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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.

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!

Photo to right: Me, age 14, at a dude ranch in Arizona.

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's something people would be surprised to learn about you?

A: I love candy. I mean, borderline obsession. And not Godiva, I'm talking Butterfinger, gummy bears, Caramel Creams, M&Ms. As such, I've developed a very specialized palate in the candy department. I'm actually able to tell the difference between pink and white Good 'n Plentys. My kids think this is an amazing talent. They ask me to close my eyes, then they put one in my mouth, and 95 percent of the time, I can guess the color. It's a unique gift.

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.

What's your writing process like?
Michele Weber Hurwitz
A: I work at home, on my giant desktop computer. I've tried coffee shops but they're too noisy and distracting. My office overlooks our tree-filled backyard, and it's only 23 steps to the kitchen pantry so that can be detrimental at times. I usually write or revise most of the morning, then take a lunch break and walk, or attempt to do yoga, then put in a few more hours in the afternoon. As for my process, I do a lot of thinking about a story before I start to write. I don't outline but I have a beginning, middle, and end in mind. Not to mention pages and pages of notes on plot and character. Other than that, I talk to the walls a lot.

Photo to right: College graduation.

What was your inspiration for the Ethan Marcus books, and did you like writing in multiple points of view?

A: Initial germs of ideas are often sparked by things I experience or observe in my daily life. I was helping my son review for an eighth-grade science test one night, and he needed to walk around our family room while I quizzed him. He told me that his brain works better when he's moving around, and I remember thinking, hmm, there's a story there! I absolutely loved writing in multiple points of view. The back and forth commentary between the characters felt so natural, like how kids talk in a group or post on social media. It also made me realize how much people see situations from their own lens, and we need to appreciate that not everyone draws the same conclusions.

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!

Michele Weber Hurwitz

What do you like?

A: Chocolate chip cookies (the best cookie on earth), riding my bike, the first snow of winter, babies, Post-it Notes, bingeing on Netflix, walking in the woods, reading while at the beach, dolphins (my favorite animal), ice cream, soft sweaters, puzzles, traveling to a new place.

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.

Michele Weber Hurwitz

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Read, study the work of authors you love, and write. Write anything! Even if you think it's terrible. It very well might be, but the next thing you write will be better. And the thing after that will be even better. Don't think about "getting published" but instead, focus on learning the craft. And, do what feels right and nurtures your writerly soul—whether it's being part of a critique group, attending conferences or classes, or simply jotting thoughts in a journal every day. Most important, don't compare yourself to anyone else. This is your journey.