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The Library of Congress > > The Exquisite Corpse > M. T. Anderson


Shannon Hale

M. T. Anderson writes: “People write for children for two reasons: Either they have children, or they are children. I’m in the latter category. I loved my childhood, and I write for children so that I can recall it.

“I grew up in a small town surrounded by apple orchards and woods that had grown up where fields once stood. My town was one of the first to oppose the British during the Revolution. I spent my childhood playing in the forest, naming the streams and the valleys formed by quarries. I was not the only one to wander in those woods, and I was always stumbling across weird assemblages of refuse in glades and on hidden paths: automobile chassis overgrown with sweet fern; hideous curtains of unspooled cassette-tape hanging across ravines; a window leaning on an old, burnt washing-machine festooned with yarn. These artifacts arose naturally out of the landscape like story itself. The forest seemed to be bursting with fantasy. The wood led right up to our back door like George Macdonald’s Fairy-Land, but with bikers, keggers and free-range junkies.

“I didn’t live near many kids and I was socially inept anyway, so my fantasy world was very involved and quite internal. I apparently became a little too dreamy and distracted—so much so that in fifth grade, my teachers became concerned that I was borderline autistic or had some serious learning disability; and my grandmother, seeing me whisper to some imaginary androids in the woods, became convinced that I was possessed by evil spirits. For the next 10 years or so, she would regularly exorcise me.

“My love of fantasy became a love of literature. I began to write plays for my friends to put on. When I was about 11, we did a dramatic version of Beowulf with a giant foam-rubber dragon puppet and lots of gruesome alliteration. It was supposed to be Anglo-Saxon. Around the same time, we did A Midsummer Night’s Fever, which was supposed to be A Midsummer Night’s Dream recast with John Travolta. I don’t remember much about it except that Puck sang in a high-pitched voice like the Bee Gees.

“There’s not much more to tell. The important thing to do if you want to be a writer is first of all to read—read everything—romance novels, nineteenth century novels, Sanskrit prayers, Greek epics, Chinese poetry, installation instructions for plumbing, trade magazines for pet shop owners—everything—and second of all, to write. Staring into the woods dreaming, after all, will only get you so far.”

M. T. Anderson teaches at Vermont College; he is the fiction editor for 3rd bed, a journal devoted to surreal and absurdist literature.

Books by M. T. Anderson:

  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party, winner of the National Book Award (Candlewick Press)
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves (Candlewick Press)
  • Burger Wuss (Candlewick Press)
  • Feed (Candlewick Press)
  • The Game of Sunken Places (Scholastic)
  • Handel, Who Knew What He Liked illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick Pres)
  • Me, All Alone, at the End of the World illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick Press)
  • The Serpent Came to Gloucester illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick Press)
  • Strange Mr. Satie illustrated by Petra Mathers (Viking)
  • Thirsty (Candlewick Press)
  • Whales on Stilts illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Harcourt)
  • No Such Thing as the Real World : Stories About Growing Up and Getting a Life, by M.T. Anderson, Chris Lynch, Jacqueline Woodson, Beth Kephart and An Na (HarperCollins)
  • 2010: The Norumbegan Quartet: The Suburb Beyond the Stars (Scholastic Press), named a Best Kids’ Book of 2010 by The Boston Globe
  • 2010: Pals in Peril: Agent Q, or The Smell of Danger! (Beach Lane Books)
  • 2011: The Norumbegan Quartet: The Empire of Gut and Bone (Scholastic Press)
  • 2011: Pals in Peril: Zombie Mommy (Beach Lane Books)