Tell me about the book in your own words?
“Dead Possums Are Fair Game” is about a control-freak, math-phobic girl named Ella, who decides to use a bizarre experience with a dead possum to try to pass an end-of-year-school project.
2. What made you pick math as the troubled subject? Did you have troubles with it in school?
Man! Did I ever! It was my worst subject—totally freaked me out. I would forget absolutely everything I’d ever been taught when we had tests, cry at the kitchen table while doing math homework, and literally break out in a sweat when it was time to go to math class. I was as math-phobic as you could get until I was a junior in high school. Then I had a wonderful Algebra teacher who made it not only easy, but . . . (prepare yourself) . . . fun! It was because of her I decided to become a math teacher. I figured I definitely knew where kids who struggled with math were coming from, so hopefully I could help them.
I picked math as the “troubled” subject for a couple reasons:
First, as a writer, I want my readers to be able to identify with the main character, Ella. I think math anxiety is a universal struggle. It’s disabling and even humiliating for some kids. If a student picks up “Dead Possums Are Fair Game” and reads that Ella thinks she’s the only one who “doesn’t get it” when it comes to math, they might say, “Oh, yeah, me too!” Then they’re going to be able to relate to Ella and understand her dilemma. Hopefully, they’ll continue reading to find out how she deals with it.
Second, because math has such a “bad rep”, I wanted to try to make it fun. By introducing Morty (the opossum) and the brilliant idea of Jonathan’s to incorporate Morty into their school project, I hope kids will realize there are fun ways to use math.
3. Please tell me about your road to publication.
Long, but fun. I joke around that I actually started out trying to write a poem about Moses, and ended up with Whole-y Cow! Fractions Are Fun. (Apparently, I’m not very good with poetry.)
When I visit schools one of the things that surprises students the most is the time frame for publishing. It took four years from mailing the manuscript of “Whole-y Cow!” until it hit the shelves. "Dead Possums Are Fair Game” was shorter. That took about a year and a half after signing the contract—although I’d been working on the story for a couple years.
It is a learning process and every year I learn more. I will say everything became a hundred times easier after I got Sally Apokedak as my agent. I absolutely, hands down, think she is one of the hardest working, integrity-filled, intelligent people I’m privileged to know.
4. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read what you like to write. If you like to write middle-grade, read middle-grade. If you like to write mysteries, read mysteries. Someone once said you should read 1,000 books in the genre you write. I think that’s pretty solid advice.
5. For fun- favorite ice cream?
Easy. Chocolate-Chip Cookie Dough. Everytime! However, if there really was a Pink Mud Pie flavor like in “Dead Possums Are Fair Game”, I’d be tempted to try it—because it just sounds like something awesome!
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