Alison McGhee began writing novels, for adults, and then branched out into books and poems and essays and stories for all ages. “Have laptop, will write,” is her motto, and that means that she writes wherever she is: hotel rooms, airplanes, her kitchen table, coffee shops, bakeries, you name it, she’s happy to sit down and write. She is happiest when cooking, baking, playing games, dancing and laughing with the people she most loves.
Alison’s books for younger readers include COUNTDOWN TO KINDERGARTEN, MRS. WATSON WANTS YOUR TEETH, A VERY BRAVE WITCH, and SOMEDAY.
For what age audience do you write?
I write for all ages and in all forms: poetry, novels, picture books, chapter books, blogs, essays, Facebook posts. Writing in a new form feels like a huge and scary challenge for me, and I like huge and scary challenges, which probably explains why I keep trying out new genres.
Henry: Huge and scary challenge is right. Writing novels is a completely different animal than writing picture books. And soon you will run out of new genres. Oh, the humanity!
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book comes out in the late fall. It’s called STAR BRIGHT, and it’s sort of a Christmas story. A young angel knows that a baby’s about to be born and she wants to give him the perfect gift. But she’s so small, and the world is so huge, and she doesn’t know what to do.
Henry: Some people are just very hard to buy for…
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I hope that readers will know that the perfect gift is one that brings light, in a tiny or huge way, to someone else.
Henry: Like the gift of a good story! Well played.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Even though I’ve been writing almost every day since the day I got out of college, I still find it nearly impossible to sit down and begin. I fret and avoid and get angry at myself and silently yell at myself just to SIT DOWN AND WRITE, and yet it’s still so hard.
Henry: Life is filled with distractions. And yet, distractions are what feed our muse.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
When someone writes to me, or comes up to me at a reading, and tells me quietly that something I wrote gave them the strength to keep going when they didn’t think they could. That something I wrote made them feel that they weren’t alone.
Henry: Nice. I once had a parent tell me that their kid will now eat mushrooms after reading my book NIMPENTOAD. So, I got that going on.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“A diamond is a piece of coal that stuck with the job.”
Henry: A high pressure job, though.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I’d fly! With just my arms! My whole life I’ve dreamed of flying, swooping up and over mountains, skimming through the air, hovering on the wind like a hawk or an eagle. This is my favorite dream. It was also, come to think of it, the inspiration behind my picture book “Only a Witch Can Fly.”
Henry: SCUBA diving is like flying underwater.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to travel. I travel constantly, by car and plane and foot. I’m a lifelong adventurer.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
“She was kind.”
Where can readers find your work?
They can find my work in bookstores, both brick and mortar and online.
This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.