When I was teaching middle school, I kept my students from snoring and drooling by making up silly stories featuring wacky characters. Think 27-year-old sixth graders riding tricycles! Coming up with those off-the-wall ideas was easy. I’d sit in my empty classroom at 6:00 a.m. and let craziness spill out of my brain.
But when I tried to turn my imagination toward writing a funny YA novel, my mind went numb. I knew I could write “funny,” but finding a story line stymied me.
Soon after Fairest of Them All was sold, my friend Laura told me about an article she'd read in a small town Iowa paper. Several high school students were suspended for smuggling a pig into their principal’s office. As we laughed about it we observed that those kinds of practical jokes only happen in rural communities like the ones where we grew up.
The prank caught my imagination and reminded me of the crazy, impulsive, and flat-out stupid things kids do in the name of fun. Memories of my high school misadventures flooded back and almost always made me wince. Something else I remembered was the cultural gap between the “big city” kids in Des Moines and my small town friends and I who thought driving the twenty miles to the state capital for pizza was an adventure.
Not long after I indulged in my high school flashbacks, I embarked on a series of adventures with sixteen-year-old best friends Aspen Parks and Laurel Piedmont. It’s been my experience that writing a novel is sweet torture—emphasis on torture--but writing A & L Do Summer was fun. I dumped the girls into humiliating predicaments, tossed in peculiar characters, plunked some farm animals into the mix, and laughed at my own lame jokes.
Today I send Aspen, Laurel, Manny, Clay, and Buttferk out into the world. If you happen to run into them, I hope they’ll give you a laugh or two.