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: Eileen Moskowitz-Palma, author of the MG debut, CAMP CLIQUE: THE POPULARITY PACT (Running Press Kids, 2020).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Snuggling up on the couch with my husband, daughter, and dog and fighting over who has the best spot. Spoiler alert: It is never me. I am always squeezed in the crack between the middle cushions with a dog in my lap, an elbow in my rib, and at least one pair of legs draped over me.
What is your greatest fear? Everything. On a given day I am scared of getting food poisoning, being late, not getting a parking space, getting a speeding ticket, losing my phone… you get the picture.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Being such an anxious person. See above.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Cruelty, particularly when it comes from a place of bias. I am generally a forgiving person who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, but I have no tolerance for intentional cruelty.
Which living person do you most admire? My husband and daughter because nothing scares them. Somehow, this anxious writer ended up with an adventurous family who ski black diamonds, scuba dive, surf, and cliff jump. When we take family vacations, we always set aside an adventure day for the two of them and I stay behind curled up with my latest manuscript.
What is your greatest extravagance? Gel manicures. Life just seems easier to conquer with a good set of nails.
What is your current state of mind? Happy and fulfilled with my life. I always dreamed of being a writer and a teacher and I’m incredibly thankful I am able to do both.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Temperance. Living a life filled with self-control and restraint isn’t the way to make your dreams a reality.
On what occasion do you lie? I live with chronic autoimmune issues, so whenever I put on a full face of makeup and a cute outfit to cover up when I don’t feel well, it feels like I’m lying–but in a good way. Showing up in the world looking like my best self allows me to lead with who I really am, not with my illness.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? I had no idea that I overused the word “actually” until my editor pointed out the 28 times I had written it in my manuscript.
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? Making it through six months without a health crisis. That won’t ever be my reality, but a girl can dream, right?
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Not letting my health issues hold me back. I sold The Popularity Pact series during a time when I was in and out of the hospital, undergoing countless procedures and tests. I wrote the second book of the series while I was recovering from stomach and esophageal surgery that left me unable to swallow food for six weeks. I make a conscious choice to dig into my writing during these difficult times, because it helps me to focus on the positive things about my life while having a goal to hang onto.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? My dog, Oscar. He has mastered the art of hygge with his cozy sweater collection, and ability to curl up on a blanket and take a nap no matter what else is going on around him.
What is your most treasured possession? Cards and letters written by my husband. We were next-door neighbors in our college dorm and have been together for over twenty years. It is amazing to look back on our life together through his words.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Giving up when life throws hard things at you.
What do you most value in your friends? Different perspectives. I love when I tell a friend about a situation that I am worried or upset about and they give me a totally different way to look at it. Every time that happens, I grow a little bit as a person.
Who are your favorite writers? Judy Blume, Raymond Carver, Suzanne Collins, Glennon Doyle, Lea Geller, John Irving, Harper Lee, Ann M. Martin, J. K. Rowling, Sophia Kinsella, Raina Telgemeier, Jennifer Weiner, Laura Ingalls Wilder, John Irving. I could go on…
Who is your hero of fiction? Hermione Granger, because she harnessed her power by arming herself with knowledge.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Laura Ingalls Wilder because she was a teacher who later became a writer, which is the life path I took.
What is your motto? “You’ll never regret doing the hard thing.”
EILEEEN MOSKOWITZ-PALMA, a former elementary school teacher, is an alumna of Sarah Lawrence College’s The Writing Institute, where she teaches Beginner Novel Writing and Writing for Children and Young Adults. Eileen and her husband, Douglas, live in Westchester, New York, with their daughter, Molly, and their Wire Fox Terrier, Oscar, who is one snaggletooth away from being a doggy model. Learn more about Eileen on her website and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.