When I make school visits, one of the questions that always comes up -- aside from, “How much money do you make?” and “How old are you?” -- is “What made you become a writer?”
The answer I always give is, a tantrum. At that point, I get a variety of confused looks.
But it’s true.
When my older daughter was about three, we were over at the house of a friend of hers from nursery school and she was having such a good time that we overstayed our welcome. She was hungry and tired and when I tried to get her to go home, she had a meltdown. It was a freezing, cold day and I carried her out under one arm while I hailed a cab with the other. Somewhere along the way I never fail to mention that on that day I was wearing a lovely new black suede coat that she wiped her nose on. (Eighteen years later, I still have the coat and I can show you the evidence, since the most aggressive dry cleaning failed to obliterate it.)
When we got home I put her into her crib and she fell fast asleep. The next thing I did was call the pediatrician. Were explosions like that normal? This one was off the charts. I begged him for advice, but he waved away my concern and quickly hung up to go back to treating ear infections. Not knowing what else to do, I sat down at the typewriter (prehistoric, I know). I coupled that experience with the tantrums my older daughter regularly had when it was time to leave the park and go home and I turned them both into a picture book called, THE CHOCOLATE-COVERED-COOKIE TANTRUM. It came out about three years later, and I was hooked on writing children’s books.
Before I started writing children’s books, I freelanced regularly for The New York Times. That began rather serendipitously too. I was a borderline vegetarian at the time, and my new husband, a reporter for the paper, was a die-hard carnivore. I was having oatmeal for dinner one night, while he was dining on steak. Could I convert him to vegetarianism? Our his-hers accounts of our experimental week of eating vegetarian made it into the paper and I was hooked on reporting.
So I throw out the question. Was there one seismic event that propelled you into the field? If not, can you look back and find one memorable experience in your life that you can draw upon for your next book? Look inside yourself, I tell the school kids I talk to. Sometimes I need to remind myself to listen to my own advice too.
Deborah Blumenthal is the author of thirteen books.
Her latest picture book is, THE BLUE HOUSE DOG, (Peachtree Publishers.
THE LIFEGUARD, her latest YA novel, will be published by Albert Whitman & Co., on March 1st.