Annie Tipton made up her first story at the ripe old age of two when she asked her mom to write it down for her. (Hey, she was just two—she didn’t know how to make letters yet!) Since then she has read and written many words as a student, newspaper reporter, author, and editor. Annie loves snow (which is a good thing because she lives in Ohio), wearing scarves, sushi, Scrabble, and spending time with friends and family.
Thank you for joining us today, Annie. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself? When did you first get bit by the writing bug?
I’ve been a writer my whole life (almost literally!). My mom likes to tell a story about when I was two years old and I asked her to write down the words to a story that I made up. I remember writing scripts for plays that a friend and I acted out on the playground in early elementary school. Third grade was the first year I entered a story and was selected to represent my class at a conference for young authors. I always (well almost always) enjoyed writing school assignments and essays and I did lots of extracurricular writing—the school newspaper, a middle school writing contest called The Power of the Pen. Professionally, my first paying gig was some freelance work in high school when I wrote a few articles for a teen magazine put out by a Christian publisher. That was a pretty amazing experience to make a few bucks for doing something I absolutely loved!
I have a communications degree (with an emphasis in journalism), and my first jobs out of college were newspaper reporting. I wrote all kinds of stories—local politics and government, crime, business, healthcare—but my favorite articles focused on people and their stories. Now in my day job I work with words every day as an editor at Barbour Publishing.
I consider whatever writing talent I have as gift from God Himself. That’s not to say that I haven’t worked on honing the skill over the years, but He gives me the words. And my prayer is that readers will see Him on the page—even in some small way.
Why did you decide to write stories for children?
One of the main reasons I wanted to write a children’s series is because I am simply a kid at heart! Some of the first chapter books I read as a kid left a lasting impression on me, so I know firsthand the power that memorable characters and stories can have.
Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?
I’ve actually been surprised at how easy it is for me to revert to “kid mode” while writing this series. I generally have a simple and optimistic view of the world and I tend to see humor in everyday life, so my own point-of-view lines up with kids well. Many scenes from my childhood—particularly memories I have of my younger brother—pop up in the storyline of the series, too. Because of all of this, I think children’s fiction is probably the least-challenging fiction that I, personally, could be writing.
What is your favorite part of writing for young people?
I have really enjoyed walking down memory lane and reliving the big-sister-little-brother dynamic that EJ and Isaac have. Kids want to read about authentic experiences on the page—not something idealized or preachy—so it’s been a great challenge to constantly evaluate whether or not the story and the characters are ringing true. Plus, kids love goofiness, and it’s fun to let the characters really let loose sometimes, knowing that it just might be a reader’s favorite part of the book!
Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?
Diary of a Real Payne: Church Camp Chaos picks up about 6 months after the end of book 1 (True Story). Summer vacation is just around the corner, and EJ is more than ready to be done with Ms. “Picky” Pickerington, CoraLee McCallister, and the fourth grade. Hello sunshine! Hello 11th birthday party! Hello. . .CAMP!
It’s EJ’s first summer to spend an entire week at Camp Christian—complete with friends, bunk beds, games, campfires, s’mores, and even a gigantic zip line. From dining hall cooks dressed up in costumes (Is that a giraffe from Noah’s ark serving mashed potatoes?) to a stickler of a counselor named Gene, church camp is full of colorful characters and fantastically fun things to do. And, as always, EJ serves up even more marvelous adventures for herself with her vivid daydreams. Nothing. . .not even her annoying little brother’s appearance for day camp can spoil EJ’s fun!
But when EJ sets out to conquer her fears—some big, some small—will she learn that God is big enough to handle anything?
What inspired you to write it?
I grew up in a family that is very involved in summer church camp. My grandfather was the camp manager, so my mom grew up (literally) at camp. My first summer jobs were working on staff at camp, and it’s always been a big part of my life. So having EJ go to her first week of church camp in book 2 was great fun for me!
Where can readers purchase a copy?
The Diary of a Real Payne series is available where all books are sold.
What is up next for you?
The third and final book in the series—Diary of a Real Payne: Oh Baby!—releases in September 2014. I’m looking forward to seeing the completion of EJ’s adventures!
Thank you for spending time with us today, Annie. We wish you much success.