B. Jones. She once said of the series, “I’ve never been sure whether Junie B.’s fans love her in spite of her imperfections . . . or because of them. But either way, she’s gone out into the world and made more friends than I ever dreamed possible.”
Barbara Park was born in Mount Holly, New Jersey, on April 21, 1947, and spent most of her adult life in Arizona. There she, with her husband, Richard, raised her two sons and spent time with her two young grandsons.
Throughout her life, Barbara was passionate about supporting many causes. She was a “wish” for several children participating in the Make-a-Wish Foundation and would dedicate her upcoming books to kids whose dying wish was to meet her. Barbara also founded her own charitable organization with her husband, Richard—Sisters in Survival (“SIS”), a nonprofit organization dedicated to offering financial assistance to ovarian cancer patients. SIS is an all-volunteer organization, and all donations go directly to women struggling with ovarian cancer. Barbara’s family will continue to run SIS. (www.sistersinsurvival.org)
About Ron Roy
“I’m totally convinced that I am a writer today because I loved books as a kid.”—Ron Roy
Ron Roy is the author of the popular A to Z Mysteries series, as well as the Capital Mysteries series, and several picture books. He lives in Connecticut.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
“When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?” I have been asked that question many times since my first book, A Thousand Pails of Water, was published in 1978. Now that I’ve had so many years to think of an answer, I guess I have to say that at age nine I had an inkling that words were going to be a big part of my life.
When I turned nine, I received for my birthday a wonderful gift—a book. It was about King Arthur and his knights. Even though I vividly remember the shiny blue and red cover and the smell of the new paper, I don’t remember the author. But I thank her or him every day of my writing life. That writer stirred up something in me that has been bubbling ever since: a love for reading, and the urgent need to put words down on paper.
In spite of my love for reading, writing as a profession never occurred to me until I became an adult. I worked at an odd variety of jobs before I realized that writing was what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life. Over the years, I waited tables, sold hot dogs, and drove a “Tooth” van from which I taught kids how to brush their teeth and floss. One year I traveled across the world to Hong Kong and taught English to Vietnamese adults. I wrote feature stories for a newspaper and designed letterhead for a printer. One happy summer I worked as a camp counselor.
After two years in the navy and more travel, I landed in the freshman class at the University of Connecticut. Naturally, I majored in English literature. More doors opened for me as I read poetry, novels, essays, and did my share of writing. Still, I did not see myself as a writer. I knew that I enjoyed being around kids, so I became a schoolteacher.
And then, finally, in a fourth-grade classroom, the light bulb in my head flickered on and shone brightly. Its message was, I WANT TO WRITE! In my classroom, I was surrounded by kids and their books. I read those books and fell in love with the characters, the authors, the messages. I was hooked, but I never fought. I allowed myself to be reeled in.
My writing life began one evening after reading parts of Charlotte’s Web to my class. Home from teaching, I walked into my apartment, dropped my bookbag, and headed for the typewriter (this was before word processing came along!). I wrote my first story that night and sent it to a book publisher the next day. Four weeks later I received my first rejection slip. But by then, I had written more stories, and they, too, were in the mail, soon to appear on editors’ desks around the country.
The rejection slips came in, often flooding my mailbox. But I wrote, and I sent my best work along to a long list of publishing houses. Although more rejection slips arrived with each mail, I never felt rejected. My routine was set, and it didn’t change: I taught by day and wrote by night. Each evening found me hunched over the typewriter creating characters, settings, and plots. Most weekends I walked on the beach with a dream in my head and a notebook in my back pocket. From those dreams and notes I wrote story after story.
Four years passed. Dozens of book manuscripts had been written, sent, and rejected. Then the day came when one of those “rejection” envelopes turned out to contain not a rejection but an acceptance. “Dear Mr. Roy . . . We are happy to tell you that we would love to publish your book. . .” Those seventeen words changed my life. I was no longer a schoolteacher who tried to write. I was going to be a published author!
Today, with more than 50 children’s books behind me, I can think of no other occupation that would make me as happy. As a writer, I get to do all the things I love most: speak to kids, invent stories, travel, and of course, read. My A to Z Mysteries series sends me to classrooms where I listen to and learn so much from the students. I receive letters from young readers across the globe, and I answer every letter. Many of the letters contain suggestions for new plots, titles, characters. One girl asked if I would use her dog in one of my mysteries. What a great idea, I thought, and invented a canine character for an upcoming book.
Children ask about my writing, but they also want to know about my personal life. “Where do you live?” “Do you have any pets?” “What’s your favorite food, color, author, TV show?” I’m happy to tell kids about my life as a writer as well as my life as a person. I live in an old farmhouse in Connecticut. My property consists of three acres of large trees, a barn, and a wonderful chicken coop. Recently, I brought a few chickens to live there, and they have become pets. Like E. B. White (my favorite author!) I love the sound and smell and warmth of animals. But since I travel a lot, I can’t fill my barn with critters.
“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question that teachers ask often. “Everywhere,” I respond, then I give specifics. Ideas come from reading newspapers and books. Ideas come from TV shows and movies and the news on the radio. I bring ideas back from trips, from church, from the grocery store. The letters I receive from kids are often filled with ideas.
The idea for my first published book evolved from a stroll on the beach. While walking, I came upon an overturned horseshoe crab. With legs frantically waving, the crab tried unsuccessfully to flip over onto its stomach. I uprighted the crab, then watched it scurry into the water and swim away. From that little episode came A Thousand Pails of Water, my picture book about a boy and a beached whale. Not really much of a leap—I saved a crab, the boy in my book saved a whale.
I smile when kids ask me if I write every hour of every day. Some writers do, I suppose, but I find that I need a balance. I spend a goodly number of hours each week actually writing but leave plenty of time for playing with friends, going to the movies and on vacations, and taking naps with my cat. I also work on my house, which seems to require a lot of attention.
In many ways, however, I am “writing” even when doing chores. As I paint my barn, I am thinking of story plots. As I weed my garden, I daydream about new characters. When I nap, I dream about the next mystery in my series . . . and the next.
It’s a cycle, really. As a child, I loved to read. Reading led me to writing as a career. I share my books—and thus my love for reading and writing—with children. From them I receive warm feelings and some great ideas.
Now when I write my books, one of my hopes is that I can give back at least a part of the joy I have received.
You can learn more about Ron Roy and his books at RonRoy.com
About Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Marjorie Weinman Shermat has written more than 130 books for children and young adults, which have been translated into seventeen languages. She lives with her husband in Tuscon, Arizona.