Mary-Lane Kamberg is the author of more than 30 nonfiction books, including many for young adult readers. She has been writing since second grade. She published her first poem at the age of 10. She has a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Kansas and roots for the Jayhawks during March Madness. In addition to her nonfiction books, she has published hundreds of articles, a poetry chapbook, and some short fiction. Her books include the I Love to Write Book: Ideas and Tips for Young Writers, The I Don't Know How to Cook Book, and Seed Rain. She is founder and director of the I Love to Write Camp for young writers and co-leader of the Kansas City Writers Group. She is a former age group coach for the Kansas City Blazers swim team.
Introduce yourself. Where do you live and work?
I work in my home office in Olathe, KS.
What kind of writing do you do?
I pretty much focus on nonfiction, but I do write poetry and a little short fiction. My current projects are nonfiction books for middle school and high school libraries.
How long have you been writing?
Since I could read. About age 6-ish.
Did you choose your genre, or did it choose you?
I guess I chose it. I majored in journalism and when I started freelancing it was in magazines and newspapers, with some business writing in there, too. I always found true stories to be more interesting than ones I would make up. However, I love to read fiction, especially political suspense.
How many unpublished manuscripts are stuffed in your desk drawer (or in a folder on your computer)?
Only two or three. I want everything I write to get published somewhere, so I submit them all the time.
What do you find most challenging or surprising about the writing process? The publishing process?
Most challenging: the first sentence. Most surprising: you don’t have to write in the order the reader will see it. Sometimes I start in the middle and go back and write the lead. Or write the ending first. The publishing process: That’s it’s hard but not impossible.
On what does your writing productivity depend? Is it a routine, a place, a special pen?
For books and articles, I am totally driven by deadlines. I need to build up a bit of anxiety concerning whether I will meet the date in order to write fast and efficiently. I’ve tried to write stuff ahead of deadline, and it’s not that fun. I think I’m addicted to adrenaline. For poetry, I NEED a Pilot G-2 07 gel pen.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Put the seat of the butt on the seat of the chair.”
To whom do you look for inspiration?
What books do you recommend to fellow readers and writers?
Everyone who writes should read these four books. They are like going to college for free. All writing techniques are the same no matter what you’re writing, so you need to know everything in these four books:
The Writer’s Journey by Chris Vogler
The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
On Writing Well by William Zinsser.
And, of course, I recommend my own The I Love To Write Book for young writers.