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Jeanne Birdsall: A Nap Clears Everything Right Up

Jeanne Birdsall didn't write professionally until the age of 41. She received the 2005 National Book Award for Young People's Literature for her debut novel, The Penderwicks, about four sisters sharing a summer cottage with their father after the death of their mother. Birdsall lives in Massachusetts with her husband, four cats, a rabbit, a pet snail and a dog named Cagney.

How She Writes: "I think all day about what I need to write, then settle down at the computer in the evening, usually by eight. I stay there from two to four hours, depending on how much thinking I've done that day. When life intrudes and stops me from thinking, I end up with nothing to write, so sulk instead."

Fights Writer's Block: "Fight it? That makes writer's block sound like a germ, which perhaps it is. Well, I haven't yet been unlucky enough to catch a bad case. Occasionally, though, I do get a little stuck. Then I take a nap. Clears everything right up."

A Favorite Sentence: "I don't think I write sentences that can proudly stand alone and be called great. Here, however, is one that I like: 'To Jane's surprise, a grilled cheese sandwich with chocolate milk was exactly what she wanted right then.'"

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