I've wanted to be a children's author since I was a kid myself. When I was in elementary school, I wrote a novel and tried, unsuccessfully, to get it published. The first chapter of that novel is in Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids. Reading it now, it's pretty clear why no one wanted to publish it.

Elissa Weissman by Alisha Shaw

Elissa Weissman by Alisha Shaw

I don’t fit the writers-are-quiet-and-introverted stereotype. I’m talkative and outgoing, and I love being around people. That’s why I teach and give presentations in schools; it’s a great way to balance out the solitary side of being an author. But the writers-are-nerdy stereotype? That one definitely applies.

When the glasses come off, the gloves go on. My favorite workout is boxing. I do weekly mitt work with a trainer—everything from a 350-punch combination that I can do blindfolded (literally!), to Thai-style sparring using kicks, knees, and elbows. I’ve never been in the ring, and hope I never need these skills outside the gym, but if I do: Watch out.

You probably know someone who looks like me. I’m constantly mistaken for someone else, or told I look exactly like so-and-so. People often insist we’ve met before when I know for sure we haven’t. Either I have dozens of secret siblings I’ve never met, or there’s something familiar about my face.

I can’t stand the smell or taste of mint. I can barely breathe when someone is chewing gum nearby, and eating even one sprig of mint can make me gag. This means I use little kid toothpaste—and so does my husband.

I played table tennis competitively for four years—and lost every single match. But I met my husband on the team, so I won in a different way. And we now have two awesome young children, so I won three times over.

I still have all four of my grandparents. I’m 33 years old, so this is pretty remarkable, especially because they’re all in very good health. A substantial part of my next book is set in 1941 New York City, and it’s based heavily on their experiences growing up.

I had braces for five years. See those big teeth in my photo on the cover of Our Story Begins? They were a disaster to straighten. I’d probably still have braces today if I hadn’t forced the orthodontist to remove them before my senior year of high school, even though the work wasn’t done. Remember that writers-are-nerdy stereotype? Yeah.

Editing Our Story Begins made me nervous. The 25 people in this collection are tremendously successful authors and illustrators whom I admire. I’ve been a fan of some of their books since I was a kid myself! It was an honor and a thrill to work with them, but it was also intimidating, especially when I had to suggest revisions to their memoirs. (I didn’t change a word of their childhood work, though—it’s presented in all its raw, quirky, handwritten glory!) It was a huge relief that everyone was open-minded and easygoing, even thankful for the feedback. It made me love and admire them even more.

I’m unabashedly proud of this book. This was my first time editing an anthology, and it took an unbelievable amount of work with a steep learning curve. But I couldn’t be more pleased with how it came out. I love everything about this book, and I’m so excited for it to be in the world!