1. In a valiant attempt to educate me and my six siblings, my mother’s rule was that we had to read one nonfiction book for every fiction book. As long as I could find a book in the Childhood of Famous Americans series, I obeyed her rule (that is, if you count those books as nonfiction–they’d be considered historical fiction today!). Otherwise, I blithely ignored the rule and devoured novel after novel. I thought I didn’t like nonfiction.
2. I love libraries. Many historical documents have been digitized, so I can do a surprising amount of research on my computer at home. But I love the times when my search takes me to libraries. I often spend time in special collections or newspaper archives.I spent almost a week at the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, California paging through photo albums and reading old magazines and newspapers when I was researching my upcoming book from Charlesbridge. The nonfiction picture books I love are deeply-informed by primary source materials.
3. I love getting people to tell me their stories. I often shove recording devices in front of people’s faces so I can capture their voices and their stories. I know an interview session is going well when someone starts using the present tense to tell me about something that happened a long time ago. The best nonfiction picture books are people’s stories, well-told.
4. The longest I have ever lived anywhere is 5 years. I recently spent several years living in Europe and Africa, so I can grocery shop in many languages. I don’t speak any language except English well enough to tell stories, though.
5. I am the fifth child of a fifth child of a fifth child. I married a fifth child. I have 5 + 1 children. And that’s a true story.