Recently, I read Magic Tree House #40: Eve of the Emperor Penguin for the Cybil Middle Grade category. When the opportunity arose to interview Mary Pope Osborne, I jumped on it! Below is our interview.
Welcome to TheReadingZone! Thanks so much for stopping by. My younger sister is a fan of The Magic Tree House series, and she is dying to know how you get your ideas. Do you pick a topic (such as Antarctica) and then write the story around it? Or does the story come to you first?
After a lot of thinking and talking to kids, I pick a topic and start researching it. I scribble for weeks, filling notebooks with ideas and information. Then I organize all my notes and thoughts, and as I’m doing this, things start to swirl in my head, and I start writing little bits here and there. I grab more books and look up more things, and the next thing I know, Jack and Annie are saying this and doing that…and I’m running to catch up with them.
How hard is it to tread the line between including too much information about a topic and not enough? In other words, do you ever struggle with fitting in the information about a specific topic without hindering the story?
If I want to share more information and it doesn’t fit the story, I can put it in the notes at the back of the book. Or my sister Natalie Pope Boyce (who now writes the Magic Tree House Research Guides) can put it in her book of nonfiction that acts as a companion to the fiction book.
Where do you write? Do you have a special room, or a desk, or do you have to leave your house to write? Do you follow a special routine, like writing at specific times or a certain number of words per day?
The only routine I have is that I have no routine. You could catch me at work any time, day or night, writing a chapter or just writing a paragraph. No two days are ever the same. Now I mostly work in my study in Connecticut, as it overlooks a lake and has tons of bookshelves, a fireplace and 3 dog beds for 3 dogs. But for almost 30 years I wrote in New York City, and because our apartment was so small, I worked all over town, writing in libraries, parks, cafes and coffee shops.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Did you start as a young child or was it a decision made later in life?
I didn’t decide to be a writer until my late 20’s. Once I figured out that’s what I loved to do more than anything else, I couldn’t imagine ever doing anything else.
And last, but not least, as a teacher I have to ask this. What is the best memory you have of a teacher in your life?
Well, I grew up going to many different schools, as my dad was in the army. So my memories about school are pretty jumbled. But my high school English teacher, Miss Davis, sticks in my mind. I mostly remember that she loved praised good writing and would talk passionately about books she loved. I was always glad to go to her class and be in her sunny presence; and I remembering feeling really sad when during the school year, she got married (for the first time, at age 50!) and moved away.
Wow, Mary! Thanks for sharing!
The Magic Tree House books are awesome early chapter books and kids eat them up. If you are still looking for a holiday gift for a young reader in your life, Mary Pope Osborne’s series is a surefire winner!
Be sure to check out the rest of Mary Pope Osborne’s blog tour this week!
Monday 12/15: Big A little a
Tuesday 12/16: Here
Wednesday 12/17: Fields of Gold
Thursday 12/18: The Page Flipper