“After college and graduate school, I taught fourth grade in a Los Angeles inner-city school and on an American Air Force base in Germany. I read to my students every day after lunch, and in time, I started to wonder if I could write books for kids. I tried, but after a day of teaching, I had very little energy left for writing. So I moved to New york, where I’d heard that writers lived, and took a job in publishing, which was much less tiring than teaching.
“I edited by day and wrote by night. Well, not every night. Some nights I went out on the town with Jim McMullan, a wonderful illustrator. On our first date, he looked through my book shelves and pulled out three books with Jim McMullan covers. I was hooked. In 1979, we were married.
“I kept reading. When our daughter was born, I read to her endlessly. One hot summer we kept cool curled up on an old couch on the porch with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter.
“I kept writing, too. After a decade of my badgering him, Jim finally agreed to illustrate one of my stories. We both found that we loved collaborating. Two of our books, Nutcracker Noel and Hey, Pipsqueak! were voted among the New York Times Ten Best Picture Books of the Year. No No Jo! was featured on NBC’s “The Today Show” and introduces Jo, the world’s most helpful kitten. This spring will see the publication of our sixth book, Papa’s Song.
“In addition to writing, I teach at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and am on the faculty of the New School’s MFA Writing Program. And I visit schools as often as I can. Kids always ask me how many books I’ve written. I think it’s about seventy-five now, which seems pretty surprising for someone who set out to be a reader.”
Kate McMullan, a.k.a. K.H. McMullan and Katy Hall, taught elementary school in inner-city Los Angeles and on an American Air Force base in Germany. After earning a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education, she decided to try her hand at writing, and settled in New York City. Twenty-five years later, she has more than fifty children’s books to her credit.
As Katy Hall, she and Lisa Eisenberg have written dozens of silly easy-to-read riddle books. As K.H. McMullan, she has created the zany world of Dragon Slayers’ Academy.
McMullan says, “When I visit schools, I hold writing workshops and encourage kids to write about their own lives, about what they know. Sometimes a bright kid will ask, ‘But you write the Dragon Slayers’ Academy books. What do you know about life in a medieval boys’ school?’ Great question. When I write about Wiglaf, I think back to my grade school days; the cafeteria meatloaf, the torture of rope climbing in gym class, and the teachers who used to go off on tangents that were often much more interesting than what we were supposed to be studying. Almost every character in Dragon Slayers’ Academy is loosely based on someone I’ve met, from my second- grade best friend to my daughter’s orthodontist.”
McMullan’s books have been named The New York Times Best Picture Books of the Year, have appeared on state library award lists, and have received the Parents’ Choice Award. She and her husband, noted illustrator, Jim McMullan, live in New York City and Sag Harbor with their daughter and their cats, George and Wendy.
copyright ? 2000 Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.
I liked the idea of creating a non-violent hero. Wiglaf lives in medieval times and he longs to be a dragon slayer, but he has a big limitation – he can’t stand the sight of blood – so he has to be creative and figure out alternate ways to get the job done. My biggest inspirations are Monty Python and another British series called “Black Adder.”
Are any of your characters based on you or your family?
Well, not me, but my family, pets, friends, dentist, dog sitter, UPS man – they’re all in the stories. In DSA #16, “The World’s Oldest Living Dragon,” the character of Don Donn is based on my trainer at the gym, Donn Nelson. Donn got a big kick out of starring in the book.
What would you like young readers to learn from Wiglaf?
That they can slay more dragons by telling knock-knock jokes than they can with a sword.
When you visit schools, what kinds of questions do you like to ask the kids?
I like to know what books they’re reading that they really love – even if they are books I haven’t written.
Have any of their questions to you surprised you?
Yes, and I love that. When kids ask me how old I am, I give them a really hard math problem, and if they solve it, they’ll have their answer.
What books did you enjoy reading as a child?
I loved The Borrowers and the books about Freddy the Pig.
What adjectives would you use to describe the DSA series?
Hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, too good to put down – maybe you’d better ask someone else, too.
Are you planning to write more DSA books?
Absolutely. I’ve just started #20. There is a giant in it, and worm comes back. I’m not sure what I’ll call it yet.
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