An Interview with Wendelin On Writing, Reading, and Keeping Hope in the Mail
Wendelin Van Draanen has written more than thirty novels for young readers and teens. She is the author of the 18-book Edgar-winning Sammy Keyes series—often called “The new Nancy Drew”—and wrote Flipped, which was named a Top 100 Children’s Novel for the 21st Century by School Library Journal and became a Warner Brothers feature film, with Rob Reiner directing.
Her other stand-alone titles include The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones,Runaway, Confessions of a Serial Kisser,Swear to Howdy, and The Running Dream, which was awarded American Library Association’s Schneider Family Award for its "expression of the disability experience."
Van Draanen has also created two four-book series for younger readers. The Shredderman books feature a boy who deals with a bully and received the Christopher Award for “affirming the highest values of the human spirit,” and was made into a Nickelodeon movie. The related Gecko & Sticky books, which are full of alluring alliterations that make for rousing read-alouds, are perfect for reluctant readers. A classroom teacher for fifteen years, Van Draanen resides in California where she can be spotted riding shopping carts across parking lots. She and her husband, Mark Parsons, have two sons, two dogs, and enjoy the three R’s: Reading, Running, and Rock’n’Roll.
Doing A School Report?
There's a lot of misinformation online. Here are the basics, directly from Wendelin:
Early Life: I was born on January 6th to Dutch immigrants (Peter & Mieske Van Draanen) in Chicago, IL. When I was very young, my family moved to California, where I still reside. I grew up with two brothers and a sister. We did a lot of camping and backpacking as a family, and also as Scouts, where we learned useful survival skills and also to appreciate nature.
Education/Careers: I had no visions of being a writer when I was in school and instead graduated college with a degree in ergonomics (for physical therapy), then went to graduate school to earn teaching credentials. I taught computer science and math at the high school level for 15 years. I began writing because I went through some awful times and learned that writing can help you sort out your troubles and find focus. It took about 10 years of active writing / submitting for me to get my first book deal, but the persistence paid off--I now have over 30 books in print (all with Knopf, which is an imprint of Penguin-Random House).
Family: I'm married to Mark Huntley Parsons (also a writer) and we have two sons (Colton & Connor) and two dogs (whippets, Bongo & Jazz). The four of us make up the rock band Risky Whippet. (It's the most awesome fun ever!)
Favorites: Sushi. Multiples of nine. Water slides. The moon. Chess. The thesaurus. Logic.
Hobbies: The 3 R's--Reading, Running, & Rock 'n' Roll. I played the flute and piano as a child and teen, switched to keyboards in my twenties, finally strapped on an electric guitar in my thirties and haven't looked back. I am a life-long runner. I ran track in high school and have staggered over the finish line of 6 marathons. Contrary to what you may read elsewhere, I am NOT a running nut. I run for sanity, health, and fitness.....and to raise money for and awareness of literary causes.