Jen Nails has been teaching a class called Do It Yourself at The PIT (People's Improv Theater) since it opened its doors in 2003. In the class, she welcomes actors, comedians and anyone else willing to take to the stage by themselves and helps them develop their own personal stories into solo performance pieces. She is no stranger to the territory herself and tonight closes out the most recent run of her show about a year in the life of a 12-year-old girl called Lylice In it, Jen plays and performs original songs as the title characters, also stepping into a number of Lylice's elementary school teachers.

Lylice is the kind of likable kid who you meet for the first time at a family reunion and gladly let chew your ear off about every aspect of her sixth-grade life, wondering by the end of it why she isn't the one teaching the rest of her classmates. Jen has had such success with the show over the years (rave review in Time Out here, taking it over to the EdinboroFringe Festival there) that she has now turned it into a YA novel called Next to Mexico that was published last year. Jen shared with us where you can get the inside scoop on tween life, why there is no selective honesty when writing for kids and where her husband is able to find an endless supply of wrist corsages.

So Lylice began just as songs you created for this 12-year-old girl you created—is that right? Did she come about from just letting yourself sing and *poof* out came this amazing kid you hadn't known about? This is a good question. The real answer is that when I was in college I had a dream about Lylice. She was a girl about 10 or 12 and she was swimming in the same pool as me and wearing the same purple and white polkadot bathing suit that I was wearing. The exact same one. She kept wanting to hang around with me and her name was Lylice. I woke and thought the dream was funny and then a few years later I wrote the first Lylice song.

Seeing the show, there was a feeling in the audience where you could almost sense us as a group collectively falling for this kid. And yet, then there was a part of my brain that knows how narrative works and knows that Lylice is going to get the legs swept out from under from her somehow and I was just totally dreading it. How did you decide just how rough that process was gonna be? I wanted the show to be true to what really happens in middle school. So of course Lylice has to get her heart broken! Just like we all did at that age (and sometimes still do as adults). But I also wanted to bring things back up at the end, and honor Lylice in a unique way.

It's funny to see Lylice in a comedy theater in Chelsea on a Friday night because I bet that audience rarely interacts with tweens. Yet here all of us are, eager to hang out with 12-year-old Lylice for an hour on a Friday night. Lylice would adore so many of us! How do you think we can bridge that gap? Go hang out in bookstores in the children's section! That's where I spend lots of my time and you can eavesdrop on some pretty awesome teen/tween gossip that way.

In the show, each announcement over the school PA starts with "please excuse the interruption..." It really struck me cause my grade school principal used the exact same words. Is it the standard? Did your school use it? Those announcements were actually based on my high school switchboard operator, Minna. She had that same, monotone voice and we always laughed.

Has doing Lylice noticeably changed for you at all since you became a mother last year? I am much more exhausted after the show than ever before. :)

Having done this show for kids Lylice's age, what have been questions you've gotten from kids who have seen it that just floored you? Kids have asked if Lylice is me, and they've asked how I decided to write the show, and if those were my real teachers. The young audiences who've related most to the show are groups of kids who ARE Lylice. They take it very seriously.

When you worked on transitioning this into a YA book and now just working on children's literature in general what do you have to be aware of that you wouldn't be in writing for adults? I guess I always want to tell the truth but in a palatable and
entertaining way. I have just completed a Masters program in Writing for Children at the New School and we've talked a lot about telling the truth to kids and how important that is. You have to be appropriate, but you can't hold back, because they can tell.

What's yr favorite Judy Blume book? Blubber

Your husband is a balloon twister. What's your favorite balloon he's ever made for you? He makes great flower bracelets (that's not a double entendre for something dirty) and he also does a great one called Monkey in a Tree with Bananas.

You've taught a solo performance class for a long time under the simple name "Do It Yourself"? Who or what comes to mind when you think of DIY? I always laugh that there's a TV channel called DIY. I named it that in the spirit of not waiting around for something to come to you, of taking control and just going for it.

Can you share an "only in New York" experience that you've had? Seeing a fat guy laying on the sidewalk and two chicks dancing on his chest.