• Describe your latest book "Bigger than a Bread Box" is a children's novel about a girl from Baltimore whose parents are struggling. When Rebecca's mother suddenly moves her to Atlanta (where I currently live) for a while, she feels homesick and alone, and misses her father, naturally. But then she finds a magical old breadbox in her grandmother's attic, that grants any wish, so long as Rebecca only wishes for tangible things that fit inside the box. Obviously, what she wants most isn't something she can wish into existence. But she tries! The book is fiction, but rooted in my own childhood memories. • Why write? What makes writing a book worthwhile? To begin with, I choose to believe that lots of other people still love reading the way I do. So, in theory, I'm writing for those readers. I think of writing as a sort of correspondence, with both readers and other books too. As a children's author, I get to write to children, and most particularly to the child I once was, but also I get to correspond with all the books I loved when I was younger. • How has growing up and/or living in Baltimore influenced your writing? I think it changes with each book. But right now it's my subject. I'm working on a book set in Baltimore in 1937, and so I've steeped myself in the city's history. I feel like I have an ongoing sense of conflict over not having moved home, and in some way, when I'm writing about Baltimore I'm trying to hold on to my sense of myself as belonging here. But I wonder how it might feel different if I actually did move back. Over the years, I've tried to write a lot of little fables set here too, but they end up overly nostalgic. I'm not kidding! Full of magical marble stoops and trolls who sell snowballs. • Is the written word in trouble? Are authors an endangered breed? Honestly? Not at all! The written word is forever evolving, and we're scared right now that it will become something unfamiliar to us. But people need story. They rely on language. In some ways our contemporary world is more narrative and text-based than it has ever been before. The "book" is changing, there's no denying that. The object itself is undergoing a major shift. But it's done that before, when it was a scroll, or a tablet, or when people were terrified that paperbacks were going to ruin the integrity of literature. I think the real question is how we plan to preserve the structures our society needs, that we've built around the economy of the book. We need librarians, and booksellers, and reviewers, and editors, and authors, and as everything gets restructured, things are going to be confusing. We need to be thoughtful, and support the people and structures we value. But, I'm not worried about the written word. • What's your next project? Well, I'm about three weeks away from handing in this next book, "Seven Stories Up," about two kids in 1937 Baltimore, who spend a lot of time exploring an old hotel. It's a time travel novel, and it has been very hard to finish, for that reason. But I also have a picture book coming out in the spring, "The Longest Season." It's the story of the Ten Plagues, told by a child eyewitness. The art is really astounding.
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