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: Chris Baron, author of the MG debut novel, ALL OF ME (Feiwel and Friends, June 11).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? A wild place — walking a long path through a forest with my family — and time to take it all in.
What is your greatest fear? Letting people down; letting myself down.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Overcommitment. I can’t count how many times through conversations with friends, with my wife, therapy, you name it, I have committed to stop being overcommitted. What can I say? I am enthusiastic when I like something, and I want to be all in.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Apathy. I don’t mind taking it slow. I don’t mind singular focus, but I really struggle with apathy.
Which living person do you most admire? Unfair; I believe in mentors, and I am lucky to have a few great ones. But for this I need to say my wife and kids. They are so full of life, silliness, and joy! I am way too serious.
What is your greatest extravagance? Keurig cups. We are all about sustainability and the environment, but for some reason I long for that perfect cup of coffee. It hurts to even admit this.
What is your current state of mind? Joy, chaos, contentedness, impatience. Are these states of mind? Well, I have them all at once. It makes it a little hard to work.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Patience. Without a doubt. I want it now.
On what occasion do you lie? Maybe more about omission? When I don’t want to hurt feelings, I suppose?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? So many! But let’s just say that my new book had the word “hand” or “hands” about 35 extra times. It’s a poetry thing, I think; so much imagery of the hands and what they symbolize. Also, lately: Amazing. Because pretty much everything feels amazing.
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? This jumped out at me: comic-book artist. I would love to write and draw comic books. My kids tell me it’s not too late.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Married for 18 years, three amazing kids, a job as a professor I love, middle-grade author… these roll up into one great achievement, considering where I came from.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? As a person? How about, ummm… Superman? Does that count? I feel like I could do a lot of good.
What is your most treasured possession? I suppose our home. So many memories, and I have learned so much about gardening, family, neighbors. It’s a centering treasure in my life.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? I think seeing kids filled with joy and wonder being stepped on, separated, left out, ignored, persecuted. This is the misery of our world. I think as writers we can contribute to the healing.
What do you most value in your friends? Honesty, vulnerability, and the willingness to go the distance with me.
Who are your favorite writers? My life changed when I read Tolkien and Lewis. My friends know me as a wannabe Tolkien and Lewis scholar; I even worked with the CS Lewis Foundation for a while. I’m stopping myself before I go too far with this. I have to say, though–I have read so many incredible books this year–so there is a giant stack of middle grade books in the running.
Who is your hero of fiction? Besides Aragorn? Jesse from Bridge to Terebithia. I so identify with him. That was the first book that told me it was okay for me to be friends with a girl!
Which historical figure do you most identify with? I think CS Lewis is a good model for me. His passion for life, dedication to his friends, commitment to writing, but also his challenges and longing for the secret places of truth–for green countries–and joy.
What is your motto? For today? “Not all who wander are lost.”
CHRIS BARON is a Professor of English at San Diego City College and the director of the Writing Center. Learn more about Chris on his website and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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