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Author Chat with Andrew Clements


Transcript of Live Chat
August 3, 2004

NYPL We are pleased to welcome Andrew Clements to our author chat today. Andrew is the author of Frindle, The School Story, A Week in the Woods, The Landry News...and more. Good afternoon, Andrew.

ecfs What are you writing now?

Andrew_Clements Hi--I'm writing a book called LUNCH MONEY about a boy who's into business. He starts a small comic book company. I've got it about half done, and it should be in stores by next spring.

ZaneHarlem Who was your favorite author when you were a teenager?

Andrew_Clements Hi ZaneH--One of my favorites was Jack London--great adventure stories. I also liked mysteries a lot--all the Sherlock Holmes stories.

njeri214 Did you have a hard time in school when you were younger?

Andrew_Clements School work came fairly easily to me because I was a good reader. I wasn't great at math, and I wasn't very good at writing either--mostly because writing well takes time and I wasn't willing to put in the needed hours.

Mona hi andrew clements!

Andrew_Clements Hi Mona

Mona hi

ZaneHarlem I heard that you wrote songs and poetry. Who are your favorite songwriters and poets?

Andrew_Clements Zane--I love the poetry of William Butler Yeats, and Shakespeare's sonnets. I admire the songwriting of James Taylor, Paul Simon, and some of John Mayer's work too. And for pure songwriting genius, there's always the Beatles and Hoagy Carmichael--he's an old timer. And don't forget the poetry/songs of Bob Dylan. You can probably guess my age from my answer.

dawn Do you have any pets?

Andrew_Clements Yes, we have one snaggletoothed rascal of a cat who's orange and white--Ginger.

KP Do you enjoy writing funny books more than serious ones?

Andrew_Clements I enjoy trying to blend them together. Life is not all funny, nor is it all serious. A good balance is what I like best.

ecfs What do you do when you can't think of anything to write?

Andrew_Clements I've learned to make myself make something happen next. The thought "I can't think of anything to write" is the same as "Nothing could possibly happen next"--and that is NEVER true. So my job as a writer is ask 'what happens next?' and write down the answer.

ecfs What are your hobbies?

Andrew_Clements I love to play the guitar. I mess around in my messy basement workshop, building things, repairing things. I love to read, but sadly can't do much when I'm also trying to write and keep my own story straight in my mind. I like hiking and camping--in small doses.

catherine Great questions, everyone! While you are waiting for Andrew to get to your question, why don't you send out an e-card from the Summer Reading website...

ecfs On the cover of your books, was it your idea to always have a kid holding an object?

Andrew_Clements Those wonderful covers were not my idea. That's the talent of Brian Selznick you are seeing. Also, the publisher asked him to keep making the covers look similar to the cover of Frindle. The publisher's job is to sell books, so they want new Andrew Clements books to look a little like the one that has sold the most copies so far--and that's Frindle.

ZaneHarlem old are you? Walter Dean Myers told us he was 66!!

Andrew_Clements I'm 11 years younger than WDM.

ecfs Have you only written novels or have you written other things like poetry or plays?

Andrew_Clements I have written a lot of different things, but never a play. I have had a lot of different picture books that were published (also a lot that were not). I have written songs, also unpublished, and short stories. Only novels and picture books (and a few coloring books) were published.

catherine Do you have a favorite Andrew Clements book? Write a review on our website, at

John Hi Mr Clements, I have read A week in the woods, frindle, the school story, the landry news and a few Jake Drakes this summer. Out of all the books you wrote which is your favorite?

Andrew_Clements John--You've been reading up a storm! When kids ask me that question, I ask this back: If a had 4 kids, and you asked that dad which kid was his favorite, what would the dad say?

yakp Frindle is a very good book. How did you get interested in writing a book about a pen and where did the name "Frindle"

Andrew_Clements I've got an informational website called that tells the whole story of that book. The short answer is that some first graders asked me where all the words in the dictionary came from. I told them that people made them all up, over many, many years. The kids did not believe me, so I pulled out a pen and said, let's call this thing a frindle from now on. If enough other people do the same, one day it could be in the dictionary. That's where the idea came from.
bookworm what advice do you have for someone who wants to make it as an author?

Andrew_Clements First rule: Read, read, read. Read all the good books you can to learn what good writing sounds like and feels like. And think about what you read. Remember that everything you read in a book happens on purpose. Try to figure out why the author chose that particular word at that spot in the story--because he or she did choose that very one and not all the other possible words. Then, you have to write yourself. And find good teachers to help. Read books about writing. Read what authors say about their own writing. And above all, be persistent.

catherine Mona, thanks for your great questions. We hope Andrew can get to them soon. There are many questions coming in... please be patient!

Mona how long does it take for you to finish a book?

Andrew_Clements When I start a middle grades novel like Frindle or A Week in the Woods, I often have just the beginning of an idea. It may take me a few months of trying to start the story before I understand what the story is really about. Once I figure out the true idea I'm exploring, it will usually take me at least another 6 months to get the first draft done and delivered to my editor. Then there will 2 to 4 more months of working to get the story as good as it can be. The whole process, start to finish, usually takes at least a year, and sometimes longer.

Sky How do you think of story ideas?

Andrew_Clements Hi Sky --

Andrew_Clements Most of my story ideas come from my own life in one way or another. If I'm writing about school, I remember the years I spent as a student myself, the years I spent as a teacher, the years I have spent as a parent of children in school. And I dig around. It's like being a miner. I dig around in this huge pile of memories, and I find a little chunk of an idea, and I work on it and polish it up, refine it into something useful or interesting.

dawn Do you like to make up new names for things like in Frindle?

Andrew_Clements That process has a fancy name--neologism--neo means new and logism means having to do with words. No, I don't make up a lot of new words, but that doesn't mean new ones don't crop up all the time. I love to read a regular column by William Safire in the New York Times about words. He mentions new ones once in a while. So this happens in real life, not just in my book Frindle.

Mona how many books have you wrote in total?

Andrew_Clements Hi again Mona--

Mona how many books have you wrote in total?

Andrew_Clements I've written more than fifty books. Some of the books I've written have been short ones for school publishers--publishers who create school reading and social studies programs. If you count those as books, then the number is closer to 70 books.

bookworm what was your major in high school?

Andrew_Clements There were no real majors at my high school. I took courses to get me ready to apply for college. At college, my major was English literature--books written by British writers in the English language.

KP The Jacket is so real. I live in a neighborhood where a teenage boy was accused of being a potential house thief and taken to jail. He was a member of a bird club looking at birds in a field in a white neighborhood.

Andrew_Clements We all have to be careful not to let prejudices and assumptions creep into our view of our neighbors-- and ourselves, too. I'm glad you liked this book.

catherine What a great group! In just half an hour you've asked over 80 questions. Our guest author is typing just as fast as he can... try not to be frustrated if you haven't seen your name in lights yet.

Mona is your favorite hobby writing?

Andrew_Clements Writing has become more than a hobby for me. It's really my main work these days. Another hobby I forgot to mention is calligraphy--actually it's more like "messing around with pens." I love to make marks on paper with pen and ink. And I doodle like crazy.

Sky About how many books have you written that were not published, (yet)?

Andrew_Clements Most of my unpublished books are picture books that publishers have not liked well enough to take a risk on. Publishers sell books, so they must believe people will buy a book, or they won't publish it. That's the business side of being a writer. But I have learned to simply move on to something new. There is no shortage of good ideas to explore.

John Do you ever do school author day visits? (asked by John's mom)

Andrew_Clements hi John's mom. Yes, a few. I'm glad people are interested in my work, but if I accepted all the invitiations I get, I'd never get another book written--which would not be good for any of us.
yacine Are you coming to New York ?

Andrew_Clements I was last in New York in April when I was visiting bookstores to talk about my newest book, The Report Card. I may visit in the fall to talk about another new one, The Last Holiday Concert--but no plans have been settled. The Simon and Schuster website will keep you up to date.

ecfs What's the strangest question someone has ever asked you?

Andrew_Clements A girl once asked me if I would autograph her shoes. A boy once asked me if I drove a Ferarri. Answer to both questions: No.

yacine Hi i want to know if you have any kids?

Andrew_Clements Hi yacine--

yacine Hi i want to know if you have any kids?

Andrew_Clements Yes, my wife and I have four sons, Charles, George, Nate, and John. They are all college age or older now.

yakp I didn't like the book School story

Andrew_Clements Sorry to hear this, but all I can ever do is tell a story the way it happens for me. Not enough adventure in that story for you? Too much about girls? I know that not every reader is going to like every book I write. So thanks for your honesty.

ecfs I love the detail about Mrs. Granger not taking off her jacket until it is 90 degrees. How do you come up with ideas like that?

Andrew_Clements I actually know a few people--mostly women--who never seem to sweat. And Mrs. Granger is definitely the cool and collected type. Good advice for a young writer: Remember that it is the details in your writing that make people and places and scenes feel real to the reader. Thanks for noticing.

yacine What's the best book you read this year, besides your own?

Andrew_Clements I read a wonderfully horrible non-fiction book called RATS about the history of the rat in New York City.

bookworm is there something important you have yet to accomplish?

Andrew_Clements I would love to never feel angry again.

teddy I read your book The Landry News and i liked it . I think its a great book.

Andrew_Clements teddy--Thanks. This book was inspired by a sixth grade boy who was in my room when I was a student teacher. He made his own newspaper each week by hand, and put it on the bulletin board each Friday. I looked him up about a year ago and sent him a copy of the book. He's now 42 years old! The Landry News is not about him, but if I had not seen him doing this, I am sure I would have never written that book.

Mona what got you into writing?

Andrew_Clements Reading good books. Every once in a while I'd be reading, and I would think, "Wow--I'd give a lot to be able to write something this good." So I started working at it, mostly writing small things at first, and only when I felt inspired. I've learned now not to wait for inspiration. I make myself write, and soon the writing itself becomes an inspiration.

yacine Thanks for recommending RATS!!! I will read it!!! There are a lot of rats on my block!!!

Andrew_Clements DominoS--You might want to try to find it at the library. It's only available right now in hardcover.

John Who are some of your favorite childrens books and authors?

Andrew_Clements I love the picture books written by Margaret Wise Brown--Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and my all time favorite, The Sailor Dog. She's a great poet. Another great favorite is EB White. Charlotte's Web may be one of the top ten novels ever written in English. When I am looking for inspiration about good writing, I read E.B. White.

Mona which city and state do you write your books in?

Andrew_Clements I live in a little town in Massachusetts, about forty miles from Boston. It's called Westborough, and it was the 100th town in this state--founded in 1636, I think--a long time ago. We have lived here for 17 years now. I have a small shed in my back yard, and that's where I sit and write.

catherine Great questions, everyone! To read more of Andrew's books, or find out more about the other authors he mentions please come on down to the library and your librarian will help you out.

NYPL Andrew, We're almost out of time. Do you have anything else you want to add before we go?

Andrew_Clements I just want to thank everyone for being part of this event, and especially for being good readers and thinkers. This has been fun, and I hope we can do it again.

KP my name is rubi

Andrew_Clements Hi Rubi--Glad you joined the group.

KP what's your favorite sport?

Andrew_Clements Hi KP-soccer is my fave.

yacine Bye, Andrew

ecfs I can't wait to read more of your books. Please write more!

denise I just wanted to let you know that I greatly enjoyed several of your books...the first I read was Frindle which a friend and I used in a book club we set up for our kids and their friends...the kids really enjoyed it!....we always look forward to your work....thank you....

Sky Bye Mr. Clements

KP do you like Harry Potter books?

Andrew_Clements Yes, but I've only had time to read the first one. I've been too busy working on my own stories. And honestly, I'm more interested in reality than fantasy.

Mona Who is the author of RATS?

catherine Mona, come to the library and the librarian will help you find this book! I promise!

ZaneHarlem In your book, Things Not Seen , Bobby is invisible. Have you ever felt invisible in a room full of people? Is that why you write the book?

Andrew_Clements Zane--I think almost everyone has felt invisible, and sometimes we imagine it would be fun to actually disappear. But would it, really?? And that was the question I was trying to answer in the story. Also, yes, I am writing another teen story called THINGS HOPED FOR.

John Are you going to write a sequel to any of your books?

Andrew_Clements I haven't felt like writing a sequel yet--too many new ideas to explore.

NYPL Thank you for joining us today, Andrew. If any of our participants were not able to read the entire chat today you can read a complete transcript that will be posted on the NYPL website in a few days. I would also like to remind everyone to pick up some of Andrew's books at their local library!


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