Frequently Asked Questions
How old were you when you decided to become a writer?
I first wanted to be a writer when I was a student at Eagle Rock Elementary School in Los Angeles, California, where I grew up. My teachers encouraged me and taught me to love all different kinds of reading and writing.
Which do you like better: writing novels or writing poetry?
I love them both for different reasons. I love writing novels because I can explore a whole world in my imagination. But I love writing poetry because I can express very personal feelings and thoughts in small, digestible bites. Sometimes it feels like I write novels to connect with readers and I write poetry to connect with myself. Other times writing feels like I'm having a conversation with friends.
Photo credit: Zoe R. Freeman
What makes you want to write a poem instead of another kind of writing, like an essay or a letter?
For me, poems are like photographs. I get an urge to capture a thought or a feeling, but instead of taking a picture, I write a poem. Other artists choose different ways to explore their ideas. For example, painters make paintings, composers write music, and dancers choreograph movement. The creative impulse to explore an idea is the same, but the expression can happen in infinite ways.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get ideas from all sorts of places. The idea for ALONE came after my daughter and I read Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell in our Mother-Daughter Book Club. I was thinking about Karana being left behind on the island, and I wondered what might happen if a modern-day seventh grader was left behind in a Colorado town. Ideas for poems come from things I see or hear or smell or taste, or from thoughts that pass through my mind.
How long did it take you to write ALONE?
I started writing the book about eight years before Simon & Schuster/Aladdin decided to publish it. Not every book takes that long to write, but it took me time to figure out the best way to do it. I first wrote it in prose and third-person voice. Then I revised the whole thing and rewrote it in verse and first-person voice. That felt much better.
What are your favorite books to read?
All of the books and authors mentioned in ALONE are favorites of mine, and I like to read many different genres. I had to get more bookshelves in my house because my husband was afraid the tower of books on my nightstand might collapse and hurt someone.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Besides reading, you mean? I love to travel, and wherever I go, I explore until I find a local bookstore. I always buy at least two books (one book of poetry by a local poet and one other book I'm excited to read). Then I take a picture of the store so I can remember it. I have over fifty photographs of bookstores I've visited all over the world. You can see them on my Instagram and Facebook pages.
Is George a real dog?
George is based on a wonderful dog I knew many years ago. His name was also George.
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Photo courtesy of Emily McMason