Sunday, September 2, 2018

I'm writing a report for school and I need to know…

…your life story, please. I can’t find a biography of you online.

Ha, my nefarious plan has worked! Nonetheless, your report is important, so see if there’s anything you can use here:

I was born in  Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, and grew up in the tiny village of Gilbertsville, New York. I graduated from Antioch (college) and SUNY Albany (graduate school). Then I went to Florida to teach English as a Second Language in the Everglades, where I got pneumonia. The doctor said it was because of the climate. So when the school year ended, I boarded a bus with the intention of getting as far from the Everglades as I could. Boy, was that a long bus ride. It ended in Alaska, where I stayed for the next eight years, teaching ESL mostly on the Bering Sea coast but also in Anchorage. But nobody would come visit me in Alaska (except my mother, but only once and she didn’t stay long). So I came back downstates, taught at Salem College in North Carolina for a few years, and then quit to write full time. I live in upstate New York.

… what is the moral of Jinx?

I don’t know.

I just wrote the books to tell a story. That’s what readers want; a story.

After all, nobody ever took a book off a shelf, looked at it, and said, “Oh, I want to read this! It looks like it has a really good moral!”

Or if anyone ever did say that, it’s not someone you’d probably want to meet.

I think there are some moral questions in the JINX books, but I don’t have answers to them.

Beware of people who offer simple answers to complicated questions.

(Don’t mention in your report that there are moral questions. If you do, you’ll be asked to identify them. Guaranteed.)

…about inspiration. Where did you get the inspiration to write Jinx?

Mm. I don’t think I did. “Inspiration” sounds like something that hits you from out of the blue. If you wait around for inspiration, you will grow a long white beard, which will be a real nuisance, especially if you’re a girl. But you won’t write any books.

Writers have ideas. Everyone else has ideas too. You have ideas. (Admit it. You do.) Writers have to teach themselves to recognize their ideas. They have to coax them along, and introduce them to other ideas. One idea is never enough to make story.

Sometimes an idea is a little thing that sparks your interest.

For many, many years, I’ve been fascinated by the Deep Dark Forest, of fairy tale fame. That was one spark.

I read an old legend about a wizard named Simon Magus. There seemed to be a lot of pieces missing from the legend. That was another spark.

I read about Little Red Riding Hood. Was she really too dumb to tell her grandmother from a wolf? I bet she was smart and the story just got messed up. That was another spark.

There’s a big forest near my house. It has a lot of paths. That was another spark.

So I sat down and drew a lot of pictures to try to connect these sparks with each other. I spent much of the summer of 2009 drawing pictures while sitting on the front porch watching goldfinches, bluebirds and chipmunks. Werechipmunks.

Not all of the pictures ended up having much to do with the story. But one day I drew this picture… and there the story began.

What important lessons can we learn from Jinx?

If you're standing on the edge of a cliff, don't turn your back to it. Don't cut trees down, or the other trees will take revenge. Listen. The people in your life may not be perfect, but it's okay to love them anyway. Knowledge is power.


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