My inspiration for writing is all the wonderful books that I read as a child and that I still read. I think that for those of us who write, when we find a wonderful book written by someone else, we don't really get jealous, we get inspired, and that's kind of the mark of what a good writer is.
I have great respect for children. And I have great respect for their ability as writers.
I love to talk to children about making mistakes. It's important that I tell them about how I don't get it right the first time. We live in such a perfectionist society, and they see so many finished products and polished performances.
I have to write what I can write, and writing the text of a picture book is like walking a tightrope, if you ramble off... As my friend Julius Lester says, 'A picture book is the essence of an experience.'
Being married to a psychologist, I realize that I learn more from imperfections.
In a way, my childhood was one long bunch of pages... I read and read and read.
Looking back, I see that I write books about brothers and sisters, about what makes up a family, what works and what is nurturing.
Each time I write a new piece, whether a novel, a picture book, a speech or anything, really, it has so much to do with what I'm going through personally or a problem I'm trying to work out. When I wrote my novel 'Baby,' my three children had all just gone out the door.
I can always tell when I'm about to start writing. I go through cycles in reading. When I'm beginning to start to write something, I start reading what I think of as good literature. I read things with wonderful language.
I think it's important to remember where I began. I know that when I talk to other writers, say, writers from the South or writers from abroad, it's where they begin as children that is important to them.
I think what happens is you write how you grew up. And I was born on the prairie, and so everything is kind of spare on the prairie. And so I'm just used to writing in that way. 'Sarah, Plain and Tall' was that way. And most of my fiction is. I like writing small pieces. Somehow it just suits me.
I never work from an outline, and often I don't know how the story will end.
I'm working on a bunch of things with my daughter Emily. In some ways, she's a smarter and better editor than I am.
I have great editors, and I always have. Somehow, great editors ask the right questions or pose things to you that get you to write better. It's a dance between you, your characters, and your editor.
My mother, as a girl, had remembered this woman from Maine, someone who was part of the extended family somehow, and I recall her talking about this great, risk-taking woman. There are the most amazing, heroic stories in everybody's lives.