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Author Chat with Ann M. Martin


Transcript of Live Chat
July 6, 2004

NYPL Welcome to our author chat with Ann M. Martin. Ms. Martin is the author of Corner of the Universe, The Babysitters Club series, and Here Today, the story of 11-year-old Ellie who struggles to keep her family together while her mother pursues the dream of becoming a movie star. Welcome, Ann! We've got lots of questions.

AUTHOR_ANN Hi everyone!

alvarez Where do you get your ideas for your books?

AUTHOR_ANN My ideas come from all over the place. I get ideas from listening to the news, from straight out of my imagination, but I would say most of the ideas for my books are based on memories of things that happened to me when I was younger or memories of feelings I had when I was younger.

NYPL Were you and Paula Danziger friends before writing your books together?

AUTHOR_ANN Yes, we were.

NYPL Were you and Paula Danziger friends before writing your books together?

AUTHOR_ANN Paula and I had known each other for a number of years and always thought it would be fun to write together and weren't sure how to go about it. And then the idea of a story told through an exchange of letters was suggested to us and this seemed like a great way to collaborate.

Darlene_ Where are you from?

AUTHOR_ANN I grew up in Princeton NJ and I lived there until I left for college.

Miss-Understood Ann M Martin why did you stop with the babysitter's club?

AUTHOR_ANN :-) The Baby-Sitters Club series stops in 2000, which was 14 years after the series began. I loved working on the series. One of the best things about it, as far as I was concerned, was the continuing character and not having to say goodbye. After 14 years, when the characters were all about the same ages as they were at the beginning of the series I was beginning to run out of ideas for them. I wanted to try some new ideas...

KP Do you prefer writing about girls more than about boys?

AUTHOR_ANN Most of the books that I've written have been from a girl's point of view but there have been several from a boys point of view. I think I feel more comfortable writing from a girls point of view, but that's not to say boys can't enjoy them as well. I think the voice that comes most naturally to me is a girl's voice.

ahmerie What do you do to become a good author?

AUTHOR_ANN A good writer first of all is someone who enjoys reading. It helps to familiarize yourself with all different kinds of writing: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, journalism. It helps to keep a journal. A journal is helpful for two reasons. First, it's good writing practice, but secondly and more importantly it's a good source of story ideas. And I think it also helps to be able to persevere and see something through to the end. It's tempting to start a story and run out of steam. I think that's the hardest part in a book... when you have writer's block. A good writer can push ahead and finish the story.

j_prendergast What memories do you have from baby-sitting?

AUTHOR_ANN Well, I babysat a lot so I did have some real experiences to draw on. I have to admit most of what happened in the Baby-Sitters Club was made up. I think what was most helpful was the general things, like what to expect when their parents leave, how to entertain kids. I really was babysitting the time my charges decided to wash their parents car with Brillo pads! That was real unfortunately...

bah Did you read the Lord of the Flies book?

AUTHOR_ANN I did read it in high school, I haven't read it since then... It was, of course, a wonderful book but I haven't read it in years.

Stapleton Were you a character in any of the Baby Sitters Club books?

AUTHOR_ANN That is a good question. I'm sure that at least part of every main character is based on me. In the Baby-Sitters Club series Mary Anne was based on me, not in terms of her family situation but in terms of her personality. In A Corner of the Universe I wasn't Hattie but her character was based on things that happened in my family.

ramphal What is your favorite book?

AUTHOR_ANN I can never answer that one... I have too many favorite books... I really can't narrow it down. When I was younger my favorite books were light fantasy, the Mary Poppins books, the Wizard of Oz books, Mr. Popper's Penguins...I did also love the horse stories... I can't choose just one favorite!!!

alexis_ramos What made you start writing books?

AUTHOR_ANN I always enjoyed writing, even when I was very little. I loved stories, I loved being read to, I loved reading. Even before I was old enough to write I would draw pictures and tell stories to my mother. But I didn't think seriously about becoming a writer until after college.

Antonette Are you writing any adult books?

AUTHOR_ANN No, I'm not writing any and I don't have any plans to. Every time I have an idea for another book the main character is a kid or a young person.

lilmuffin22000 How did you get interested in writing?

AUTHOR_ANN After I graduated from college I taught 4th / 5th grade for a year and used children's books extensively in the classroom, and then I went into children's publishing for a year and all of this helped.

janitz What is your favorite baby-sitter book?

AUTHOR_ANN Well, for a long time it was number 6,which is Kristy's Big Day, and that was a lot of fun because there were so many charges to write about . Now that I've finished, its Kristy's Big Idea which set everything in motion

Cinderella Did you ever think of being something else than an author?

AUTHOR_ANN I did...for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a teacher. I prepared to be a teacher when I was in college and then did teach for one year and loved it. But by then writing was becoming more important to me. That's when I went into publishing.

Spider-Man Did you ever have any people that you looked up to as an idol or an inspiration when you decided to become an author?

AUTHOR_ANN I have to credit my parents for giving me a wonderful world of reading when I was growing up.

KP Do you like a story that gives the reader a good cry? Or do you think that would be too depressing in today's world?

AUTHOR_ANN That's a good question. I do like stories that give a good cry, but that's not the only kind of story that I like. I also like stories that make me laugh. I think both kinds of stories are important today.

KP Is being a writer a lonely job?

AUTHOR_ANN It can be a lonely job. When I 'm writing I'm by myself and I like complete quiet. But there are many times as a writer I have opportunities to go to conferences and conventions and spend time with other writers. The best conference is the American Library Association conference!

R2 What kind of book you like to read on your free time?

AUTHOR_ANN Well, mostly adult books and now I belong to a book club in my neighborhood and I'm having fun reading books I might not have chosen for myself. We read a pretty wide range of books. If I want a good beach read I'll read a mystery. We're just about to begin The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke.

knuckles_boy What is it like to write a book together with another author?

AUTHOR_ANN That's a good question... every collaboration is different. The way Paula and I collaborated was completely different from my collaboration with Laura Godwin. Which I also think of as a collaboration with Brian Selznick the illustrator.

RISA How do you come up with all these ideas for a book?

AUTHOR_ANN When I'm collaborating with somebody we share the ideas and that's fun. In the Doll People books Laura creates most of the new characters and plots the books. In the other books, honestly, it's so hard to explain where ideas come from. They just appear. Some come more easily than others. In The Corner of the Universe that was easier in some ways because Adam was based on my Uncle Steven. It's such a hard question to answer. Sometimes it's easy... sometimes it's like pulling teeth.

RISA How do you come up with all these ideas for a book?

AUTHOR_ANN I find outlining helpful, although I know other authors find it confining.

Lilmissbscfan When you said you liked the horse stories when you were a kid, is that where you got Mallory and Jessi's favorite books from?

AUTHOR_ANN Yes, absolutely.

KPJ Are you jealous of the author of Harry Potter?

AUTHOR_ANN No, I'm not. I'm intrigued by her ability to spin tales like that. The Harry Potter stories are so different than the kinds of stories I write but I don't think I 'd be happy telling those stories because they don't come easily to me.

NYPL Did you have doll houses when you were a child?

AUTHOR_ANN My sister and I had one doll house. It was nothing like either doll house in the Doll People books. We played in it somewhat, but we were just not really doll girls. I think I'm more interested in doll houses now than when I was a kid.

Darlene_ How many books have you done?

AUTHOR_ANN Apart from the books in the series I think there are 19 books. If you include the series and the 5 related series there were about 300 books.

Knuckles-boy Have you read any of the Animorphs books by K.A. Applegate?

AUTHOR_ANN I have not ready any of them, but they look very interesting! I try to read books in other series but I have to admit I have not read an Animorphs....

Beautiful_White How do you feel about expressing your feelings in your books?

AUTHOR_ANN I suppose in some ways it's easier to express feelings in a book and a good example is The Corner of the Universe. The story of of Steven/Adam was not something my family talked about very much. It wasn't until I was well into my 40s I decided to address it. I found it easier to express it in a book than to talk about it with my family.

2004 Do you plan to make your books into a movie someday?

AUTHOR_ANN There was a movie based on the Baby-Sitters Club characters that came out in 1995. The decision isn't the author's to make and a movie company has to be interested in a book and decide to go ahead with a project. At the moment there are no plans for movies based on any of the other books. I have no idea what makes one book appealing and another not.

LiLMizZAtTiTuDe Author Ann Thanks to your BSC books I'm starting my own BSC. Did you have a BSC in your neighborhood?

AUTHOR_ANN No, we don't... but we're way out in the country and there are not many kids in the neighborhood. I wish you luck!

wannabewriter can u please give me one helpful tip on writing for when i get stuck?

AUTHOR_ANN I actually do have one. It's not an original one, I can't remember where I read this, but it has helped me many times. When I'm writing and I get stuck I stop writing in the middle of the sentence. I stop writing and put the story away and don't look at it until the next day. The first thing I do the next day is look at the sentence.

Rog.P What made you begin to write children's books?

AUTHOR_ANN I had always been interested in telling stories, even when I was too young to write them. Because of all of the wonderful books I read as a kid when I grew up I wanted to try writing kids books myself.

KPJ Do you rewrite each chapter many times?

AUTHOR_ANN It really depends on the story I'm working on . I certainly reread what I'm working on constantly. Every morning when I sit down to write, I reread what I wrote the day before and revise it before I start writing new material.

melody Do you have any dogs or pets?

AUTHOR_ANN Yes, I have a dog named Sadie, and 3 cats named Gussie, Woody, and Willy. For several years now I've taken in foster cats for a local animal rescue organization, so there's always a foster cat waiting for a home. At the moment there is one, Marnie, who knows how to fetch better than Sadie! I've never seen anything like it!

cassie what are your other goals than writing books?

What an interesting question! I certainly have other interests, things I enjoy doing when I'm not writing. My two main interests are sewing and needlework, and making greeting cards!

Bat_Man Do you have sisters or brothers?

AUTHOR_ANN I have one younger sister, Jane, who lives in New York, and she's married and has a little boy who is 6 years old.

Do you like poetry also; Will you write poetry based books?

You know, I don't read a lot of poetry although I do absolutely adore Robert Frost, so no, there have not been any poetry based books. I think poetry is very hard to write and it certainly does not come easily to me.

j_prendergast Do you have any kids of your own?

AUTHOR_ANN Nope, no kids of my own. I have lots of godchildren and my nephew.

sonicboyrapheal_ do you like to play video games? Which one?

AUTHOR_ANN I have to say I've never, ever played a video game. I'm not technologically oriented at all. I almost had a heart attack setting up my DVD player at Christmas. I'm off in another realm with my books and sewing machine. I'm afraid of TIVO, digital cameras, too.

tina_and_Martha Do you get time to spend with your family?

AUTHOR_ANN Yes, I do. I'm very lucky because my sister is not too far away and my parents are not too, too far away. They live in Pennsylvania. I have some cousins in New Jersey, so I do get to spend time with my family, which is great. I feel very lucky.

Do you answer every letter?

AUTHOR_ANN Yes, I do, every letter that makes its way to me. Most letters go to my publishing company or my agent and find their way to me eventually. Every letter I receive I answer.

j_prendergast Have you ever thought of illustrating your own books?

AUTHOR_ANN It would be lots of fun but I don't know in what fashion I would do it. I'm not a painter. I enjoy drawing but I don't think, frankly, I'm good enough. Many of my books don't need illustration and I've been very fortunate for the ones that do. I've been very lucky to work with Brian Selznick and Emily McCully

abby_and_bina If you could change something about your life now, what will it be and why?

Wow. Hmmm.....that's quite a question.... I guess I would wish, and this is impossible, that there are more hours in the day so that I could do more things each day. That's just not possible!

KPJ Do you have any pet peeves?

Yes, I do. I really dislike people who are late and I cannot stand messes.

Spider-Man Where do you live?

AUTHOR_ANN I live in Ulster County in New York State.

cassie When will you stop writing books?

AUTHOR_ANN I hope never. I love writing and I hope that I can continue writing for many years. I don't plan on retiring. It's one of the things I enjoy most and I feel very lucky to do it as a profession!

Bat_Man What's your favorite color?

AUTHOR_ANN My favorite color is blue.

sonicboyrapheal_ Did you like school?

AUTHOR_ANN I liked certain subjects, English, reading, languages and art class. There were some classes that were particularly difficult for me. I'm also very shy so there were lots of aspects of school that were difficult for me.

Gloria Were you ever in a babysitters club?

AUTHOR_ANN No, I wasn't in a babysitter's club but I had several friends who babysat alot, too. Sometimes when we were babysitting we would get together with our charges.

NYPL Ann, we're just about out of time. Do you have any last words for us?

I wanted to say to the room: Thank you for being fans and for writing letters. Please read, but spread your wings a little bit and try books you might not ordinarily try. See what else is out there.

NYPL Thanks, Ann, for a wonderful chat and for answering so many of our questions. Everyone, please join us on July 29 to chat with Walter Dean Myers.