Author Interview: Eileen Spinelli

Eileen is the author of over thirty-five picture books and novels, including Something to Tell the Grandcows (Eerdmans) and When Mama Comes Home Tonight (Simon and Schuster). She and Mary Newell DePalma collaborated on the book Now It Is Winter (Eerdmans), which was named a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book. Eileen lives in Pennsylvania. Visit her website at

Books by Eileen Spinelli
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What made you decide to become an author?
Eileen Spinelli: When I was six years old I spent every Saturday at Sellers Memorial Library in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. It was there that I fell in love with books and words. I've been in love with them ever since.
What's a typical workday like?
Eileen Spinelli: I don't have a typical work day. What I do have (happily) is a big family that includes sixteen grandchildren. I plan my writing time day by day depending on what is going on (soccer game, dance recital, phone call from one of the grandkids asking for advice or help with homework, etc.) It all seems to work. My writing friend Jen calls it ‘writing in the cracks.’
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
Eileen Spinelli: Everywhere! Song for the Whooping Crane began with an article in our local paper about these amazing birds. I read the words: ‘They dance’ and was smitten. I knew I would have to write about them. Summerbath Winterbath comes from my grandmother's stories. I loved sitting with her listening to her memories. Something to Tell the Grandcows was inpired by my own interest in those early explorations to the Poles. Now It Is Winter came from my own sense of the importance of living in the moment. I know my life is more peaceful when I make the effort, but I need reminding. The book is my way of affirming the ‘present’ for children and of reminding them that each moment is precious and each season is beautiful.
Song for the Whooping Crane and Summerbath Winterbath are both poems. Something to Tell the Grandcows and Now It Is Winter are both prose. Which is more difficult to write? Do you prefer to write prose or poetry?
Eileen Spinelli: Well, I like to write both, but if I had to choose I guess I would choose poetry.
How much research do you do before you begin writing?
Eileen Spinelli: That depends on the book. Some require no research at all.
Something to Tell the Grandcows I read dozens of books, articles, and watched films. I also spoke to someone at National Geographic. For Song for the Whooping Crane I read a lot and spoke to my friend Tom who is an avid bird watcher.
Do you rewrite much?
Eileen Spinelli: Yes!
Do you have any advice for would-be authors?
Eileen Spinelli: Write from your own heart. Persevere.
What characteristics do writers need most?
Eileen Spinelli: Patience. Confidence. Perseverence.
Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
Eileen Spinelli: Sure, I can tell you a few things:

1. My fantasy is to be a musical comedy star... if only I could sing and dance.
2. I like to iron.
3. I am afraid to get my ears pierced. I wear clip-on earrings.
4. I still write my poems and stories long-hand.
5. I don't know how to swim.