Posted by: Laura Bowers | July 29, 2011

Coffee & Conversation with Ann McCallum!

Happy Friday!

I’m hoping that everyone who went to the Staying on Track Conference had a wonderful, inspiring time! I was bummed about missing it, (especially after seeing the photos Edie posted,) but in our household, summer is ruled by baseball, which is also why I haven’t posted lately.

Well, that and two manuscripts I’ve been battling with, but that’s a whine . . . er, I mean . . . a topic for another day!

Instead, today we have the lovely Ann McCallum joining us in the cyber cafe! Ann is the author of several books, including Rabbits Rabbits Everywhere: A Fibonacci Tale, Beanstalk: The Measure of a Giant, The Secret Life of Math, and the recently released Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds.

“…a book with a million uses. Eat Your Math Homework understands that sometimes making an idea delicious is the best way to cement a concept in the heads of your intended audience. Bunnies. Edibles. Math. Yum.”  –School Library Journal

“For kids who already love math, the projects and ‘Math Appeteasers’ in the book offer a creative outlet to dig deeper. For kids who find math intimidating, the book is a hands-on (and mouth-on) way to make patterns, geometry, and probability less mysterious.”  –PBS Parents

(See also the article in PBS Parents!)

“Mischievous, gap-toothed bunnies rendered in mixed-media collage explore math in the kitchen in this clever activity book.” –Publishers Weekly

“A yummy way to get parents and kids to more deeply understand math…and spend some time together in the kitchen.”  –Kirkus Reviews

And now that Ann is comfy in the chair with her favorite coffeehouse beverage, Diet Coke, (she’s not a huge coffee drinker, but has confessed to a Diet Coke addiction,) 

and her favorite snack, which is a tie between popcorn, oatmeal cookies, and really good cheese …

 

. . . let’s get to it!

First question, Ann, when did you decide to be a writer?

In seventh grade, I wrote puppet plays and performed them for the kindergarteners once a week. I also have a dozen (horribly embarrassing) diaries from when I was a kid. But a serious writer? That was probably about 5 years ago when I attended a week-long writer’s conference in Oregon. I’d already had two books published, but up until then I kind of choked when I told people that I was a writer as well as a teacher. I decided to really commit to being a writer then and I now can use the label comfortably.

 Awesome! Now, how long did your path to publication take, and what were your biggest hurdles?

The first book had a lot of fits and starts (editor’s husband had health problems, company was sold just as the book came out, I got divorced somewhere in between all that). The second and third books went relatively smoothly, but then there was a long period of plain hunkering down to write and rewrite. My newest book Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds (Charlesbridge, 2011) was actually my first idea for a book, but it has turned out to be the fourth book published.

Seeing how hindsight is 20/20, what advice for beginners do you wish you would have followed?

I wish I had taken more courses on craft. I wish I had gotten involved in the writer’s community earlier.

Where’s your favorite place to work?  And, if the paparazzi were taking pictures of odd things authors do while writing, what would be in yours, hmm? 

My favorite place to work is a tiny bedroom that I converted into an office a couple of years ago. I painted it a light green, set up a desk in front of the window and put in some shelves and some really pretty pictures. It’s a place dedicated solely to writing and I feel so lucky to have it. If the paparazzi were to peek through the window, they might see me chewing thoughtfully on a caramel—the hard, takes-a-long-time-to-swallow kind or sitting with a heating pad in the winter (I like being cozy!)

 How were you inspired to write your current or upcoming release?

I used to teach math and I wanted to find a way to turn kids and parents onto math. I remember meeting so many kids AND parents who were math phobic. I decided to experiment with a ‘mathematical gingerbread houses’ activity one day before Winter Break. The project was so successful that I decided to try pairing more cooking with math. It was so fun and family-friendly that I just knew it would make a great book. Now, years later, I have compiled some of my favorite math recipes and activities in Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds. (Illustrated by the fabulous Leeza Hernandez). Who can resist a batch of Tessellating Brownies, some Fibonacci Snack Sticks, or Probability Trail Mix?!

 What is your favorite lines from this book?

It’s after school. It’s a beautiful day, but you’re stuck inside with a bulging backpack. There’s no escape; it’s time to do your math homework. But wait—what’s this? Here comes your faithful dog. Hey, dogs eat homework, right? You wave your worksheet in front of his nose, but no dice—he won’t bite. Don’t despair! If Fido won’t eat your math, maybe you can!

  :) Nice. Are there any other genres that you’d like to tackle some day?

I’m writing a middle-grade novel (Well, uh, two actually. One is still in major revision stage). I have ideas for more non-fiction and fiction. I just need about 3 more hours tacked onto every day!

Yeah, I’ll take three hours as well! Okay, what’s next on your agenda, any juicy projects you’d like to tell us about?

I’m thinking about a sequel to Eat Your Math Homework even though it hasn’t even come out yet! (Official release date isn’t until July 1, 2011) Hopefully that’s juicy. I’m also working on my middle-grade novel.

Time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer!

Do you . . .

Outline or wing it?   OUTLINE, revise, OUTLINE again.

Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped?   Mostly zipped

Sell by proposal or completed draft?   I’ve done both

Prefer writing rough drafts or editing?   Hmm… enjoy both

Dread marketing/blogging or love it?   Enjoy it—need time.

Read Kindle or traditional books?   Traditional books… so far.

And finally, what’s your favorite:

Time to work?   When there’s time

Music to listen to while writing?   Nope. Prefer silence

Writing tool?   Trusty computer

Pair of shoes?   Moccasins from Canada

 Guiltiest Pleasure?   Reading all night long

Awesome, thanks so much for joining us today, Ann! Best of luck with those two mid-grades you are revising and with Eat Your Math Homework!

And, everyone be sure to keep your calendars marked with our regional upcoming events, such as . . .

–Our next ABC Event featuring Jane Conly and her book, Murder Afloat on September 10th at the Pikesville Branch of  Baltimore County Public Library, 2:00 – 5:00 PM.

–Another ABC Event featuring Amie Rose Rotruck on October 15th, (location to be announced later.

–And the Tri-Regional Event with the Eastern and Western Pennsylvania Regions on November 11 – 13th at the Gettysburg Wyndham Hotel in Gettysburg, PA that you can bet your bottom I will NOT be missing, baseball or no baseball! Click here for more details.

Have a great weekend and happy writing! :)

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Responses

  1. Great interview, Ann–and congrats on the wonderful reviews!

  2. [...] an eye out for an upcoming interview with Ann that we will be posting  soon. Or, check out the one she did for us last year! Hope to see you on the [...]

  3. [...] from the first time Ann had visited us in the cyber cafe, (click here to see her interview,) we know her favorite coffeehouse beverage is Diet [...]


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