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Everything you always wanted to know about Michele, and probably more! Michele Weber Hurwitz

Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up in a suburb of Chicago called Skokie. My childhood house was across the street from a park. My bedroom window looked out on a huge maple tree which turned a beautiful gold color every fall. I loved to collect leaves. I remember playing outside after dinner on summer nights with the neighborhood kids—games like spud and running bases. I rode my bike everywhere. I also liked to ice skate, play with my Barbies, and sing (only in my room, along with songs on my cassette tape player). Photo to right: Me, age 10, in fifth grade. Don't you love the pigtails? Hey! That was the style!

Do you have any siblings?

A: I'm the oldest of three kids. I have two younger brothers. They were always very competitive with each other, in sports and just about everything else. Actually, they're still like that today! I was more quiet and shy as a girl. I loved to read then and I still do now. Growing up in a family like this was some of the inspiration for CALLI BE GOLD.

Did you ever go to sleep-away camp?

A: I did. I went two summers to Camp Chi in Lake Delton, Wisconsin, but I hated it! There was this awful girl in my cabin who pulled the legs off daddy long leg spiders and I still remember it to this day. Also, I was not a good swimmer and felt embarrassed that I was in a very low swim group. I took the swim test to pass to the "whale" level and almost drowned! I'm still not a very good swimmer. By the way, my kids all went to Camp Chi and loved it!

Were you a good student?

A: I was good in French, language arts, and reading, but not so good in math and science. Photo to right: Me, age 14, at a dude ranch in Arizona.

Michele Weber Hurwitz

Are you married? Do you have kids?

A: I'm married to Ben, a CPA. This is a good thing because I'm still horrible at math and could never do my own taxes. I have two daughters, Rachel and Cassie, and a son, Sam. There are bits of my kids in some of the characters in Calli Be Gold. Sam helped me shape the character of Calli's brother (Alex). I still live in suburban Chicago, across the street from a middle school!

Where did you go to college?

A: I went to the University of Illinois in Champaign and studied journalism.

What was your first job?

A: When I was 12, I used to go to my dad's office on Saturday mornings and help out. I answered the phone and filed papers, but mostly, I was an envelope stuffer. I stacked together different fliers, folded them, and put them in envelopes to mail to customers. It was pretty boring but my dad did give me an actual paycheck at the end of the day, so that part was good.

What other jobs did you have?

A: After I graduated college, my first real job was being a writer for a magazine at an insurance company. That was pretty boring too. I had lots of writing jobs, including one where I even wrote menus. I had to dream up those creative names for the items on menus, like "Buenos Nachos" and "Under the Sea-food." I wrote for several newspapers and magazines, too, and worked in public relations. The worst job I ever had was working at a doctor's office (the doctor wasn't very nice) and my favorite job was the summer I worked as a day camp counselor when I was 19.

What is your favorite color?

A: I'd have to say green, because I love the outdoors. When I'm writing and I get stuck, not knowing for sure what is going to happen next in a story, I like to take walks around my neighborhood and look at all the different kinds of trees. In fact, I like to incorporate trees and leaves as part of my stories because I think they're so amazingly wonderful!

Michele Weber Hurwitz

Do you have any pets?

A: We had a very hungry, very fat goldfish named Chatty, but now she's in goldfish heaven. For a while, we called her Fatty. My youngest daughter won her at a school carnival. She called her Chatty because she was always opening and closing her mouth. I fed her because my daughter thought the fish food smelled (she was right, it did). When I was growing up, I had a cranky miniature poodle named Pumpkin. Although for some reason, my dad called her "Floymen."
Photo to right: Age 15, in London.

Did you always want to be a writer?

A: Pretty much. I always felt more comfortable expressing my feelings in writing rather than in spoken words. As the oldest growing up, I used to rat on my brothers (who were always getting in trouble) but instead of telling my parents, I wrote it all down. In a way, those were my first stories.

It took me a long time to write my first book, though. It wasn't until my kids were more grown-up that I found the time to think about writing a book. Then I took a while to decide what I wanted to write about, and what kind of book it might be.

Where do you get your ideas?

A: Everywhere! I'm always watching people—how they talk and interact. I started thinking about the idea for CALLI BE GOLD when I went to my kids' games and competitions and dance recitals and noticed that the parents acted a little crazy, but sometimes their kids didn't look so happy. I thought about the idea in my head for a long time before I sat down to write it.

Was it hard to get published?

A: I thought it was very hard and I almost gave up a bunch of times. It took me about five years to finally write a book that was eventually published. I wrote four other books before Calli Be Gold that never went anywhere.

Michele Weber Hurwitz Like many first books, Calli Be Gold had a long, bumpy road to being published. I wrote the first draft in the fall of 2007, and was lucky enough to catch an agent's eye in March 2008. I thought I had it made, but the book was rejected several times. I revised the story four times during those long months of submitting it to different publishers, and finally, Wendy Lamb Books made an offer! All in all, it took a year and a half to sell the book. After it was accepted for publication, I revised the book another four times! The title was changed three times.
Photo to right: College graduation.

Didn't you get discouraged?

A: All the time! There were two people in my life who kept me going—my best friend Lauren and my youngest daughter. In fact, my daughter, who was 11 at the time I wrote CALLI BE GOLD (the same age as Calli), gave me a lot of great advice about the book.

Are you a fan of doing good things, like Nina in THE SUMMER I SAVED THE WORLD...IN 65 DAYS?

A: I try! I was in the grocery store once, and an older man had lost his glasses somewhere in the store. He was so upset, almost in tears. I had to stop and remind myself that helping this person was more important than my dozens of errands. We found the glasses! It was such a small thing, but huge in the same way. I think that acts of kindness can be the smallest gesture, but make a great impact. Think about just letting someone go ahead of you in line, or holding open a door, or picking up a piece of trash. Small things matter! If we all took five minutes to do one good thing every day, we truly can save the world!

What other books do you like?

A: I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. My son and I read all the books together, even when he got old enough to read them himself. As for picture books, I love the Max and Ruby books by Rosemary Wells. Ruby reminds me of my oldest daughter, so purposeful all the time, and my son was just like Max when he was little. He would follow his sister around and she did all the talking. He didn't say much, but he knew everything that was going on.

I loved "The Little House" when I was young and I still love it now. I think it embodies so many remarkable themes in one small story—the inevitability of change but also the importance of staying true to what means something in the long run.

Also, I was in a mother-daughter book club with both of my daughters and we read many wonderful novels. Some of my favorites are "So B. It," "Esperanza Rising," "Love, Ruby Lavender," "Penny From Heaven," and "Number the Stars." More recent faves include: "The One and Only Ivan," the Origami Yoda series, "Eleanor & Park," and "Bone Gap."

If you couldn't be a writer, what would you be?

A: Hmmm...that's a hard question. When I was little, like many kids, I wanted to be a teacher. I played school all the time! I think, though, if I wasn't writing, I would work in a job that helps the environment, or work outdoors, like at a national park.

Michele Weber Hurwitz

What do you like?

A: Peanut butter and chocolate ice cream, Butterfingers, babies, old home videos, driving with all the windows open in the summer, the first snow of winter, having lunch with my best friend, when our recycling bin is full, just-baked chocolate chip cookies, Post-it notes (okay, I'm obsessed with them), and losing myself in my writing (completely forgetting the outside world exists). I also love yoga and walking. In 2009, I did the 39 mile two-day Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

What don't you like?

A: Tomatoes. Bad-smelling cheese. People who aren't nice. Crazy drivers. Long, slow lines at stores. Braggers and show-offs. Deep water. My hair.

What advice would you give to young writers?

A: Believe in yourself! Really. Really! It's become a cliché, but you can do anything you set your mind to.