Friday, June 20, 2008

Author Spotlight: Megan McDonald

As the youngest of five sisters growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Megan McDonald often had trouble wedging in her own two cents' worth at the dinner table each evening. So, her mother gave her a notebook where she could write out everything she wanted to say, but couldn't get out. This notebook, plus a vivid imagination and great love of books, became the foundation of her writing career. It made her realize the importance of having her own voice in her writing. To date, she has churned out over 25 books for children and young adults which have won numerous awards.

Mrs. McDonald's first published work ran in a local newspaper when she was just ten years old. She wrote a story about the life of a pencil sharpener - from the sharpener's point of view, telling the reader all about "a life of eating pencil shavings all day."

When she began studies at Oberlin College, in Ohio, she intended to major in Creative Writing. However, the professor in her first writing class told her to go home and tear up all her poetry, because she was a prose writer. She didn't even know what that was, and went home to look it up. She ended up earning a BA in English, with a focus on Children's Literature, in 1981. She did her graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh, earning a Master of Library Science in 1986. It was also here where she met her future husband, Richard, whom she married in 1994.

Mrs. McDonald has held jobs as a park ranger, bookseller, museum guide, librarian and storyteller. But it wasn't until 1990 that her first book was published. Is This a House for Hermit Crab? received the Teacher's Choice Book Award from the International Reading Association, and was featured in an episode of Reading Rainbow. Since then, she has gone on to write many other books for both children and young adults, including the critically acclaimed Judy Moody series. In fact, it was due to request by fans of Judy Moody that she branched out with another series starring Judy's younger brother, Stink.

Megan McDonald believes any idea can be turned into a story:

"Story can come from memory or experience. It seems to come from everywhere, and out of nowhere. In everything there is as story - a leaf falling, the smell of cinnamon, a dog that looks both ways before crossing the street. The idea, the seed of a story, is implicit - but requires paying attention, watching, seeing, listening, smelling, eavesdropping...To be a writer for children, I continue to believe in the transformative power of story that connects children with books."


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