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How and why did you begin your writing career? 

I’ve always enjoyed reading.  My parents took us to the library frequently and made sure we had our own bookshelves with our own books.  I read some of those books thousands of times.   My mother also read a lot of poetry to us at bedtime from an anthology called “My Poetry Book.”  My siblings and I are very fond of that book and we pass it from family to family, a year at a time.  I suppose eventually, we’ll all get our own copies. 

 

I was lucky to have teachers who encouraged my writing and challenged me.  I’ve also written, and continue to write, for children’s television, and that’s helped me segue into writing children’s books. 

 

What do you hope to achieve through the books you write? 

Writing is very much a part of who I am, so I hope to make a successful career of it.   I hope kids have fun while they’re reading my books.  And I hope they’re inspired to live their lives fully and choose careers that they enjoy. 

 

What was the purpose behind writing “The Monster Who Ate My Peas”? 

My older brother really didn’t like peas and he taught the rest of us to hate them as well.  It wasn’t until years later that I discovered they’re not so bad.  Except canned peas.  I still won’t eat those.  Yuck!

 

Which writers have influenced your work?

There are so many, it’s hard to scratch the surface.  For verse, I love Dr. Seuss, Ogden Nash, Jeff Moss, and Shel Silverstein.  For great stories I go to Ray Bradbury, Tolkien, Norton Juster, Jules Verne, William Golding, Susan Cooper, Edgar Allen Poe, Hermann Hesse, Roald Dahl, and H.G. Wells.

 

I think there are so many great children’s writers working today.   I love books by Lois Lowry, Bruce Coville, and Robert Cormier.  I think the books written for young adults are better than a lot of the novels intended for adults.  When you write for children, the story has to be outstanding… you have to keep the reader turning pages to find out what happens next.   I think a lot of modern adult novelists get so caught up in painting pictures with flowery prose that they’ve lost the art of storytelling. 

 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

If you’re young, I’d tell you to read as many books as you can.  Read non-fiction and fiction.  Read biographies.  Find a list of the “great” books and read those first.   It’s never too early to start writing.  Write the kind of story that you like to read.  It doesn’t have to be long.  A story can be two pages long, if it’s good.

 

Adults who aspire to write for children should get involved with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (scbwi.org).  Volunteer at SCBWI conferences.  Have manuscripts critiqued at conferences.  This is a non-profit organization and joining SCBWI is the most important thing that a serious writer can do… besides write.

 

Also… join a critique group of writers who write for kids.  Meet regularly and be tough on each other without being cruel or condescending.

 

When choosing what to write, write the story that comes from your heart, the story that keeps tapping you on the shoulder and saying “write me!”, the story that will make you explode if you don’t tell it.  If you try to anticipate the market or ride the coattails of the latest hot trend, you won’t be writing your best material.   Write something that entertains you.  If I’m not having fun when I’m writing, then I know it won’t be fun for the reader either.  Take your calling seriously if you think you have been called to be a writer.  Study the craft of writing, and write every day if you can.   Read voraciously and keep a journal of your ideas.  

 

                      Copyright 2003, Danny Schnitzlein