Good question! You can hear me pronounce my name here. You will also get to hear me talk a little about how I came to be named Liesl – it isn’t as cool of a story as Rump’s, but still pretty fun anyway.
Ideas are everywhere and everyone has them, so I don’t think we have to worry about getting the ideas so much as noticing them. I get ideas from my own experiences, my family and friends, books, movies, music, art, and nature. I pick out things that interest me, confuse me, or delight me. I also get ideas from asking questions, like “What if? Why? How?” What if there was a world were names were your destiny? What if Rumpelstiltskin was really a misunderstood hero instead of a villain? Why does Jack trade a cow for beans and steal from a giant? How does Red Riding Hood talk to a wolf? I don’t always go with the first idea that pops into my head. Chances are it’s an idea that lots of people have thought of before. I brainstorm and dig a little deeper until I find an idea that feels truly unique and full of possibility.
No, though I have always enjoyed writing, I never considered it for a job until I grew up. Before that I wanted to be a Broadway star, or a gymnast, concert pianist, dancer, and I vaguely remember a brief moment of insanity when I thought I wanted to do something with computers. (Please.)
When I got a little older and had children, I tried my hand at writing down some ideas that were in my head. It was difficult at first, and in many ways is still very difficult, but I fell in love with the process of writing down my ideas and watching them come alive on the page. There’s nothing like it.
The first book I remember getting hooked on and reading over and over was The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I had fantasies about living in a boxcar in the woods, gathering my own food and finding treasures in the junkyard. I also loved Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. Matilda by Roald Dahl has always been a favorite, and I loved books by Louis Sachar, Judy Blume, Shel Silverstein, and Beverly Cleary.
I start out with a few ideas and characters, and then I explore them for a while. I dig around in the dirt and poke at things, but there comes a point when I just have to jump in and start writing. Usually I have a basic idea of where I’m going with the story, what my characters want, and what is in their way, but how everything comes together is often a mystery. Things reveal themselves little by little, and I have to work hard to learn what is really going on in the story, and how it all comes together. It requires a lot of faith and patience. It requires lots of writing and rewriting, revision and editing. Sometimes it is frustrating, and other times it is exhilarating, but I always love it.
These days there are so many different ways, and I can’t say what the best way is for anyone. All I can do is share how I went about it. I studied books that I really loved. I tried to figure out how those authors got published. I learned about the publishing industry and attended workshops and conferences. I worked really hard on my writing skills. Once I felt I was ready, I queried agents to see if they might want to represent me and luckily one did! She handled all the work of submitting to publishers (such a relief!) and negotiated my contract and all business matters.
Gosh, wouldn’t that be awesome? At this time there are no plans to turn any of my books into movies, though I think they’d make good ones, don’t you? Feel free to write a letter to your favorite film studio and let them know. You can practice the art of persuasive writing.
I have four beautiful children, each brilliant and wonderful in their own unique ways. Do you think I can pick a favorite child? Do you see where this is going? My books are very much like my children. I created them. It took lots of blood, sweat, and tears, and though I may have favorite characters or scenes in each of my books, I can’t pick one favorite book. Now I often hear people tell me which book I wrote is their favorite, and that’s fine, but I’m the mama of these books, so I love them all with my whole heart and recommend all of them to everyone.