I think it's important to experience kindness so that you can experience it more in the future. I believe that patterns of emotional behavior are set down before adolescence. And I think that if you have not observed kindness, you will not recognize it. You have to experience kindness in order to be kind.
Art comes from a visceral need and is usually generated by something I have seen; writing comes from something that happens in my head and my heart.
Readers let me know that they like books that have more to them than meets the eye. Had they not let me know that, I never would have written 'The View From Saturday.'
Characters are so important to a story that they actually decide where the story is going. When I write, I know my characters. I know how things are going to end, and I know some important incidents along the way.
The essential problems remain the same... The kids I write about are asking for the same things I wanted. They want two contradictory things. They want to be the same as everyone else, and they want to be different from everyone else. They want acceptance for both.
When I began writing in the mid-1960s, I thought it was not important for readers to know whether I was male or female. Also, I was a great admirer of E.B. White, so I may have thought that it would bring me luck to submit my first manuscript as 'E.L.' But if I were starting out today, I would use my first name.
I was the first one in my family to go away to college. I came from a small town where there was no guidance in the high school at all. It was a mill town, and I never knew anyone who made their living from the arts. When you did go away to college, you went away to be something - an engineer, or a teacher, or a chemist.
When I was in college at Carnegie Mellon, I wanted to be a chemist. So I became one. I worked in a laboratory and went to graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. Then I taught science at a private girls' school. I had three children and waited until all three were in school before I started writing.