Jeannette Walls Answers Your Questions

John has a daughter, and I'm quite close to her, though she's pretty grown up at this point. I believe I started discovering my domestic side only recently. For example, I loved animals when I was growing up, but I had completely let that side of me go numb. While I was writing "The Glass Castle," I was overcome with a yearning to own dogs. It was weird. I'd reward myself for finishing a chapter by visiting Web sites of animal shelters; I recently adopted two former racing greyhounds (you may remember seeing them in the show). I'm irrationally devoted to them. But I do find myself getting more interested in the domestic side of things. I'm a late bloomer in that department, I guess.

17. Shana Hunt, of Ottawa, Ontario My true passion in life is information. I dream of a career in journalism. Jeannette, if you have any advice for an aspiring journalist, I would be grateful to hear from you.

Jeannette responds:

Shana, if information is your passion, in my opinion, half your battle is already won. My advice is to get journalism experience -- however you can, even if it's unpaid. You don't say whether you're a student, but if you are, get an internship. If you're not a student, there are still plenty of ways to get your foot in the door. Offer to open mail and sharpen pencils. If you hear an interesting story, mention it to an editor. If you have an area of particular interest, start an online blog. One of my former assistants was a typesetter who kept dropping by my desk mentioning things she heard. I hired her and she was great and now she has a very high-profile column at the New York Daily News. Another former assistant came up to me, introduced herself and told me she would do whatever it took to work with me, even if she had to do it unpaid and in her free time. She worked her tail off for me and was just wonderful. She now lives in England, where she has her own column and appears regularly on television. Be tenacious, be creative. And good luck.

18. Shemena Campbell, of San Francisco, writes:

Do you think that keeping your situation a secret for as long as you did, until you'd "made it," made the difference, and how hard was it to keep that secret?

Jeannette responds:

Keeping my past secret wasn't difficult at all. There were a few times when the story did almost get out -- my parents were becoming sort of high-profile squatters and kept on being interviewed in newspapers and on television -- but for a variety of reasons, it didn't.

I never set out to pass myself off as a Rockefeller or anything, and because I had gone to an Ivy League college and lived on Park Avenue, everyone just assumed I had a privileged background. I don't know if telling the truth would have hurt my career. I often wonder that myself. Some guy who was interviewing me for a New York City publication the other day said he completely understood why I did it and how the New York media is filled with a bunch of social snobs who are overly concerned with pedigree. But seeing the reaction now that the story is out, I'm not so sure. People are much wiser and kinder than I had realized.

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