Interview: Mac Barnett

Here's the first in a series of posts designed to make you want to go to the SCBWI conference in L.A., where you'll meet and mingle with lots of industry stars. One of my favorites is Mac Barnett—and not just because he knows how to rock a five o'clock shadow better than that guy from Wham.

It's been said (just now, by me) that Mac is a picture book psychic, anticipating Twitter and its "fail whale" with his debut, BILLY TWITTERS AND HIS BLUE WHALE PROBLEM.

*** Spoiler alert ***

The problem is NOT that Billy Twitters has no business model. Nor is it that he didn't invest in a large enough server farm. Also, it's not the inexplicable popularity of Justin Bieber.  Actually, maybe it is.

*** End spoiler alert ***

In GUESS AGAIN, Mac realized that my own children have a Grandpa Ned and needed to give him a really good present for his birthday. It's un-freaking-canny.

Finally, there's there's OH NO! I say this every day! (Learn more about the book from illustrator Dan Santat's blog.)

But Mac is not only a picture book author/psychic. He's also written the first books in the middle grade Brixton Brothers mystery series, and he's just released the bizarre and entertaining THE CLOCK WITHOUT A FACE, in which real gems have been hidden in mysterious locations around the country for readers much smarter than I to find them. (I read the book and it made me hungry for frosted pink donuts, which I did manage to track down. Hooray!)

Finally, Mac is a professional foot model. Or he has a pulchritizing fungus. Watch:

I was lucky enough to interview Mac, and I even embedded the clues to the location of a priceless gem in my questions. Will Mac figure it out? Read on!

Mac, I’ve hidden a priceless gem somewhere in this interview. 

Oh, one of these treasure-hunt gimmicks. I hear everyone is doing one of those.

Your website says you’re a writer and strongman for hire. How much can you lift and what are your rates?

Back in high school I owned a weight bench but I never really used it. I can tell you from recent experience that I can lift an almost-new weight bench to the curb for a bulky trash pickup. That was for free, but only because my mom has been hounding me for years about coming and getting the thing out from behind her house. Normally my rates are outrageous.

You were No. 2 on the Time Magazine list for best children’s books in 2009. Do you have anything to say to Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the author of the book that beat yours? Oddly, Jon Scieszka and ROBOT ZOT didn't even make the list. Does that make you feel sort of guilty?

Just a couple weeks ago Jon picked up the Irma Black Award for ROBOT ZOT. BILLY TWITTERS AND HIS BLUE WHALE PROBLEM was an Irma Black Honor. So he flashes around his gold certificate whenever we hang out, and I can tell he feels just fine. As for TIME Magazine, well, second place can be all right: The other night I won second place in a beauty contest, and I collected ten dollars! This concludes the "Monopoly Joke" segment of this interview.

Wow! $10! And they say there's no money in children's books. You founded a store called Echo Park Time Travel Mart. What is your refund policy?

Refunds are made up 90 days before the date of purchase.

So, uh, Adam Rex. Do you guys have slumber parties or what?

I had a slumber party with Adam Rex a few days ago at a Double Tree in New Jersey! We were touring together and we were booked in a two-room suite, except one room just had a microwave and tiny couch, and the other room had both beds, which I don't think was really the intention. But we popped some popcorn and rented Grease and both of us stayed way past our bedtimes!

OK, where did I hide the priceless gem?

Martha, you're a priceless gem for interviewing me on this blog! That "you're" was supposed to be italicized for extra mawkishness but my email program hasn't been italicizing anything lately.

Nope! GUESS AGAIN! Thanks for playing. Sorry about your italics, and see you in L.A! (You can register here for the conference.)