FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions which probably shouldn’t be the title of this section since, in fact, I’m not asked these questions frequently at all – but in the belief that I night be asked these questions frequently at some point, here are the answers to those burning questions:


Where do you live?

I was born in New York City, but I now live in Holland in small village called Wassenaar. I love living here – it’s right by the dunes, the seaside and the tulip fields -- plus we have a very cute village with a main street called Langstraat (or Long Street) and our town has it's own windmill. We also have a cheese shop that sells rounds of cheese as big as a tractor wheel.



What’s your favourite thing about being a writer?

Being a writer is like dreaming except your awake. Plus, you get to put your characters into all sorts of funny situations and you know that they will be fine.


Where do your story ideas come from?

My story ideas come from many different places --  sometimes a story is based on something that happened to me or to someone else I know. Sometimes ideas comes from a news story, or a photo, or a bit of conversation that I might overhear, or even another book I’m reading. To help me develop an idea and turn it into a story, I utter these magic words: “What if…” 


Do you illustrate your own books?

Oh gosh no! I wish I had drawing talent but I can only draw the backside of elephants and umbrellas so, unless I write a book about elephants in the rain, I'm happy to leave the illustration to the pros. I'm lucky to have such talented illustrators to work with. I do however, illustrate my books in my head.  What sometimes surprises readers is that I don’t select the illustrator (the editor does that) nor have I (as of yet) met the talented illustrators who have worked on my books – which really are now their books as well.


What did you want to be when you were young?

I had so many ideas of what I wanted to be when I grew up – for many years I wanted to be a ballerina, then an archaeologist, then a dance critic, then a morning news show journalist (but since I wasn’t so good at get up early in the morning I wasn’t sure that this would be the job for  me). I loved to write but I always thought that no matter what else I did, I’d always write too.  In fact, I’m still not done being what I want to be when I grow up…


What is your job today?

Now I work for the United Nations as a Media & Public Affairs Officer. This means that I tell the public about the good work of our organization.


Do you have any pets?

Growing up we had a black poodle named Ami, which is the French word for  “friend”. I also had an albino rabbit named Cookie. In fact, I had two albino rabbits named Cookie but that’s a long story.   Now we have another black poodle called Nino but he lives most of the year in Sweden. Nino speaks five languages -- Dutch, Spanish, Swedish, English and Dogish!


What do you like to do besides writing?

I love to take photos, do pottery, play the flute, travel, read, watch TV (especially shows like Cake Boss, Changing Rooms, What Not to Wear), play tennis, go for bike rides along the canals and do anything that involves spending time with my family.


What were your favourite books growing up?

The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E. L. Koningsburg), Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh), All of a Kind Family (Sydney Taylor), Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret (Judy Blume), The Egypt Game (Zilpha Keatley Snyder), A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L'Engle), Caddie Woodlawn (Carol Ryrie Brink), The Secret Garden (France Hodgson Burnett), and the list goes on...


What are you scared of?

Heights, snakes, roller coasters, brussel sprouts, red jelly fish, cooking for lots of people. (I used to be scared of the dark and parallel parking --  but not anymore).


What tips do you have for young writers?

Read! You’ll hear that advice a lot but how does reading help you to become a better writer? It happens without you even thinking about it – in your subconscious. As you read, you begin to pick up subtle cues as to what makes a story work : the rhythm of dialogue, of action, and description.  Plus, reading is a fun way of stimulating your imagination. As you read ask yourself, if I was the author of this book, what would I have my characters do next? If you read an exciting part of a book ask yourself, how did the author make this part of the book so exciting?


Write! Like any hobbie that you’d like to improve – soccer, piano, baking  -- you need to practice and exercise the right muscles.  What should you write?

** Start with a story problem. The problem could be moving to a new town (or a new country); the problem could be a horse with broken leg who needs to run in a race, the problem could be about a boy who has too many thoughts but no one listens…

 **Get to know your characters  -- sketch out your character or ' 'interview'  your characters to you can get to know them. What does your character like to do for fun? What is he afraid of most? Does he get along with the other aliens? Does she like being a Princess stuck in the tower?

** Next, write about your character as he or she tries to solve his or her problem. But don’t make it easy for your character! The ending is more rewarding if it comes with a bit of sweat, tears or laughs!

For many more writing resources for kids, go to the Write Stuff on my website.

Most of all, have fun writing!