Allison's Book Bag

The Lie of the Author Bio

Posted on: October 28, 2011

This week I’m continuing my round-up feature of fiction books by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. These two ladies are the co-authors of the fabulous writing guide Spilling Ink which I reviewed earlier this fall as part of a round-up. Last week I spotlighted Anne Mazer; this week I’ll feature Ellen Potter.

Collaboration: Ever wonder how these two ladies met or how they found the collaboration process? Read all about it at Cooking The Book: The Joy of Co-Authoring. My only collaboration experiences have occurred as a teacher, but I keep teasing my husband that one day he and I need to co-write a mystery. He can plot and add the quirkiness, while I can do the rest. What do you think of collaborating? What have been your experiences?

Reader: What is the oddest thing you have ever read? When Ellen Potter was a child, some of her favorite books were Harriet the Spy, A Wrinkle in Time, The Secret Garden, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, when no books were available, she read walkie-talkie instructions, the back of cereal boxes, and even the washing instruction tags on her clothes. Me, I read dictionaries and encyclopedias, along with those instruction manuals and food boxes.

Writer: What did you want to be when you grew up? Why did you make that decision?

Ellen Potter has wanted to be a  writer since she was eleven years old. She was in her school library, strolling through the aisles, trying to decide what to read next. As she debated whether it should it be A Wrinkle in Time or maybe Harriet the Spy,  Ellen Potter decided that the best books in the world were written for eleven-year-olds. With her twelfth birthday just around the corner, she reasoned that the only thing for her to do was to grow up and write books for eleven-year-olds. Which is pretty much what happened!

As for me, I grew up wanting to be a naturalist, actress, veterinarian, singer, astronomer, artist, teacher…. You name it and I probably wanted to be it. Most of all though, I wanted to be a writer. I loved to read stories, tell them, and hear them. I still do!

Inspirations: Remember how I said that I tend to grab information for teasers from anywhere online I can find it—including other reviewers. Well, today, I have two tidbits about Ellen Potter which both come from other blogs.

Ever wondered whose writings most influenced your favorite author? If you didn’t grow up reading E. Nesbit and Roald Dahl, but like Ellen Potter, check them out. In an interview at Girl in a Swirl, Ellen Potter credits them: “I love E. Nesbit’s books! The kids in her book are so charmingly rotten. Roald Dahl has also been a big influence. I love his skewed, eccentric universe, and it has definitely crept into my own books.”

When compiling questions to ask Ellen Potter, I noticed that some answers exist about the origins of three of her books. Here I’m including one about her most famous book, which comes from Ellen Potter’s own blog: “Like my character, Olivia Kidney, I grew up in a high-rise apartment building in New York City’s Upper West Side. In fact, the idea for Olivia Kidney came from a game I used to play when I was about eight or nine years old. I would watch people in the building’s elevator (most of whom I knew nothing about) and make up crazy stories about their apartments. There was one woman, for instance, who was sort of chubby and always cheerful, so I imagined that she lived in an apartment made entirely of chocolate! I imagined that her walls were made of chocolate, so she could lick them, and her furniture was chocolate, and she had a chocolate refrigerator that only contained chocolate eggs and chocolate milk. And if she got hungry in the middle of the night, she could nibble on her bed.”  Reading this tidbit made me think about how one can see hills in the distance in my hometown. Growing up, I wondered what lay behind those hills and wrote at least one story where I explored this childhood question.

As an avid reader and aspiring writer, I grew up reading author bios. I’m still reading them as a book reviewer. One of the most fun bio I’ve ever read comes from Ellen Potter: The Big Fat Lie of the Author Bio

To get an even fuller scoop about Ellen Potter, check out my interview with her. And of course don’t forget to read my roundup of her books. Both are coming your way this weekend!

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