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Meg Cabot

author of "The Princess Diaries"

interview by Douglas Eby

"If you love something that much, you find time for it."

With complicated lives, it can be a real challenge to develop your creative interests. But writer Meg Cabot says you find the time for what matters. 

"There really isn't all that much I'd rather do than write. I've been very lucky," she adds, "because my 'day job' as assistant manager of an undergraduate NYU residence hall provides me lots of vacation time, during which I devote eight and nine hours a day to writing. 

"I write on the weekends, holidays, during my lunch hour... whenever I can, really. Another bonus is the constant stream of eighteen and nineteen year olds who pass by my desk: They provide me with a lot of story ideas, and priceless insight into the workings of the 'young adult' mind." 

Her first book, "Where Roses Grow Wild," was a historical romance. "The Princess Diaries" is a story for young adults, and is in production as a feature film at Disney, produced by Whitney Houston and others. Variety described the book as "the story of feisty and rebellious 16-year-old Mia, who discovers much to her dismay that she is in fact the princess of a small European country [and] must suffer though the indignity of 'princess lessons' at the hands of her stern grandmother."

Cabot finds there are definite times she's at her most creative: "Right before I fall asleep at night, and right after I wake up in the morning. That's why I keep a pad of paper and a pen by my bed. Whenever I have an idea, I jot it down. I also find that reading other people's books, and even watching TV or movies, can trigger creative reactions. 

"For instance, I might like someone's idea for a plot, but not the characters the author's incorporated. I often find myself thinking, 'That movie, book, whatever would have been so good if only....' A few days later, I usually re-work the story into something of my own." 

She thinks mothers can actively encourage creativity in their children. "Read to them. Encourage them to read to themselves. Even if they're too young to know how to read, they can still look at picture books, and make up stories about what they see.

"Impress upon them that reading is just as fun as watching TV, if not more fun, since you can imagine what the characters look like in your head -- but don't restrict TV-time too much. There are some great shows out there." 

This value of reading is also emphasized by teen actress Michelle Williams (TV series "Dawson's Creek" and the Watergate comedy "Dick"). 

She says her father read to her "voraciously" when she was a kid: "I grew up with William Faulkner and all these great, fabulous books, and I always wanted to be in those worlds. Daily, growing up, I lived in these fantasies of whatever it was, 'Anna Karenina' or you name it -- I wanted to be there. It was sort of a natural progression to want to become an actress, to live that out."

Cabot has other ideas on encouraging creativity for children - ideas that we can also use as adults: "Provide them with the materials they need to create. This doesn't have to be the fanciest or most expensive set of magic markers in the world; simple things, like ball-point pens and printer paper, work fine. 

"Probably the most important thing any parent can do to encourage creativity in a child is provide a nurturing and supportive atmosphere, in which the child knows even her wildest ideas will not be met with disdain or worse, disinterest."

  

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photo from author site patriciacabot.com

 *books by Meg Cabot include: 

The Princess Diaries

Project Princess (The Princess Diaries, Vol. 4 1/2)

All-American Girl

Haunted : A Tale of the Mediator

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