The inimitable Mac Barnett stopped by to answer five questions for us this week. Pictured is his first book that started it all, Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem: “the story of a boy and the pet whale that ruins his life.” If you haven’t read it yet, run out and find a copy right now. We have yet to send out our request for our own blue whale.
Can you tell us about your educational background and how you became a writer?
I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid. In college, I figured out what kind of writer I wanted to be. On my summers off, I was a camp counselor, and it was there that I “wrote” my first stories for children—composed on the spot, for four year olds, usually in hot weather. Tough crowd.
Were you creative as a kid and what were some of your favorite books growing up?
I went to school far from my house, so I didn’t have many friends in the neighborhood. And it was just me and my mom at home, which meant she was a very busy woman. So I spent a lot of time in my room, either reading books or making up stories. I loved Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, Margaret Wise Brown, Ellen Raskin, Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl. Still do.
What were some of the more memorable jobs that you’ve had in the past?
I ran a nonprofit called 826LA, a writing center fronted by a convenience store for time travelers. We sell time travel supplies, and all proceeds fund our educational programming, which is free for kids. Since time travel supplies don’t exist, we had to create most of them—writing copy, designing labels, and assembling them in house.
What's a typical day like for you? Does it involve man-eating bathtubs or enormous blue whales?
Most of being a writer is sitting around the house, not writing. I read, I snack, and once a day I leave the house to let my dog run around a forest just up the hill.
What do you like—or love—about where you live?
I live in Berkeley, California. I grew up in the East Bay, and I feel very much like a Californian, although I have no idea what I mean by that.
Thanks, Mac, for stopping by to chat with us. Read about Mac's new trilogy with Jon Klassen due out in 2017 from Candlewick Press and be sure to visit his site to keep up on his latest news and upcoming books.