Thursday, February 10, 2011

7 Questions For: Author Kathi Appelt

Kathi Appelt, at the age of seven, stumbled and fell into an alligator pit in San Antonio, Texas, a place where there should be no alligators or alligator pits. Fortunately she was a lot bigger than the alligator, who was more scared of her than she was of it!

She is a member of the faculty at Vermont College's Master of Fine Arts program and occasionally teaches creative writing at Texas A and M University. She has two grown children, and lives in Texas with her husband and four cats. Her debut novel, The Underneath, was a National Book Award finalist and a Newbery Honor book. She is also the author of Keeper.

Click here to read my review of The Underneath.

And now Kathi Appelt faces The 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

a. “Black Beauty,” by Anna Sewell

b. “Sister Water,” by Nancy Willard

c. “Kitten’s First Full Moon,” by Kevin Henkes

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

It varies, but I’d say I spend at least a couple of hours a day writing, and just as much reading, probably more if you count the newspaper, Facebook, etc.

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

I attended conferences, took classes, read every book I could get my hands on about publishing for children. Probably the best thing I did was join SCBWI. The Houston chapter, led by Mary Wade, was really important to me professionally.

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

Both and both. I come from a long line of storytellers, so it feels to me like storytelling is in my bones. In fact, my grandfather was a journalist, and even though he died way before I was born, I still think about that.

I do think that writing can be taught, just like any other skill. Some are more apt, but it’s certainly a skill that gets better with instruction and practice. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t teach, nor would I take classes.

I’ve been the beneficiary of many wonderful teachers, and I credit them with any success that I’ve had.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

I enjoy those moments when story comes together, when I can clearly see that the threads of my plot make sense. It’s those eureka moments that I live for.

Least favorite? The entire first draft.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Write like your fingers are on fire. By that, I mean write quickly enough that you get out of your own way, and at the same time, you get a lot of words on the page. Write so fast, in fact, that when you’re done, you have to blow on your fingers to cool them off.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Hmm…I’d love to have lunch with President Obama. I admire the fact that he’s written a very loving book for his daughters and for the rest of our children. I would like to welcome him to the community of children’s writers.


  1. I love that part about writing until your fingers are on fire. I tend to write fast to get the story out. I'll have to stick them in ice when I'm done next time.

  2. I like what Kathi said about writing so fast and hot that you have blow on your fingers to cool them off!

    I can't wait to read "The Underneath"! It's been on my to-read list for awhile and I think I need to bump it up on my list.

    So I'm going to get off the internet now and go write like I'm on fire. ;)

  3. I listened to THE UNDERNEATH on CD and had that amazing feeling of needing to find out what happens next, but not wanting it to end. An enchanting, amazing book. Thanks, Kathi!

  4. Great questions. I love her advice to aspiring authors. And it's encouraging to know that you can teach yourself to write.


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