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Mary's comments below are taken directly from an interview with her by one of her publishers:

As a preschooler I was coaxed into taking a nap by my mom, who would lie down next to me, and we would take turns making up stories and telling them to each other. I’m sure Mom had no idea what long-range impact that little creative ritual would have on me. No doubt, my storytelling career began with my mom, my teddy bear, and my nap blankie.

Today writing is not only my living but also my life. I can’t survive without it. I cannot not write anymore than a child can not play. My writing is the essence of me. It’s what I’ve been called by God to do. If you want to know my heart and mind, read my writing.

Going with the Flow

I write in various genres—adult non-fiction, gift books, children’s non-fiction, children’s fiction, plays, songs, articles, scripts, cover copy for books, study guides, and whatever else comes my way. The writing market changes often, and I want to be flexible enough to go with the flow, or I know that the flow will simply go without me. Besides, I love the variety!          

Writer’s block, to me, is the result of insufficient training. I don’t believe in writer’s block; it’s a luxury I can’t afford. I write on demand, whether or not I’m in the mood, and whether or not it was my inspiration or someone else’s. It’s the only way to make it as a freelancer, in my opinion. Writer’s block, to me, happens to someone who didn’t really have anything to say in the first place.

My Most Important Work

Many people think Just Imagine with Barney is my most important book. And while it was fun to see that one do well, it is definitely not my most important work. The most significant book I’ve ever worked on, or ever hope to work on, was the first translation of the Bible done for children—The International Children’s Bible (Thomas Nelson, Inc.). The task was both humbling and exhilarating. While that book certainly does not carry my name, the experience of working on God’s Word changed my career goal and writing style forever. It made me painfully aware that the reader’s being able to understand the message far outweighs the importance of my being able to show off my vocabulary and writing flair. It simplified my style, my message, and my life. It helped focus my life on Who is ultimately important.   

My Greatest Thrill

The greatest thrill for me as a writer is to hear children giggling at something funny I wrote, or to have a mother tell me she cried all the way through For Mom with Love.

One little four-year-old boy came running up to me and said, “Hi, Professor Scribbler! I can say your book.” Thinking he had made a mistake, I said, “You mean you can read my book?” “No, he said, frowning, “I can say your book.” And he proceeded to recite from memory the entire text of The King’s Numbers. I was astounded and so humbled by that incident. What an incredible responsibility I have as a children’s author! They trust me; they learn from me; they believe anything I write. It’s a fearful and wonderful thing to write for children.

Mary's studio. Her friends call it "The Treehouse."

Work Habits

My right brain loves the freedom to be out of control, but my left brain likes my carefully orchestrated rut. I’m normally at my desk by ten a.m. and work consistently until six p.m. or after, depending on the deadlines I'm facing. It’s a habit developed through the years working for major corporations. It fits me; it works; I like it. I won’t deny a few midnight inspirations and 3:00 a.m. creative storms, but those are not the norm for me. My rut is carpeted, draped, and air conditioned. It’s me. 

My Favorites

A glorious parade of writers, poets, composers, playwrights, and others have influenced my work so far. Among them are my all-time favorites: Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter, Dr. V. Gilbert Beers, C. S. Lewis, and Calvin Miller. Illustrators who delight me the most are my friend Mary Grace Eubank, Peter Spier, the Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen team, the Disney animators, and many others. I love the artists whose little kids inside them are obviously alive and well; they’re the best.  

Derivative Works

Through the years I have received versions of some of my books in foreign languages. What fun to see my work go international and to think that I might have some small influence even on people around the globe.  

Three other unforgettable experiences stand out for me. First, some of my children’s picture books have been developed into animated videos. Second, some of my works are plays, and I was blessed to be at the premier performance of each of them. And third, some of my lyrics have been put to music. The astonishment of seeing and hearing your words moving and speaking, coming to life, dancing across a television screen, walking across a stage, and floating on the wind up to God as music, is overwhelming . . . at least for me. Nothing can compare to that thrill. 

Your Living or Your Life?

Sometimes people who don't know me very well ask, "How did you get to be an overnight success?" I usually just smile and say, "It was easy--it only took me twenty-five years."

In truth, every person alive has a legitimate story to tell, and most of us believe our stories deserve book status. Unfortunately, from my experience, most aspiring writers are unwilling to devote the time, money, and effort to really learn the trade, to do their homework, to become the best in the industry in order to compete with the professionals. Most of the published authors and illustrators I know didn’t just “luck into it.” They are educated, trained, and experienced people, who continually study and upgrade their skills and abilities. They know they have to earn their place in the industry, and they don’t expect a handout from publishers and other professionals. To me, writing and illustrating are careers, not just hobbies. If they are not your career, then why should you expect it to earn your living? In my opinion, if you want to make them your living, then they must become your life.

If I can make one life a little brighter; if one sentence I write strikes a note of hope; if one poem or song I write lives after I’m gone to encourage other people or make a child laugh, then I will consider myself a successful writer. In reality, I write for God and for me. If other people happen to listen in and are blessed, that’s truly rewarding. But if no one ever sees a word I write, I am no less a writer in the eyes of God or when I look in the mirror.

Writing is life;

I pray that my life and my writing

will stop simultaneously.

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