I grew up in Western Massachusetts where, as a child, I struggled with reading. It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized I am dyslexic. Fortunately for me, I had parents who were passionate about children’s books, and who loved to read aloud. My father’s idea of a great family vacation was to load up on books and pray for rain so that he could spend the whole time indoors reading to us while we worked on jigsaw puzzles.
I hear my father’s voice still in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Prydain Chronicles, and The Little Prince. And my mother’s voice is inextricably linked to Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, and Charlotte’s Web. So, though I was not a great reader, I was surrounded by story.
And then came The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ heartbreaking story about a boy and a young deer. That was seventh grade English. That was the same year I was put into remedial reading, so my esteem as a reader—and as a student—was at a pretty low ebb. The Yearling was a thick book. I had yet to finish one of the books we’d been assigned for seventh grade English. But The Yearling changed my life. I remember the feeling of panic when the teacher handed out our copies. It was huge! How was I possibly going to finish it? I went home and started reading—at first out of sheer determination, and then because of the story. It is the first book I can remember being unable to put down. I read every day long into the night, and I was sorry when I was finished. I was hooked on reading, and I never looked back.
It wasn’t until years later, after I’d grown up, graduated from college, worked as a newspaper journalist, gotten married and had two children, that I found my true calling: writing for children. And it was years after that, that I realized that my first book, Gratefully Yours, is essentially a rewrite of The Yearling. It’s funny how stories stay with us.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where were you born?
I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on Sept. 28, 1956.
What was your family like?
I have two older sisters. My father was a pediatrician and my mother was a nurse practitioner. We also had a black Cocker Spaniel named Christopher and a talking Mynah bird named Sinbad.
What do you like to do besides write?
I love to read, and I go bird watching when I can. If you read my books you’ll notice there are almost always books and birds.
Where do you get your ideas?
Some have come from my life experience or from family stories. But I find ideas everywhere I go, in everything I read, and everyone I meet.
How do you write your stories?
Have you ever looked at a magic eye book? Writing is like that for me. It’s as though I have a box with magic eye images. I look in and I can see stories happening. I look around and write about what I see.
What advice do you have for kids who want to be writers?
Read, read, read. Especially read things you don’t think you’ll like. That’s how you grow—as a reader and as a writer.
Do you have any children?
I have two grown children. They are amazing people. Some of my ideas come from them!
Do you have any pets?
I am a dog person at heart, but I recently inherited a cat. She’s a bit of a scardy cat, but she’s a sweetie and she keeps me company while I write.
Where did you go to school?
I have an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Before that, I earned undergraduate degrees from Simmons College and Greenfield Community College.
Where do you live?
I live in Western Massachusetts, in the town I grew up in. I’ve lived other places, but this is home to me.
Besides writing books, do you have a job?
I worked as a librarian for many years. Now, I spend my time writing and teaching. Lucky me!