I loved English and anything where we got to do writing. I was terrible at math and science. I loved gym and Spanish and anything that allowed us to dance or jump around. I wasn’t a big fan of sitting still too long unless I was reading. I always read the same books again and again.
Do you have brothers and sisters?
I have an older brother and an older sister and a younger brother. Even though I’m five feet ten inches tall, I’m the shortest person in my family.
What are/were some of your favorite books?
As a kid, I loved anything by Virginia Hamilton or Judy Blume. I also loved The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde and The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson. Oh—and Stevie by Jon Steptoe. These days, I feel like my favorites list grows and grows. A sampling of the authors and illustrators I love: Chris Rascka, Chris Lynch, Chris Myers—and not because they all have the same name! I also love, An Na, Karen Hesse, Kashmira Sheth, Mildred Taylor, James Baldwin, Anne Lamott, Rosa Guy, Christopher Paul Curtis, Walter Dean Myers, Hope Anita Smith, Carson McCullers, Raymond Carver, Audre Lorde… I could go on and on.
How many books do you work on at one time?
I’m usually working on two or three books at once. When I get bored with one, or get stuck, I go on to the other one.
Where do you write?
I have a writing room in my house in Brooklyn. Sometimes I go to a place called The Writer’s Room in Manhattan. Sometimes, I sit on the stoop or write at Prospect Park. Sometimes, if an idea starts coming, I just write wherever I am and on whatever I have.
Is writing hard?
Yes. Anything you do that you want to do well can be difficult at times. Revising is hard. Thinking of new things to write about is hard. And the difficulty makes it that much more rewarding.
Are any of your books based on your life?
The only ones that have some autobiographical content are Visiting Day, Sweet, Sweet Memory, Show Way and all the Maizon books.
Of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favorite?
Nope. I like each of them for different reasons. Sometimes, long after I’ve finished a book, I’m still thinking about the people in them.
If you couldn’t write, what would you do?
Play for the NBA—Try to make those Knicks a winning team!
Do you think you’ll ever stop writing?
When I stop breathing.
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