How do you pronounce your name?
Gut as in “cut.” Not as in “boot.”

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A photographer.

So how did you become an author?
After I finished college, I didn’t know what career path to take. I discovered that I expressed myself better in words than I did with photos. I always enjoyed writing letters to people, and I felt that my writing was just as good as the writing I saw in newspapers, magazines, and books.

How long have you been writing?
Since 1978. But my first book wasn’t published until 1985. I didn’t start writing children’s books until 1993.

Who are your favorite authors?
Roald Dahl, Jack Gantos, Gary Paulsen, Carl Hiassen, Andrew Clements, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Gordon Korman, Anthony Horowitz, Stephen King and lots of others. But to be perfectly honest, the only thing I read, every day, from cover to cover, is The New York Times.

Which of YOUR books is your favorite?
Johnny Hangtime. And Race For the Sky is a close second.

Why do you like sports so much?
Because it’s the only kind of entertainment where nobody knows the outcome in advance. When we watch TV or go to the movies, we can usually figure out what’s going to happen long before it does – who will live, who will die, who will win, and who will lose. In sports, ANYTHING can happen. I’m attracted to the drama of that.

Why do you write about baseball more than any other sport?
Most other sports look the same to me. Football, hockey, soccer, basketball – they all have one team trying to march down a field and score a goal on the other team. Baseball is different, more strategic, with an infinite number of possibilities at any point. It reminds me of chess. And it’s easy to write about baseball because there’s plenty of time when the players are standing around trying to figure out what to do next.

Why don’t you write about football, tennis, swimming, karate (and every other sport)?
I hope to! I haven’t gotten around to those sports yet. After I wrote Baseball’s Greatest Games, I suggested to my editor that we do Football’s Greatest Games. She said, “We don’t want to do that book, because football fans don’t read.” True story.

Do you have a pen name?
Yes. My pen is named Herb.

Do you ever work on two books at the same time?
Yes, I write one with my left hand and another with my right. Just kidding. Actually, I am usually working on two projects. I’ll devote the morning to one and the afternoon to the other. This is perfect for me, because I have a very short attention span!

How long does it take to write a book?
It depends on the book. The My Weird School books only take about a month or so to write. But I might spend as much as a year on my books for older kids because they require more research.

How do you manage to write so many books so quickly?
I use the word “the” a lot.

Are you writing a book right now?
No. Right now I’m writing this sentence. And now I’m writing another sentence. There, I finished it. And now I’m writing another sentence. At this rate, I’ll never write another book.

Do you prefer writing adult books or children’s books?
Children’s books. Kids are a much more appreciative audience. None of my adult books have been very successful, and I don’t write for adults anymore.

Do you write on an empty stomach?
No, I prefer writing on paper.

Q: Joke, right?
A: Right. I write my books on a computer, an Apple MacBook.

Do you ever get writer’s block?
Uh…I can’t think of an answer. No, really. When I’m stuck, I find the best thing to do is break the rhythm. Take a rest. Have a bite to eat. Take a bike ride. Make some phone calls. Check my email.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to be a writer?
Start at the bottom and work your way up. Try to write something for a children’s magazine or your local newspaper. If you get it published, send the clipping with some article ideas to a regular magazine. Finally, after you’ve established yourself, try to write a book if you have a great idea for one. For more suggestions, click on Tips for Young Authors, and read my book My Weird Writing Tips.

If I wrote a book would you publish it?
Sorry, no. I’m not a publisher. I have a tough enough time getting my OWN books published!

How do you cope with rejection letters?
The first hundred or so really made me angry. After a while I got so used to rejections that I stopped taking them personally. I still get rejections today. My attitude is, if a publisher doesn’t like my work, it’s THEIR loss. I visit lots of schools. I talk with thousands of kids. I have a good handle on what kids want to read or don’t want to read.

What’s the best part about being a writer?
The freedom. I don’t have a boss. I can work when I want, where I want, and on whatever projects I want. I don’t have to drive to an office, because I work at home. I don’t have to wear a jacket or tie.

What’s the hardest part about being a writer?
Running a full time business all by myself.  Writing books is only a small part of what I do.  I also have to keep up with my email, create and reply to social media posts, do research, do corrections, communicate with my editor, agent,  and my illustrator, do virtual author visits, attend book festivals and conferences, go to my local bookstore to sign books people have ordered, manage my billing and other paperwork, keep my website up to date, and so many other things.  You have to be very organized.

Where do you live?
New York City. You wanna make something of it?

Do you have children?
Yes. A son, Sam, and a daughter, Emma.

Do your kids ever give you ideas for books?
Emma inspired the My Weird School series, and Sam, well, he inspired my whole career as a children’s book author.

What do you do in your spare time?
What spare time!? Between my work and my family I have very little free time. But I like to ride my bike, go to the movies, travel, listen to music, play my guitar, things like that.

Are you famous?

Some people know of me because of my books, but they don’t recognize me when Iwalk down the street or anything.

How can I help you get famous?
Tell your friends and relatives around the country about my books.

What is your goal as an author?
To inspire reluctant readers to love reading.

When are you going to stop writing books?
When kids don’t want to read them anymore. I have no plans to ever retire. I really like working.

Who are your personal heroes?
Creative people who grew and changed over time. The Beatles, James Cameron, Thomas Edison, Picasso, Stephen Spielberg. Also, people who do good things for the world and get no credit for it: firefighters, the police, teachers, social workers, librarians.

Do you ever have breakfast in your pajamas?
No. I put it on a plate.

Did you enjoy interviewing yourself?

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