Frequently Asked Questions

. . . about Reading and Writing

I want to be a writer. What should I do?
Read a lot. Get outside. Get out of your comfort zone. Write. Share your writing with friends, family, and teachers.

I don’t have time to write or read for pleasure. How do I make time for writing and reading?
As kids, you have a lot of homework, plus many, many extracurricular activities. It doesn’t surprise me that writing and reading get squeezed out. I try to read every night before I go to bed. You might want to schedule some time to write, too. For example, maybe you will write for fifteen minutes every day when you first get home. It’s okay if you miss some days. You could also talk to your teachers about doing more creative writing assignments. It can help to have a community of writers around you. Try starting a writing group at your school, or sign up for Figment online (

Can you recommend a good book to me?
Can I? I can do you one better. Here are some good sites for finding books to read:
Guys Read (Actually good for guys and girls)
Your school or public library might have access to NoveList, a database that helps you choose your next book based on a book you have liked. Ask your librarian for help.

. . . about Secrets of Truth & Beauty

Where did you get the idea?
I was watching the movie Little Miss Sunshine. At the end there is a scene of a little girls’ beauty pageant. I began to wonder what would happen if one of those girls gained a lot of weight. From there, it was as if Dara jumped into my head fully formed and demanded to have her story told.

Do you live on a goat farm?
No. I do, however, have a good friend whose family runs a horse farm, and that helped me to imagine life on the farm. As for the details about taking care of goats, I learned that through good old fashioned research — and a couple of episodes of Dirty Jobs.

Will there be a sequel?
As Dara herself notes at the end of the book, her life certainly isn’t perfect, and there’s still a lot of work to do. But Secrets of Truth & Beauty carries her through her biggest point of transformation and self-discovery. I wouldn’t ever say absolutely never, but right now I think a sequel would be kind of boring.

. . . about The Water Castle

Where did all those strange names come from?
I wanted the siblings to have old-fashioned names, as if perhaps they had been passed down through the family, hence Ephraim (pronounced Eff-rem), Price, and Brynn. Orlando is the title and main character of one of my favorite books by Virginia Woolf. It’s about a person who decides never to grow old, so it seemed like an appropriate name for the Orlando in my book.

What were some real life inspirations?
I did a number of blog posts on the Real People and Places of the Water Castle that might help you.  If you don’t read any other post, be sure to read the one about Poland Springs, Maine.