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Gail Carson Levine grew up in New York City and has been writing all her life. Her first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a 1998 Newbery Honor Book. Levine's other books include Fairest, Dave at Night, an ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults; The Wish, The Fairy's Return, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, and the six Princess Tales books. She is also the author of the nonfiction book Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly and the picture book Betsy Who Cried Wolf, illustrated by Scott Nash. Gail, her husband, David, and their Airedale, Baxter, live in a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse in the Hudson River Valley of New York State.
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Learn more about Gail Carson Levine on her blog!

Her Start as a Writer

I wrote as a kid, but I never wanted to be a writer particularly. I had been drawing and painting for years and loved that. And I meditate, and one time when I was meditating, I started thinking, “Gee, Gail, you love stories—you read all the time. How come you never tell yourself a story?” While I should have been saying my mantra to myself, I started telling myself a story. It turned out to be an art appreciation book for kids with reproductions of famous artworks and pencil drawings that I did. I tried to get it published and was rejected wholesale.

That book led me to a class on writing and illustrating for kids, and when I went into it I thought that I would be more interested in illustrating. But I found that I was much more interested in writing and that I didn't like the illustrating at all. I had always been the hardest on myself when I drew and painted. I am not hard on myself when I write. I like what I write, so it is a much happier process.

That's how I got started. And then everything I wrote was rejected for nine years.

On the difference between writing fiction, fairy tale, and historical fiction.

Contemporary fiction is the hardest for me because I am not really in the popular culture—I don't watch TV. I had to go to an eighth-grade class and follow them around, asking a lot of questions, before I wrote The Wish. I was never certain about getting it right. I was aiming for a timeless contemporary book. For example, I used the telephone in the book, and phone technology changes so much. All the music at their graduation night is oldies, which is just as well because whatever is playing now is also going to be an oldie. In spite of myself, it will probably be dated.

Making up one's own world is complicated. You have to keep track of it; you have to make sure that you are clueing the reader in. But working in the real world is very hard, for me anyway. For other people it's not.

Historical fiction, in a way, is not as hard. It's all about research. I have a very vivid memory of the way my parents spoke, and the ‘50s that I grew up in are closer to the ‘20s, I think, than today in many, many ways.

What advice do you give the aspiring young writers in the workshops that you lead?

Save everything you write.

I think kids abandon stories all the time. They start stories and get frustrated or get a different, better idea. I think that it is more worthwhile to stick with a story and revise it and try to finish it than to abandon ship. Revisions, for any writer, are the name of the game.

What are your workshops like?

Oh, I love the kids. I love doing it. It's great. It's the best thing I do, I think.

These kids are getting kind of sophisticated. This summer they blew me away because they decided that they were going to bring enough copies of their work for everybody to take home, so that they could read each other's work over the following week. I couldn't believe it. They did this all on their own.

What do you enjoy most about being an author or visiting schools to meet your readers?

I love it all. I love having written. Sometimes I love writing. I love to revise. Revising is my favorite part of writing. I love working with the kids and seeing the kids over a real span of time. I am very interested in seeing who they turn into. Getting to know these great kids has been a joy.