Jennifer Armstrong

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FAQ about Jennifer Armstrong

Frequently Asked Questions
About Jennifer Armstrong

Click here to read some FAQ about Jennifer's newest books - The American Story and Once Upon a Banana.

  1. I'm writing a book/author report about you. Can you help me?
  2. How did you know you were going to be a writer?
  3. Did you ever want to have a different job?
  4. Are you working on a book right now?
  5. I'm having trouble finding some of your books. Can I buy them from you directly?
  6. Can you donate an autographed book to our fund-raising event?
  7. How did you get the idea to write about Shackleton?
  8. Did you know somebody who was on the Endurance? Is anybody from that story still alive?
  9. How did you get the idea for Steal Away?
  10. How did you get the ideas for all your other books?
  11. How did you meet Irene Gut Opdyke?
  12. Is Irene Gut Opdyke still alive? How can I get in touch with her?
  13. Did you ever win any awards or prizes for your books? Did you ever win the Newbery Award?
  14. Who influenced you as a writer? Did you have a mentor when you were growing up?
  15. How can I get a picture of one of your book covers for my book report?
  16. Have you met any other authors? Have you met J.K.Rowling?
  17. Do you have any kids?
  18. How much money do you make?
  19. Do you have to pay the publisher to publish your books?
  20. Did any of your books ever get made into a movie?
  21. How long does it take to write a book?
  22. Which of your books is your favorite?
  23. Do you like writing books? Is it fun?
  24. What kind of qualifications or education does a person need to become a writer?
  25. Where do you live?
  26. Is being an author fun?
  27. How does being an author affect your life?
  28. Can you come to our school?

I'm writing a book/author report about you. Can you help me?
Most of the questions people ask me for their reports are right here on this list. If you have a question that isn't answered here, I'll be happy to help you. But don't leave it until the night before your report is due! I might be out of town and not be able to answer your email right away.

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How did you know you were going to be a writer?
I always felt like a writer. I always had a good imagination, and loved making up stories. And I always loved reading. I just seemed natural to me that I would become an author.

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Did you ever want to have a different job?
When I was growing up I never wanted to be anything besides an author. Now that I have been a professional author for more than twenty years, I've decided to add another dimension to my working life. I have always loved gardening and helping people with their gardens, so I created a company called The Saratoga Garden Tutor (). I love to be outside in the garden -- my garden, your garden, anyone's garden! My perfect life would be to write books in the fall and winter, visit schools in the spring, and work in the garden in the summer.

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Are you working on a book right now?
Ever since my visit to Antarctica I have been thinking about the role of ice in human history, and I have been slowly working on a book about the subject.

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I'm having trouble finding some of your books. Can I buy them from you directly?
Unfortunately, books go out of stock (temporarily) or out of print (permanently) and there isn't really much I can do about it. I don't keep a supply of old titles on hand to sell, but you can always try the out-of-print book search services online, like . If you are a librarian and are having trouble getting books from a distributor for an author visit to your school, you can always try contacting the publisher directly.

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Can you donate an autographed book to our fund-raising event?
I'm sorry, but I just can't. I get a lot of requests like this, and what you have to understand is that I have to pay for the books, myself: I don't have unlimited access to free copies. I give away lots of signed books to fund-raising events in my own town, and that's where I have to draw the line. I hope you won't hold it against me.

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How did you get the idea to write about Shackleton?
Quite a few years ago I read an old book about Shackleton called Endurance, by Alfred Lansing. I always thought it was one of the greatest adventures I had ever heard about. At the time, nobody had written a book about the voyage for kids, so when I decided I'd like to try writing nonfiction I picked this story to write.

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Did you know somebody who was on the Endurance? Is anybody from that story still alive?
Well, this story takes place in 1915, remember. That's more than 90 years ago. So the answer is no, I didn't know anybody from the crew, and none of them are still alive.

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How did you get the idea for Steal Away?
I wanted to write an adventure story that took place in American history, that involved girls, and that also involved some serious issues. When I decided it should be about slavery, this story sort of grew in my imagination.

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How did you get the ideas for all your other books?
Ideas from books come from a lot of places - things I've seen or heard about, or a place I read about, for example. One of my books (Pockets) was based on a dream I had one night, and another book (That Terrible Baby) was inspired by a real terrible baby I knew. Story ideas come from all over.

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How did you meet Irene Gut Opdyke?
My editor, Nancy Siscoe, heard about Irene's story and decided it would make a great book for teenagers and adults. So Nancy asked me if I would be interested in working with Irene to tell her story. I said I would love to, and together we wrote In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer.

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Is Irene Gut Opdyke still alive? How can I get in touch with her?
I'm sorry to tell you that Irene passed away in the spring of 2003. She was a courageous woman, and I was very proud to share her story with you.

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Did you ever win any awards or prizes for your books? Did you ever win the Newbery Award?
I haven't won the Newbery (yet) but you can check out the awards I have won by clicking here.

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Who influenced you as a writer? Did you have a mentor when you were growing up?
I never met an author when I was a kid, so I can't say that anyone influenced me directly. But because I read so many books - and lots of books I read over and over - I think it's fair to say that those authors influenced me indirectly. I wanted to do what they did. I wanted to write books that would capture a reader's imagination and make them forget everything else while they read.

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How can I get a picture of one of your book covers for my book report?
You can go to an online bookseller such as and copy the photograph of any of my bookcovers from there. If you need technical help with that, check HELP on your computer.

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Have you met any other authors? Have you met J.K.Rowling?
I've met lots of other authors, but not Rowling. You might notice, however, that the illustrator who does the American editions of the Harry Potter books illustrated two of my books: Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat, and Pockets.

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Do you have any kids?
No, I just have dogs!

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How much money do you make?
Well, I can understand how you might be curious about that. The way authors get paid is somewhat unusual. I don't actually work for the publishing company, so I don't get a paycheck. The publisher pays me for the right to publish my work. We share in the profit from selling the books. My share - called the author's royalty - is usually ten percent of the price of the book. So if a book costs $10, I earn one dollar for each book. That doesn't mean that the bookstore writes me a check for a dollar. This is what happens: twice a year, the publisher counts up all the copies of a particular book that have been sold (they check with the bookstores) and then multiply that by the royalty. So if in the last six months there were ten books sold, they multiply that by one dollar and I would earn $10. If in the last six months ten thousand copies of the book were sold, I would earn $10,000. As long as the book is sold, the author continues to earn the royalty - even if the book is twenty years old! So to answer the question, I never really know how much money I will make in a year, because I don't know how many people are going to buy my books.

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Do you have to pay the publisher to publish your books?
No. They pay me for the right to print the book, and then we share the profit from selling it.

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Did any of your books ever get made into a movie?
No, not yet. I've had some interest from some television and movie producers, but so far it hasn't gotten any farther than that.

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How long does it take to write a book?
That really depends on what kind of book it is. If it's an easy-to-read book for kindergarteners, like The Snowball, it only takes a few days. If it's a longer book with lots of research, such as Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, it can take as long as a year or two years.

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Which of your books is your favorite?
That's impossible to answer! Let's say you have brothers and sisters, and you ask your mom which of you is her favorite. She'll say something like "Oh, honey, I love you all equally because you're all special in your own unique ways." And even though that sounds a little weird to say it about my books, that's how I feel about them. They are all so different from each other, and I enjoyed writing all of them.

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Do you like writing books? Is it fun?
What do you think?! I get to use my imagination, I get to make up stories and get paid for it. For me it's the perfect job.

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What kind of qualifications or education does a person need to become a writer?
Well, technically speaking, the only qualifications really needed are curiosity, imagination, and self-discipline. Curiosity gets you wondering, then imagination turns your wondering into stories, and self-discipline makes sure you finish what you start. That's really all you have to have, but it doesn't hurt to read all the time, be a life-long learner, and take writing workshops and classes, either.

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Where do you live?
I live in Saratoga Springs. Check out the biography page for more personal information.

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Is being an author fun?
Sure it is. I get to use my imagination and work on projects that are fascinating to me. It's hard work, but it's fun.

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How does being an author affect your life?
Well, let's see. It essentially means that I don't have a job the way a teacher or a doctor has a job: I am my own employer. It means I work alone. It means my schedule is completely under my own control. It means my income can be extremely variable, with some lean years and some fat years. It means there's nobody who can cover for me if my work is late or incomplete. It means nobody can tell me what to do. It means I have to think up every project I'm going to do. It means I only write books that are interesting to me. It means lots of people will be interested in doing book reports about me!

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Can you come to our school?
I can only come to your school if I am invited by the principal, or by the librarian or school media specialist. If you want them to invite me to your school, show them my website.

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