We interviewed author Megan McDonald at the Barnes & Noble in Huntington. She is the author of the "Judy Moody" and "Stink" series.
Are you planning to write more books about Stink and Judy? I do plan to write more books about Stink and Judy. In fact, I just finished my next Judy Moody book. It's going to be called "Judy Moody, Girl Detective," and she is going to solve a mystery with a police dog puppy. Actually, this summer there is going to be a brand new Judy Moody and Stink book coming, so it is all in full color. And that one is going to be called "Judy Moody and Stink in the Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt."
Who was your inspiration for your first book? Probably my sisters. I have four older sisters. Don't you guys feel for me? Four bossy big sisters. They are great, and so many fun, funny things happened growing up with so many kids and so many sisters. I like to take stories about my sisters and put them in my Judy Moody and Stink books. Every "Judy Moody" has a true story in it, especially the first book; it has the most true stories in it.
Whom do you like more -- Judy or Stink? Hard question! I like them each for different reasons. I like Judy because I like to write when she gets in a mood because I think it is funny. If I had to pick, I would probably pick Stink because, like me, he is the youngest.
What is your favorite book you have not written? There are two books that I wish I wrote. One of them is by Katherine Paterson. It is called "Bridge to Terabithia." I love that book. The other book I wish I wrote is called "Tuck Everlasting."
Can you tell us some suggestions on how we can become children's book writers? The best thing I think kids can do is read. When you start to read, a lot of books you start without even trying, you start to learn about stories and think about stories and how stories are made. You think about the beginning, the middle and the end. So for me, just from reading so many books that really inspired me because I love to read. I thought, "wouldn't it be great if I could write a book myself." You will learn words you didn't know before. If you have a blank book or a journal, just make up stories for fun. Illustrate them and make books. Just take paper and staple it together and make believe you make a book yourself.
What book reminds you the most about yourself or someone else? Probably the book that reminds me the most of myself was probably the first "Judy Moody." We are a lot alike because she has messy hair, and I have messy hair. And she loves to collect stuff. She has her Band-Aid collection, she collects Barbie doll heads, and she has a scab collection -- and I had all these collections. I was really into science and collecting bugs, and looking at stuff under the microscope. She has a lot of moods, and I have a lot of moods.
How many years have you been an author? It is almost 20 years. My first book came out in the year 1990. I have been writing for many, many years.
Did you always want to be an author? It probably does go back to when I was in fifth grade. With so many sisters, my sisters would always talk, talk, talk, talk, and I was the youngest so couldn't really get a word in edgewise. When I was in fourth or fifth grade I started to stutter. My mom was trying to help me with the stuttering. And she went to the bookstore and asked the bookseller if they knew any books about a girl who liked to write. They gave her the book "Harriet the Spy." So "Harriet the Spy" was like my favorite book growing up. She gave me the book and this little spiral notebook, and I could start writing stuff down. That was the first time I really remember learning to express myself and put my thoughts down in writing. I really liked to make up stories. We had a school paper, and my teacher really knew that I liked to write, so he said I could have a little corner of the paper every month and write a story. My first story I ever got published was about a pencil sharpener.
Do you have any kids? I don't have any kids. My husband and I are from really big families. So all together, we have 32 kids in our family -- all our nieces and nephews. We have all different ages of kids, which is really good, so when I write books, I think who could I call up and ask them about what happens when they get in trouble in the third grade. And then I go, "Oh Jordan's in the third grade; I will call her." It helps to have a lot of kids in your family.
What are some things your family members do that find their way into your books? A lot of the stories about my sisters find their way into my books. In fact, there is a joke in my family. If something funny happens, it would be like "Oh, watch out! Megan might put it in a book." You have to really watch what you say or what you do because it might end up in my book. One time, my nieces were visiting, and we were in the car, and they were playing with their watch. And I was like, "what is on your watch." They showed me their watch, and the watch was like a Magic 8 Ball. It had a question mark button, and you could press it and ask a question like, "is a vampire going to come to my house tonight," and you would press the question mark button, and it would say Reply Hazy or something. In "Judy Moody," she goes around the world in 8 1/2 days, and she gets the Glow-in-the-Dark Ask a Question Watch 5000. That was based on a real watch that my niece had. So you never know, even riding in the car -- your watch can end up in a "Judy Moody" book.
Who is your favorite author? I think it would be Katherine Paterson, she is the one who wrote "Bridge to Terabithia." When I was young, like right after I got out of college when I didn't know what I wanted to be or do yet, and I was thinking about being a writer, I got to meet her in person. She invited me to come have dinner at her house, and she really helped me to become a writer. She talked to me about writing and about a story I was working on. That had a really big impact on me that I got to meet a famous writer and somebody I admired when I was pretty young.
Who would you like to meet of anyone in the world? Does it have to be an alive, living person. I think I would like to meet Elizabeth Blackwell. She is Judy's heroine. Judy wants to be a doctor, and Elizabeth was the first woman in our country to ever become a doctor. She is the first woman to get into medical school, and it was really, really hard for women at her time to even be accepted into medical school. I would love to meet her and interview her for a newspaper. I think it would be really cool to go back in time and write during her time. Because I was really fascinated with her, I had her become Judy's heroine.