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Jane: Well, after all, lying is what we do professionally—in other words, telling stories.

Bob: I’ll give you the truth. Having written stories that span more than two thousand years, I’ll say that there is no mindset for each period. There is only a storytelling mindset, which is about plot and character.

Jane: Absolutely. The story tells us where we are. Though I have to say, Plot Man, that I would have been well lost in the past without your compass, and your background in the classics. While we can both do the necessary research for details, you are the one who Finds Us a Plot. Me, I am the Follow-Your-Characters-and-Shout-at-Them-to-Slow-Down-and-Wait-for-Me kind of writer.

How do you invent plot?

Bob: You’ll remember that we reached a point early in the Odysseus novel where Odysseus and his friends are lost at sea in a small boat. It took us quite a while to decide what would happen next: that they would come upon a ship, but one that appeared to be deserted.

It was asking questions about that ship that unfolded the plot for the rest of the book: Why is the ship deserted? Who built it? Where did it come from? Once we had answered those questions, the rest of the book almost wrote itself.

OK, it’s not that easy—but it was something like that.

Jane: So, if you are stuck without a plot, ask questions! It’s a bit like being lost without a compass or a GPS. But you can find your way if you turn to the nearest friendly resident and are not afraid to ask questions.

Now that I have that handle on plotting . . . you may have talked your way out of being my cowriter, Bob!

The thing is, though, when we have two of us working on the same short stories (and we’ve done a bunch of those) as well as novels (four Young Heroes, four Scottish novels), we always come to a place where two heads really are better than one. And sometimes, when we can get your wife, Debby, in on our plotting sessions, the three of us come up with enough plot twists and turns to write a dozen more books. So look out, world!

A Personal History by Jane Yolen

I was born in New York City on February 11, 1939. Because February 11 is also Thomas Edison’s birthday, my parents used to say I brought light into their world. But my parents were both writers and prone to exaggeration. My father was a journalist; my mother wrote short stories and created crossword puzzles and double acrostics. My younger brother, Steve, eventually became a newspaperman. We were a family of an awful lot of words!

We lived in the city for most of my childhood, with two brief moves: to California for a year while my father worked as a publicity agent for Warner Bros. films, and then to Newport News, Virginia, during the World War II years, when my mother moved my baby brother and me in with her parents while my father was stationed in London running the Army’s secret radio.

When I was thirteen, we moved to Connecticut. After college I worked in book publishing in New York for five years, married, and after a year traveling around Europe and the Middle East with my husband in a Volkswagen camper, returned to the States. We bought a house in Massachusetts, where we lived almost happily ever after, raising three wonderful children.

I say “almost,” because in 2006, my wonderful husband of forty-four years—Professor David Stemple, the original Pa in my Caldecott Award–winning picture book, Owl Moon—died. I still live in the same house in Massachusetts.

And I am still writing.

I have often been called the “Hans Christian Andersen of America,” something first noted in Newsweek close to forty years ago because I was writing a lot of my own fairy tales at the time.

The sum of my books—including some eighty-five fairy tales in a variety of collections and anthologies—is now well over 335. Probably the most famous are Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? My work ranges from rhymed picture books and baby board books, through middle grade fiction, poetry collections, and nonfiction, to novels and story collections for young adults and adults. I’ve also written lyrics for folk and rock groups, scripted several animated shorts, and done voiceover work for animated short movies. And I do a monthly radio show called Once Upon a Time.

These days, my work includes writing books with each of my three children, now grown up and with families of their own. With Heidi, I have written mostly picture books, including Not All Princesses Dress in Pink and the nonfiction series Unsolved Mysteries from History. With my son Adam, I have written a series of Rock and Roll Fairy Tales for middle grades, among other fantasy novels. With my son Jason, who is an award-winning nature photographer, I have written poems to accompany his photographs for books like Wild Wings and Color Me a Rhyme.

And I am still writing.

Oh—along the way, I have won a lot of awards: two Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott Medal, the Golden Kite Award, three Mythopoeic Awards, two Christopher Awards, the Jewish Book Award, and a nomination for the National Book Award, among many accolades. I have also won (for my full body of work) the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Grand Master Award, the Catholic Library Association’s Regina Medal, the University of Minnesota’s Kerlan Award, the University of Southern Mississippi and de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection’s Southern Miss Medallion, and the Smith College Medal. Six colleges and universities have given me honorary doctorate degrees. One of my awards, the Skylark, given by the New England Science Fiction Association, set my good coat on fire when the top part of it (a large magnifying glass) caught the sunlight. So I always give this warning: Be careful with awards and put them where the sun don’t shine!

Also of note—in case you find yourself in a children’s book trivia contest—I lost my fencing foil in Grand Central Station during a date, fell overboard while whitewater rafting in the Colorado River, and rode in a dog sled in Alaska one March day.

And yes—I am still writing.

At a Yolen cousins reunion as a child, holding up a photograph of myself. In the photo, I am about one year old, maybe two.

Sitting on the statue of Hans Christian Andersen in Central Park in New York in 1961, when I was twenty-two. (Photo by David Stemple.)

Enjoying Dirleton Castle in Scotland in 2010.

Signing my Caldecott Medal–winning book Owl Moon in 2011.

Reading for an audience at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 2012.

Visiting Andrew Lang’s gravesite at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Scotland in 2011.

A Personal History by Robert J. Harris

I was born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1955. From a young age, I was writing stories, drawing comics, and making my own board games. It was while at university in St. Andrews that I met my wife, Debby, who had grown up in Florida and had come to Scotland to further her studies in English.

Shortly after we married and settled in St. Andrews, Debby had her first fantasy novel published, and I created my board game Talisman, which was based upon a game I had originally created in high school. Thirty years later, Talisman is still produced and is being played all over the world. In one television episode of CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, the characters are playing Talisman.