Jacqui Robbins

Jacqui Robbins

Hi! I'm Jacqui Robbins. I grew up in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Connecticut. I graduated from Yale University with a degree in Theater and Anthropology. I thought I might be a famous theater director, but decided to work with children instead. I was a drama teacher, a director in residence, an SAT tutor, a bookstore shelver and story-reader, and had one job that made me do nothing but type, before I realized what I really wanted was to teach children to read and write.

I taught at Ancona School and North Kenwood-Oakland Charter School in Chicago and at Wissahickon Charter School in Philadelphia. I made up stories for my students about the hard parts of being friends. Peacemaking is my second favorite thing to teach (after reading and writing).

When my daughter was born and Atheneum agreed to publish The New Girl...And Me, I tried to be a mother and a teacher and a writer at the same time. That was too much, so I decided to take a break from teaching and write full time. Now, I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan with my husband, two children, and two crazy cats.

Click on a question to see the answer. If you have any questions that are not answered here, please contact me.

How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I could write. Even when I didn't know I wanted to be a writer, I always wrote stories and letters. When I announced to my friends that I was going to stop teaching for a while and be a writer, one of them said, "Jacqui, you have always been a writer."

Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas from my classroom. None of the characters are real students, but they are all situations with which children deal at school. I got frustrated when I was teaching at how easy making friends seemed to be in books. In real life, sometimes people get punched in the head!

How do you write? What is your process?
I write everything in a cheap spiral notebook first. I know it's old-fashioned, but I like the feeling of handwriting; it slows me down and lets me think as I write. When I finish a story or a chapter, I leave it be for a few days. Then I write the whole thing over. Sometimes I do that many times. Next, I type it onto the computer, and fix it some more while I type. When I think it's ready, I share it with my critique group. Then I edit it again with their ideas. When I finally think, "Ah. It's done. It's perfect." I send it to my agent, Jodi Reamer. Sure enough, I usually have to write it all over again. Good thing I am a fast writer and typer!

Where do you write?
I have a beautiful green and dark wood writing desk in my study, surrounded by books and a china tea set and all sorts of notebooks and fancy pens. I never can get anything written there. Usually I go to a coffee shop or my mom and dad's apartment when they're not there. Sometimes I go to the library, but I don't get a lot done -- I love to read too much!

What are some of your favorite books?
When I was young, I loved My Fierce Tiger, by James Hepburn, and The Perils of Penelope, which stars Bert and Ernie. When I got older, I liked Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles and everything Judy Blume wrote. One of the best parts of being a writer was getting to meet Judy Blume at an event for my editor, Richard Jackson. All these years I thought if I met her I would tell her all about how much I loved her books and how they inspired me. Instead, we talked about cupcakes and lip balm, but it was still great.

Even now, though, Katherine Paterson might be my favorite author ever. I reread Bridge to Terabithia in the library this past summer and just cried and cried. Everyone thought I was crazy (they were probably right).

I love to read my children Peggy Rathmann's Good Night Gorilla and Ten Minutes to Bedtime. We also read Close Your Eyes, by Kate Banks, Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books, and Michael Rosen's poetry.

And don't even get me started on all the books I like for grown-ups; this answer is too long already!

Are you more like Shakeeta or Mia?
I am definitely more like Mia. I am shy until I know people are safe; then I don't stop talking. I always watched people like Mia does and thought a lot about how to make friends. My second book, Two of a Kind, which came out in 2009, is also about a little girl thinking about friendships. When she read it, my sister said, "First Mia, now this? We get it: you were a loser. Write about something else." So my third book, Desmond's New Shoes, is about a little boy who can't sit still and is always in trouble. Can you guess what my sister was like when she was little?

You can read more about my previous and future books on the books page.


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