Friday Author Focus: Coffee @ Conversation with Mary Quattlebaum!

Happy Friday, everyone!  Today we have the lovely Mary Quattlebaum joining us in the cyber cafe for an evening coffee and chat fest!  I’m very happy about interviewing Mary, because she was my very first conference critiquer ever.

You always have a soft spot in your heart for your first! 🙂

Mary will be our next ABC event presenter on June 12th at the Germantown Library from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, and she’s also the author of several wonderful books including Grover G. Graham and Me, Underground TrainThe Shine Man,  Winter Friends, and the recently released Pirate vs. Pirate!










“An all-around winner.”–Publishers Weekly

“Rip-roaring pirate yarn.”—Booklist

“Four-Arrrrrr! rating.”–School Library Journal

Who is the mightiest pirate in the world?  Bad Bart and Mean Mo both want that honor.  And so they hold a series of contests:  swimming with sharks, hurling cannonballs, and eating hardtack.  Aarrr!  The final contest—treasure counting–will decide the winner.  This lively story, full of sea-dog lingo, will appeal to both girls and boys.  Boys will root for Bad Bart, girls for Mean Mo—and in the end … well, that’s a BIG swashbuckling surprise.

Mary will also be doing a pirate story time with kids on June 11th at 11:00am at the Bethesda Barnes and Noble, ahoy, matey!

Welcome, Mary, we’re so glad you’re here!  And now that you are comfy in the cyber chair with your favorite coffeehouse beverage, hot tea …







And your favorite snack …








… let’s get the show rolling!

Okay, I’m all about comfort (and hot tea and popcorn).

First question:  When did you decide to be a writer?

When I was a kid.  Though I also wanted to be other things, including a veterinarian, after reading the James Herriot books, and a psychologist, after watching the “Bob Newhart Show.”  But I remember checking out back issues of The Writer magazine from the public library and puzzling over the how-to articles. 

How long did your path to publication take, and what were your biggest hurdles?

Well, that path was circuitous, for sure.  I was working as a medical writer for a children’s hospital and also writing and starting to publish stories and poems for adults in literary journals.  Then a good friend (who is now my husband) and I started a volunteer project at the hospital whereby we would work one on one with largely the chronically ill kids once a week and help them to express themselves through their stories and poems.  It was all very playful.  As you can imagine, though, these kids didn’t have the usual childhood outlets for venting–shouting, running around, kicking soccer balls–but they could write or dictate and thus express their strong emotions through poems, stories, and memories.  Working with those kids inspired me to try writing for young people.  And then, of course, there was a motley slew of rejections from publishers! 

I guess, all in all, it took about 3 years from deciding to try writing for kids to having my first work published in children’s magazines and another year for my first novel, Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns.  The biggest hurdle:  finding the time to write creatively while also doing the writing and teaching that paid the bills.





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

Do some creative writing every day, even if it is but a small poem or a paragraph.  That way you keep the ideas flowing and the momentum going even if you have other professional and/or family that take precedence that day (or week).

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?  

I work in my cluttered office at home or at the kitchen table or in various nearby coffee shops (where I can avoid the distraction–sigh!–of errands and chores). 

Let’s see, odd things while I’m writing….  In my space, I often have visiting dogs (we have two) and various doo-dads, including a pirate toy, wind-up snowman that poops jelly beans, a purple paper crane made by my daughter, and small rocks (I also like to carry a few favorite stones in my pockets as they remind me of particular places and people.) 

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

Well, rarely is there so directly a straight line from inspiration to idea to project … but a few years, my husband (a very supportive and fun guy) said, “Why don’t you write a pirate book so that I can dress up as a pirate at your book events.”  And so I did!  The book, Pirate vs. Pirate, is a funny love story, in which a guy pirate and a girl pirate stage a series of contests–mast climbing, cannonball throwing, treasure counting–to determine who is the biggest and baddest pirate in the world.  And yes, my husband and I are having a fun time dressing up as pirates!

Love that!  (And I want really want to write a book that allows me to wear feather boas.)  But back to you, what is your favorite line from this book? 


That was an easy one. 🙂  Okay, then, are there any other genres that you’d like to tackle some day? 

I’m working on a middle-grade mystery/adventure right now, something I haven’t tackled in the past.  My characters tend to like to sit around and chat, which, of course, makes for a lousy adventure!  I have to get them up and going…

What’s next on your agenda, any juicy projects you’d like to tell us about? 

I have two picture books coming out in the fall:  The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans (a playful ghost story set in a New Orleans restaurant,)







and Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond, in which Old MacDonald’s granddaughter introduces kids to wild critters such as fish, frogs, ducks, and raccoons.





Congratulations, they both sound fantastic!  And now, Mary, time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer!

Do you . . .

Outline or wing it?    Both!

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

Sell by proposal or completed draft?    Completed draft.

Prefer writing rough drafts or editing?    Editing

Dread marketing or love it?    Like it, usually.

Read Kindle or traditional books?    Traditional books.

And finally, what’s your favorite:

Time to work?    Early morning

Music to listen to while writing?    Real bird song, dogs snuffling in their sleep.

Writing tool?    Blue pilot pen with extra-fine tip and yellow legal pad (how’s that for specific?).  I then type the scenes/drafts into my trusty laptop.

Pair of shoes?    Beat-up sneakers, the older the better.

Guiltiest pleasure?    Did I mention hot tea, popcorn, and distractions?

Line from a movie?    Actually, lines from plays:  Shakespearean insults.  “Dull and muddy-mettled rascal” and “fusty nut with no kernel” are but two lively phrases that I love to say and hear.

Ha, great lines!  Thanks, Mary, for stopping by for some C & C and we wish you the very best of luck with Pirate vs. Pirate, The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans, and Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond!

Have a great weekend, all! 🙂

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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3 Responses to Friday Author Focus: Coffee @ Conversation with Mary Quattlebaum!

  1. Pam says:

    Mary was one of the first authors I met when I moved to Maryland. I’ve been a card-carrying member of her fan club ever since! Congrats on PIRATE and all the new books coming out, Mary!

  2. Great post! And I agree with Pam #1 above : ) … what I admire most about Mary–in addition to her wonderful writing and captivating presentations, of course!–is her incredible generosity in making opportunities happen for other writers. It seems like so many of us in SCBWI have a story about how Mary encouraged or inspired us at some crucial time…and so often when I meet a new writer-friend, it turns out we have a common linkage through a connection back to Mary. SCBWI folks who haven’t met her yet, I encourage you to buy Pirate vs. Pirate or one of her other wonderful books (my 6-year-old and I are currently reading the Jackson Jones series)–then drop her a line to let her know how much you liked it!

  3. Arrr, I be thanking Laura for her interview and the tea and popcorn and me two Pam mateys for their kind words!

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