What's your favorite thing about Hank Zipzer?
My favorite thing about Hank Zipzer is that he is resourceful. Just because he can't figure something out doesn't mean that he won't find a way. I love his sense of humor. Even though Lin and I write the books together, when we meet in the morning to work we never know where the characters or the story will take us. Hank and his friends make us laugh all the time.
Hank likes to write lists of things. Are you a list person, too? (if so, what sorts of lists do you make?)
Hank likes to write lists, and so do I. My whole life is organized on scraps of paper in a pile on my desk by my phone. If I didn't make lists, I would get nothing done, because I would forget the important things that I had to do. And then, I'm constantly rewriting those lists and adding to them. So yes, I'm a list maker.
Who was your favorite teacher?
Believe it or not, Mr. Rock, the music teacher at my high school, McBurney's School for Boys, was my favorite teacher. He seemed to understand that learning was difficult for me. He understood that just because I had trouble with almost every subject, that did not mean I was stupid.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up on the West side of New York City in the same building Hank lives in. The neighborhood, the stores, the park, the school, and even Ms. Adolf are all taken from my life. I took the Broadway bus number 104 to school every day.
What was it like growing up with Dyslexia?
When I was growing up in New York City, no one knew what dyslexia was. I was called stupid and lazy, and I was told that I was not living up to my potential. It was, without a doubt, painful. I spent most of my time covering up the fact that reading, writing, spelling, math, scienceactually, every subject but lunchwas really, really difficult for me. If I went to the store and paid the bill with paper money and I was given coins back for change, I had no idea how to count up the change in my head. I just trusted that everyone was being honest.
What's it like working as a team to write the Hank Zipzer books?
We have the most wonderful time working together. Lin sits at the computer, and I walk in a circle in front of her desk. If I start talking like the characters, Lin kindly types it in because I don't use a computer. Or, she'll tell me to stop for minute because she's got a great idea and her fingers fly across the keyboard. Sometimes, I'll write my chapters in long hand and Lin will transcribe them and correct my spelling. When the book is done, we both go over it to see if we've left anything out, or perhaps we'll find a better joke for one of the characters or better action in a scene. When it's completely done, we send it to our editor, and she sends back her notes that we then incorporate.
Did you always want to be an author?
Until the day that I met Lin Oliver for lunch in 2002, I never thought about being an author for one minute in my whole life.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It usually takes about 2 months to write the first draft of a book. Lin and I meet in her office and create the outline for the story of the book and then, two months later, we have 153 pages of a Hank Zipzer adventure.
Which of your books do you like the best?
I cannot pick one book that I like the best. Each one of them is like my own child. Each one of them has some great detail that makes me laugh every time I think about it.