What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I love literary tourism! I have made quite a few pilgrimages. I live in New York, which has plenty of literary high spots. High on the list are my many visits with my son to visit the real Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger at the New York Public Library. There is the Strand bookstore, immortalized (as if it wasn’t already) in the Dash and Lily books.
My son and I love to visit Eloise at the Plaza and check out her store downstairs. We have done the Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler tour at the Met, of course, and like the characters in my book, we have visited the Lower East Side to see sites from the Pushcart Wars. The Upper West side is famous for Judy Blume books, the upper East for Harriet the Spy. We spent countless hours at Books of Wonder and look forward to going there again as the city reopens. Went to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. My husband is in entertainment engineering, and a colleague on the show got us great tickets in the director’s box, and a little extra magic for my kid. My lips are totally sealed.
The Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park is a favorite, and features in my Professional Children series, which I hope to launch once The Chronicles of Story is well underway. Also, a visit to Alice’s Tea Cup carries the Alice in Wonderland theme along. There are so many literary spots in New York City that I could go on forever, but I want to talk about my best literary pilgrimage.
When my son was seven, we took a month-long trip to the UK (England, Scotland and Wales, plus a little trip to Paris on the side) that we called the Great Children’s Book Trip. We had planned another on his thirteenth birthday (which is this year, but we are holding off a little bit, what with the pandemic). So many great kid’s books come from the UK, and we made the rounds. The Harry Potter content alone could have taken a month, if we had the time.
We stayed at the Harry Potter hotel, rode the steam train in Scotland, took the Harry Potter tour in Edinburgh, went to the Elephant House, did the WB studio tour, and so many other Harry Potter sites. We went all over London. Peter Pan, Bastables, Fossils, Paddington, Sherlock Holmes, Mary Poppins—the list is endless. Out to Oxford, for Narnia and Alice in Wonderland and Lord of the Rings. Went to the Roald Dahl museum in Great Mittenden, where his writing hut is preserved. I found it very empowering to sit in a replica of his writing chair, which he rigged with a lap desk and customized to make more comfortable for his war injuries. It inspired me to do the same and having a writing chair that caters to my wonky spine has been a huge help.
We saw shows—Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Railway Children. Winnie the Pooh, the Twilight Barking, the Borrowers—you name it, we visited. We slept in a castle, and a grand five- star hotel we booked cheap online that upgraded us to a suite, and on a sleeper train, and wound it all up at Hay-on-Wye, the Book Town in Wales, which is the home of my heart. It was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever done, and I hope someday to have another grand tour like it.
On my to do list of literary travel, the top must visit places for me right now are Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables, Emily), Chincoteague for Pony Penning (Misty of Chincoteague) and Concord MA, for Little Women and the Hall Family books. I recently discovered the Hall Family house shown in the book is real. I must visit it in person and see if it really has a summerhouse with a swing and a diamond in its window.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I think my mascot would have to be Tickey-Ding, the teacup size banzai dragon (the “z” is for “zazz”, according to him) who is a character in The Chronicles of Story. Tickey came into my mind years and years ago, a combination of a love for magical creatures and a bout of aphasia.
Sometimes I am briefly aphasic and lose words. On one of these occasions, I was asking my husband to pass me the kitchen timer but could not find the words I needed. I called it a Tickey Ding. (Because it goes tick… tick…tick… ding!) I had been toying with the idea of a little dragon, and Tickey Ding became his name. Shortly after that I imagined a dragon small enough to sleep in a sneaker, and Tickey has been with me ever since, through many years and partially written versions of this book.
Tickey-Ding is a spiritual descendent of Peter Pan’s crocodile. But Tickey ate a kitchen timer. Tickey is magical, curious, lovable, and funny. And always hungry. I hope that my book is all those things, too. (Well, not always hungry. Though it may make you hungry. When I was a kid, I loved books that talked about food and feasts, especially ones with recipes in the back so I could eat the same things as the characters. The Lost Princess of Story is chock-full of favorite food, and there is a mini cookbook at the back so you can make your own Story-style feast.)