Interview with Annie
Question: You can’t draw. Why are you the author of a picture book?
Annie: I can too draw. I can draw a fried egg. But it’s true that nobody in the world would want a picture book illustrated by me, so Nancy Lemon made the beautiful pictures in What John Marco Saw, and I wrote the words. Why did I do such a thing? Because I love picture books, and I’ve always wanted to figure out how to write one.
Question: Picture books are so short. They must be easy to write.
Annie: Ha! You try to write one if you’re so great. They’re short, but they’re not easy, because really, you’re writing half a book. You have to write enough story for both the reader and the illustrator to know what you mean, but you also have to leave it open for the illustrator to interpret. Sure, What John Marco Saw is only a few hundred words, but I wrote each of those words about a hundred times.
Question: Do you like writing picture books? Is that what you’re going to do from now on?
Annie: I like writing everything. I can’t figure out whether that’s good or bad, but I know that I want to keep on writing picture books, chapter books, mid-grade books, and even books for (ew!) grownups. All stories appear in my brain in pictures, but there are some stories that should be told in pictures, too, because they mean more in pictures than they could ever mean without them. I wish I had a better way to describe this.
Question: How’d you get the idea for What John Marco Saw?
Annie: I watched it happen to the little kid across the street. His name was LJ, and he was the youngest kid in an enormous family. One day I was looking out my front window, and I saw LJ inspecting the tree in his front yard very carefully. He went inside. He came out and looked at it again. He went inside. He came out with a brother. The brother shrugged—feh—and went inside. LJ looked at the tree. He came out with his dad, who shrugged and went inside. LJ stood on the lawn, looking at the tree. Suddenly, the tree fell over. And LJ raised his hands to the sky and danced with joy.