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Blue Balliett: Clean Socks and Blue Jeans

by Melody Joy Kramer
Nov 23, 2006

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Blue Balliett is the author of two novels for children. Her latest, The Wright 3, is a detective story that takes place in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Balliett graduated from Brown University with a degree in art history. She lives with her family and cats in Chicago.

How She Writes: "I write as soon as I'm awake, and I work in the laundry room in our house. During the five years it took me to finish Chasing Vermeer, I worked with a laptop on an extra bed that was always covered with a mountain of clean socks and blue jeans. Now I have a table, and am surrounded by mountains of paper and the occasional runaway dish towel or t-shirt. Such is life; I like the thought that this isn't a likely place to write or think."

Writer's Block Regimen: "I'm lucky, because I always have more ideas than I have places to put them. But the business of sifting and then capturing on paper is sometimes elusive — and it's difficult not to wonder how your work will be judged. The thought that I'm writing for children helps me tremendously. When I get stuck I just ask myself, 'What do kids see? What are they capable of? What am I saying to them? And what do adults know, anyway?' Usually, that gets me back on track."

A Favorite Sentence: "That's a hard one, because I don't ever look at my writing in those terms, but I do know when I have a sentence the way I want it. Here's one that feels right to me:

'Petra loved the stories filed neatly into the flow of train windows — she had seen arguments in profile, mouths open with laughter or horror, noses squashed against glass.'

This sentence is filled with 'oh' sounds, and this fits what it is saying. I like sentences that have a predominant sound or feel that supports the meaning."

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