The Proust Questionnaire, popularized by the French novelist and essayist Marcel Proust, is said to reveal a person’s true nature through a series of probing, soul-searching questions. In the hot seat today: Jennifer Swanson, award-winning author of more than 40 nonfiction books for children about science and technology, including Brain Games, Astronaut-Aquanaut, Save the Crash-test Dummies, and Beastly Bionics.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? A beautiful day full of sunshine, with a light wind, on a sailboat out in the Chesapeake Bay with my husband and kids.
What is your greatest fear? Heights. I’m definitely not a fan. Went to the Grand Canyon once and had to stay very far away from the edge.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Like most authors, I struggle a bit with self-esteem. Is this book going to sell? Is it good enough? Will people like it? When the most important thing is to write what you love and are passionate about. The rest will figure itself out.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? The inability to see things from others’ points of view.
Which living person do you most admire? There are so may. To name a few, Sylvia Earle, a marine biologist dedicated to the ocean and one of the first females to test out scuba gear. She is so amazing and inspiring. And NASA space scientists and mathematician Katherine Johnson, known as “the human computer” who helped to send the Apollo mission to the Moon.
What is your greatest extravagance? Traveling. My husband and I love to travel and go somewhere at least once a month (or did before the pandemic). We can’t wait to start that up again.
What is your current state of mind? Cautiously hopeful, although I admit this year has been a bit trying on us all.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Being patient. I am not good at waiting on things. I like to take action.
On what occasion do you lie? Only when playing poker. 😉
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Like,” as in: When you “like” have to “like” do something.
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? To compete in a triathalon. Exercising is a way for me to release stress and tension. I wish I had time and the ability to do it more.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Being married for 30 years and raising three wonderful children. As for my writing career, probably being invited to present at the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival in 2019.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? A big fluffy Great Pyrenees dog. Spending all day barking, sleeping, walking, and eating without a care in the world. Lovely.
What is your most treasured possession? Family photographs and my mother’s rings. When we had to evacuate for a hurricane, I packed the van with three kids, two dogs, and all of the photo albums we had. You know, the important stuff.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Watching someone you love suffer, and all you can do is to help them as best you can.
What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty and humor. And also a willingness to chat. 😊 (I can be a talker.)
Who are your favorite writers? Too many to list all. But here are a few: Elizabeth Peters, Anne Perry, Michael Scott, J.K. Rowling, Clara Gillow Clark, Jason Chin, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Donna Gephart.
Who is your hero of fiction? Nancy Drew. I grew up wanting to be her and to solve mysteries and help people. And, after all, learning about science and solving mysteries pretty much go hand in hand.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Marie Curie, a scientist who made her name in a man’s world. She was inquisitive and passionate about her pursuit of science, and she never gave up.
What is your motto? “Never, never, never give up!” — Winston Churchill.
JENNIFER SWANSON is the award-winning author of more than 40 nonfiction books for children, mostly about science and technology. Jennifer’s love of STEM began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of seven. While no longer working from the garage, her books have received many accolades including the starred reviews, Booklist Best Tech books list, Green Earth Book Honor Award, a Florida Book Award, and multiple California Reading Association awards, and National Science Teaching BEST STEM awards. Her Brain Games book was #13 on the The Planets.org 50 Best Science Books Ever Written. She is also the creator of the STEM Tuesday blog, STEAMTeamBooks promotion group, and creator and cohost of Solve It! for Kids, a STEM podcast for kids and families where Jennifer encourages kids (of all ages) to engage their curiosity and discover the science all around them! Learn more about Jennifer on her website and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.