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 (i.e., nosy) questions. In the hot seat today: Elissa Brent Weissman, editor of OUR STORY BEGINS: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids (Simon & Schuster: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Laughing with someone I love while eating something chocolate.
What is your greatest fear? Something terrible happening to my children.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Envy.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Self-righteousness.
Which living person do you most admire? Any parent who’s both laidback and brave enough to take small children on big trips.
What is your greatest extravagance? The two-story bookshelves in my home, complete with a 20-foot library ladder. Close second: Traveling to New York
via Amtrak rather than Bolt Bus.
What is your current state of mind? Frightened and saddened by the state of world affairs, yet happy and hopeful about all things personal. These are strange times.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Passing on dessert.
On what occasion do you lie? When attempting to avoid unnecessary drama with my children.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? In writing, it’s a punctuation mark—the em dash. In emails and conversation: “That’s awesome!”
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? It’d be cool to be good at gymnastics. I’d settle for being able to do a cartwheel.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Having something I’ve written turn a non-reader into a reader. Whenever I hear that from a kid or a parent or, more recently, my 91-year-old great-grandfather, it’s the best feeling in the world.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Anything that can fly.
What is your most treasured possession? My memory.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Watching someone work really hard and get excited about something, only to be laughed at or made fun of. Like in books or movies when a new, idealistic teacher spends all this time preparing for her first day, only to be disrespected by her students. I can’t handle it!
What do you most value in your friends? Thoughtfulness, and a great sense of humor.
Who are your favorite writers? J. M. Barrie, Maria Semple, Nina Stibbe, Tina Fey, Louis Sachar.
Who is your hero of fiction? Ender Wiggin.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? I have no clue!
What is your motto? “Never identify with historical figures”? Just kidding. How about: “Everything works out for the best in the end. If it hasn’t worked out for the best, it isn’t the end.”
ELISSA BRENT WEISSMAN writes novels for 8-to-12-year olds. Her most recent books, Nerd Camp 2.0 and Nikhil and the Geek Retreat, are follow-ups to Nerd Camp. The Short Seller, about a seventh-grade stock-trading whiz, was featured on NPR’s “Here and Now.” Named one of CBS Baltimore’s Best Authors in Maryland, Elissa lives in Baltimore, where she teaches creative writing to children, college students, and adults. Find Elissa on her website, and on Twitter and Facebook.