|When Kimberly Willis Holt was 13 years old, she paid two dollars to see the fattest boy in the world. That memory would stay with her to become the basis for her award-winning novel, WHEN ZACHARY BEAVER CAME TO TOWN. The daughter of a military man, Kimberly lived in many different places when she was growing up--Paris, Guam, and New Orleans, to name just a few. She spent a lot of her time exploring these new places by herself because, as a shy kid, it was hard for her to make lasting friends when the family had to move around so much. And Kimberly read a lot when she was growing up--perhaps it was all the reading and exploring that let her imagination create even more wonderful places she could "visit." In seventh grade, she started writing poems. Encouraged by a teacher, she signed up for creative writing classes and, at the age of 12, decided she wanted to become a writer. She loved to read all types of books, but her favorite authors were Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Bront?, and Beverly Cleary. When Kimberly went on to college, she decided to major in broadcast journalism, but never completed her studies because she was bored and unfulfilled--her passion was still writing. She took a few different jobs, including writing wire copy at a radio station and working as an interior decorator, but she was bored, bored, bored. She felt that she was "pushing her [writing] dream away." When she and her husband moved to Texas, she decided that the time was "now or never," and started writing her first novel, MY LOUISIANA SKY, which was published in 1998. It received several awards, including the ALA Notable Book and the ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Her second novel, WHEN ZACHARY BEAVER CAME TO TOWN, was published in 1999 and won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Both books take place in the South, and although Kimberly is not from the South, she considers herself a "Southern writer." She says that she remembers hearing her parents talking about small-town life in the South, and that she has a great love for it. Of all the places she's lived, her favorite was Louisiana because it "felt most like home." Kimberly has some good advice to aspiring young writers: read, read, read (!), and experience your life fully, because everything you do feeds into your writing. A fun fact: Carson McCullers' book, THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, changed Kimberly's life because of how believable the descriptions of the characters were.