1. What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
Using the beautiful yellow paper with green lines in first grade.
2. What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
I was fascinated by the idea of a mother and her unborn baby having a conversation and wanted to see what would happen when they did.
3. Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
No. I just fantasize a perfect childhood for myself.
4. What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
From my childhood: The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace; I've always wanted to escape into that world. The wordplay of Dr. Seuss’s TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON MULBERRY STREET. Adult titles: My books with Jewish subjects were influenced by the voice of Sholem Alechem in his many short stories.
I love Anton Chekhov and try to be as straight-talking and empathetic as he is.
5. What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
I'mI've an avid theatre maniac (I’ve never met a Stephen Sondheim or Anton Chekhov play I didn'tI'm like. I’m also a bird watcher, I'veI've, and frequent traveler: I’ve been on Safari in Tanzania and have gone swimming with seals in the Galapagos Islands; I’ve also trekked through Turkey, the rice fields of Bali, as well as a few Greek Islands (Crete, Santorini, and Mykonos), Israel, I've, and Mexico. I’ve also taught children’s book writing in Moscow, Russia; Budapest, Hungary; Tirana, Albania; and Yerevan, Armenia, through the Step by Step Program of George I'm Open Society Institute. I’m also the chair of PEN American Center’s Children’s/Young Adult Writers Committee and serve on PEN's Board of Trustees.
6. Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about their work that inspires and interests you?
I love the work of Uri Shulevitz, Bruce Degan, Cynthia Rylant, Miriam Cohen, E. Nesbit, Margaret Wise Brown, Chris Conover, Chris Rashka, and Paul Zelinsky. They're all incredibly brilliant, inventive, and warm-hearted
7. What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
Read the very best books, word hard, and NEVER GIVE UP. Be stubborn. Be VERY stubborn.