Thursday, August 25, 2011

Children's Author Jamie Michalak

Children’s book author Jamie Michalak visited our school this past spring. I sat in on her chats with the children every chance I could get! I thoroughly enjoyed her visit and wanted to follow up with a few more questions.   Find out more about Jamie at Candlewick Press. CLICK HERE for the link.

Peppermint Patti: On your website you list one of your oddest jobs-- dressing up as a large mouse at a mouse-themed restaurant. As a fellow costumed character, what do you miss most about being a giant mouse? What was your funniest giant mouse experience?

 Jamie Michalak: I miss the fame that comes with being a giant mouse at a mouse-themed restaurant. Whenever I entered the room, I was immediately surrounded by cheering children.

On the down side, the mouse costume was made for a big and tall man. I had to shuffle to keep the feet on and could barely see out of the mask’s eyeholes. Because I could neither walk nor see, two servers had to escort me out to the dining area, where most children would hug me, but others would poke at me and shout things like “You’re not real!” (Always a little alarming when you can’t see your attackers.) Thankfully, the costume was padded. Did I mention that the inside of the costume was also super stinky? I would not recommend a career as a giant mouse impersonator.

PP: Do you have any exciting news regarding your writing career?

JM: Joe and Sparky, Superstars! the follow-up to Joe and Sparky Get New Wheels, released in March to excellent reviews. Teachers and librarians can find a free Joe and Sparky activity kit on my website, and students can take an “Are You a Joe or a Sparky?” personality quiz.

My first picture book, The Coziest Place illustrated by John Davis, will be published in Fall 2013.

Vincent: What inspired you to write in the first place?

JM: When I was in elementary school, my mother gave me a diary. Because I could be shy, writing down my thoughts became the easiest way to express myself. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. I also read a lot, which inspired me to make up my own stories. One of the books I read was Harriet the Spy, a story about a girl who made writing seem exciting, cool, even dangerous. I was hooked.

Gigi: What did you want to be when you (grew up) were a kid?

JM: Co-host of the Today show.

Gigi: What do you like to do besides write?

JM: Read, go to the beach, swim, try to surf, play with my sons, try to cook, watch movies, and sing loudly in the car. (You don’t want to be sitting next to me at a red light.)

Gigi: What is the book you are most proud of?

JM: Joe and Sparky Get New Wheels will always be dearest to my heart because I wrote the first draft with my sister, Julie, who was ill at the time. Since she couldn’t do much more than lay in my bed, I wrote the story to entertain her as she threw out ideas. Writing stories together is something we did as kids, too. Julie and I didn’t write Joe and Sparky Get New Wheels to get published; we wrote it to crack each other up. So the eventual publication and everything that came after has been the most incredible, happy surprise.

Gigi: What is your real name?

JM: Jamie Michalak. It’s pronounced Mc-Cal-ick (rhymes with “metallic”). I sometimes write under another name for movie and TV show adaptations.

Gigi: Did you like school when you were younger?

JM: Yes, although I liked some classes more than others. I loved all of the subjects that encouraged creativity--reading, writing, and art. I also liked gym, except for volleyball. The ball always managed to find my nose. Bonk! There’s no hiding on a volleyball court.

Gigi: What is your favorite color?

JM: Blue. And white, if that counts as a color.

Emma: How many books have you written?

JM: 18 with one on the way (7 original stories and 12 TV show or movie adaptations).

Emma: Who are your [favorite] characters?

JM: Joe and Sparky. For me, the stories usually start with the characters. Then I let them go wild and see what sorts of sticky situations they find themselves in.

Jackie: How many times on average do you rewrite a book before it is approved by an editor?

JM: It’s always different, but I can rewrite a story up to twenty times or more. I want every word to be included for a reason. I don’t send a manuscript to my editor until I can read the whole story without stopping at a word or sentence that seems off. I also wait for my critique group and my sons to give me the thumbs up. Sometimes when you look at your own story for so long, you become blind to its strengths and weaknesses. Hearing what others think can give you a fresh eye.

Hailey: Where do you get your ideas?

JM: EVERYWHERE! Eavesdropping, observing things my children do and say, remembering my own childhood, stumbling upon an imagination-sparking tidbit in an article... Students I’ve met at school visits always offer brilliant ideas for new stories, too. Like Harriet the spy, I always keep a notebook on me to write down the interesting things I see and hear.

Thanks, Patti, to you and your students for the smart questions! Enjoy the new school year!

Thank YOU Jamie!  Hey everybody--CLICK HERE to visit Jamie's way cool website!  CLICK HERE to take the  “Are You a Joe or a Sparky?” personality quiz and post your results.  Can you guess which one Peppermint Patti is?  Leave a comment soon.  I'd love to hear from you!

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