Where are you from?
I grew up in a town of 7,000 people in Northeast Iowa. After living in St. Louis, San Francisco, and Los Angeles over a span of 25 years, I now live in that same tiny town In Iowa again.
Who are your favorite writers?
I love Marilynne Robinson, Raymond Federman, Kevin Brockmeier, Aimee Bender, Truman Capote, and Haven Kimmel. But I’m also a total sucker for Herman Melville and George Elliot. Edward Lear! Poetry: Russell Edson and James Tate.
Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
I was influenced by My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell (1956), and then I unabashedly stole the title. For writing about the mini golf hazards, The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker. I like James Thurber for lessons in exaggeration.
What are your hobbies and outside interests?
I tend to pick up hobbies the others adopt stray animals… These days I sew my own clothes and also love bookbinding, writing music (especially children’s songs). Now that I live in 60 acres of woods, I love taking random walks, and tending the baby trees. I have a 17 pound cat named Ferdinand Magellan.
What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
During my standup comedy days I was told to only tell jokes that I found funny. Cut out all material that I don’t like, but might be tempted to include, thinking, “Well, maybe the audience will like it.” Because jokes you don’t find funny never work! Amazing! They don’t work! But this tip helped me become more brave as a writer in general, and trust my gut.
What is your favorite quote?
Why just one scoop? -- the man at Sugar Bowl Ice Cream
What is the question most commonly asked by your readers? What is the answer?
Q. What happened to you?
A. What do you mean?
What inspired you to write your first book?
I knew for probably 20-25 years that I was going to have to write this book some day, even before I had ever written prose or ever considered becoming a writer. Because I am the only artist in my family, I knew it would be my responsibility to try to tell this story about my family and Tom Thumb.
Where do you write?
I used to write at study carrel #72 on the 4th floor of the University of Iowa Library. (Good place to write.) Many coffee houses too. These days, I sit at a table made out of a thick slab of walnut in our log cabin. There is a window into the woods and over a valley. (The birds can be distracting.)