The Proust Questionnaire, popularized by the French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust, is said to reveal a person’s true nature through a series of probing, soul-searching questions. In the hot seat today: Alida Durham Clemans, author of the MG debut, UNTIL THE OCEAN FREEZES (15th Street Books, 2020).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Summer potluck picnics with friends in the little park down the street. The lightening bugs flittering in the darkening sky always remind me of simpler times.
What is your greatest fear? I’m terrified of heights (but I love spiders and snakes. Go figure).
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My tendency to overthink everything.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Apathy.
Which living person do you most admire? Those who embody extraordinary courage and compassion, especially nurses, doctors, healthcare workers, and journalists. They are my heroes. So is my amazingly optimistic husband, Marc, who has lived with multiple sclerosis for more than 30 years.
What is your greatest extravagance? I’m particularly fond of coffee ice cream, popcorn with butter and salt, and the occasional piece of dark chocolate.
What is your current state of mind? Although I miss the rest of my family and my friends very much, I try to find a reason to smile every day and to appreciate how lucky I am. Online get-togethers certainly help.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Orderliness. Creativity often comes from a messy mind (my kitchen drawers aren’t exactly neat, either).
On what occasion do you lie? To avoid awkwardness or hurting someone’s feelings.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? I say “I’m sorry” a lot, even though most of the time there is nothing to be sorry about.
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? To be able to speak another language and to execute a near-perfect cartwheel.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? At long last, realizing my dream of writing and publishing a novel for children. UNTIL THE OCEAN FREEZES is very special to me because it was inspired by my own family and our experiences with disability and illness. Also, raising my daughter and son to be caring and productive young people fills me with tremendous pride.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? An elephant. They are such exquisite and intelligent creatures.
What is your most treasured possession? Old family photos, letters, and drawings from my kids that live in a big box under my bed and my copy of The Catcher in the Rye that my mother gave me the day I went to college.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Being alone and afraid.
What do you most value in your friends? The ability to listen, offer advice, and make me laugh.
Who are your favorite writers? Toni Morrison, Willa Cather, John Irving, Elizabeth Strout, Judy Blume, Kaye Gibbons, Louise Erdrich, Alice Munro, and many more.
Who is your hero of fiction? As a young girl, I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls from the Little House on the Prairie series. I also love Frankie Addams from Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Florence Nightingale.
What is your motto? “Never give up.”
ALIDA DURHAM CLEMANS is a professional writer and editor who, in 2018, decided to follow her heart and pursue a career as a children’s author. She grew up in Westfield, New Jersey, and holds a degree in English and journalism from the State University of New York at Albany. The mother of two, Alida lives in New York City with her husband, a scruffy rescue dog, and her son. When Alida is not writing kidlit, she works as a writer for an independent school. Learn more about Alida on her website and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.