Alexandria resident Kristin Levine is the author of two children's books on interracial friendships in the historical South, a former teacher and the mother of two daughters. Kids can meet her at the Centreville Regional Library at 3 p.m. Monday.

How did you get started writing children's literature?

When I started out, I wanted to be a screenwriter. I went to American University and wrote a bunch of screenplays. They did well in contests, but when people in Hollywood would call me, they would say, "We love your screenplays, but we're a low-budget studio and we don't have kids; kids are hard to work with." So I realized my stories were better suited as novels.

Why do you write about interracial friendship?

I grew up in Alexandria, and the schools I went to were very diverse. There was some busing involved. I asked, "Why do I have to ride the bus?" And my parents told me, "This is really important. You can learn a lot from people who are different from you." And they were right.

How do you find time to write with kids?

That is the most challenging part of being a writer. I got really good at writing in short amounts of time. ... I learned that if someone went down for a nap, then I wrote. It was good for me to learn to write on demand and not worry about writer's block.

What's your next book about?

My next book is called "The Paper Boy," and it's about bullying. It's set in 1962, in a little town outside Chicago. It's about a boy who is bullied at home by his mom and is a bully at school. He ends up having to take over his sister's paper route, and through all the people he meets, he learns not to be a bully.

- Liz Essley