Jump to: For Readers   For Teachers/Librarians   For Writers

For Readers:

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you pronounce your last name?
In Poland you would say “Stah-nee-shev-ski” but the Americanized way is “Stan-ih-zoo-ski.” Mostly people just call me Anna.

Where do you get your ideas?
Writing often starts with the question “What if?” It’s one I like to pose a lot, even in everyday situations. You never know what possibilities might come from considering what could have happened or what might happen one day.

Sometimes, an idea starts with something as small as an image or a sentence. When I first began writing My Very UnFairy Tale Life, I started with an image of a girl who discovers a talking frog in her bedroom. Instead of being surprised or curious about the frog, the girl was annoyed at the sight of it. I was intrigued by her reaction, so I kept writing in order to find out more.

The idea for The Dirt Diary, on the other hand, came from a story I heard on the radio about a girl who had to clean houses with her mom and wound up cleaning the houses of some of her classmates. I started imagining what it would be like if those classmates were the popular kids who had already been making the girl’s life miserable, and what might happen if she discovered some of their secrets along the way. Thus, Rachel’s story was born!

What made you decide to become a writer?
I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember. When I was young I wrote lots of poems and stories. I also wrote plays and made my (sometimes reluctant) friends perform them. Since I was shy, writing was a way I could still make my voice heard. As an adult, I had a hard time figuring out what my real passion was. For a while I thought theater was what I was meant to be doing. Finally I came back to writing and realized that I’d never stopped loving it.

What should I do if I want to be a writer?
Read a lot and write a lot. It may sound simple, but it’s true. Also, learn to love revising; remember that a story is never perfect the first time around. Most importantly, make sure you’re writing the kinds of stories you would want to read. Really think about the things in books that pull you in. If you write about what interests you, you’ll never get bored.

See my list of writing resources below, and check out my blog for more writing tips.

What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read A LOT. I also teach at Simmons College’s Center for the Study of Children’s Literature. Teaching is a perfect contrast to writing because it allows me to interact with people (a nice change from the solitary profession of writing) and it also challenges and inspires me. I enjoy walking, biking, watching television, rooting for the Red Sox, traveling, playing with my dog, and spending time with family and friends.

What are some of your favorite books?
There are so many that I’ve enjoyed over the years but here are a few that come to mind:
Skellig by David Almond
Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
The Giver (and anything else) by Lois Lowry
Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

For Teachers/Librarians:

Discussion Guides:

The following free discussion guides are available for schools, libraries, and book clubs:

Discussion guide for Once Upon a Cruise

Curriculum guide for My Very UnFairy Tale Life

School Visits and Writing Workshops:

Since I’m an educator as well as a writer, I love speaking to students! My interactive school visit programs are appropriate for grades K-6, run for about an hour, and work best for groups of up to fifty students.

I also offer two writing workshops: “Creating a Character” and “Building a World.” Both workshops are appropriate for grades 3-6, run for about an hour, and work best for groups of up to twenty-five students.

For more information on school visits and writing workshops, download a brochure HERE. (More info about my K-3 programs coming soon.)

My school visits draw on my years of writing as well as my experiences teaching courses on writing and children’s literature at Simmons College in Boston. Courses I’ve taught in the past include: Writing for Children I and II; Humor for Children and Young Adults; and Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature for Children and Young Adults.

Skype Visits:

I’m happy to do a free 20-minute Q&A session via Skype with a class or book club that has read any of my books. I can also adapt any of my school programs for a Skype format. See my profile on the Skype an Author Network for more details.

Please contact me for more information about specific programs and pricing, or about customizing a visit for your group.

For Writers:

Here are some resources I’ve found helpful in my writing/publishing journey:

The Writers’ Loft

SCBWI Blueboards


Adventures in Children’s Publishing

Guide to Literary Agents

Query Tracker Website/Blog

Preditors and Editors

And here are a few of my favorite craft books:

Plot and Structure and The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Emotional Structure by Peter Dunne

Second Sight by Cheryl Klein

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass

The Anatomy of Story by John Truby