1. What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
I remember being in first grade and copying letters of the alphabet over and over on that lined paper with solid lines and broken lines. I wanted to do art more than write. Still I became an English teacher, then a Film teacher. I didn't know that I could write fiction until I had been teaching for fifteen years. I took a graduate class in screen writing because I was working on a curriculum in script writing for my high school classes. In the class I too, I had to write a script. I loved doing it. I was good at it. I changed careers. Now I've written over a dozen original scripts and 70 books for children and young adults.
2. What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
I was divorced and my daughter, Nicole, was in joint custody. She spent half the week with me and half the week with her father. It was a difficult time for our family – but particularly for Nicole. I observed how she coped. I used her situation to write a script for a graduate class I was taking in script writing. It was called THE RAINBOW KID. When I couldn't sell the script I adapted it into a children’s book and – luckily – sold it. There were four more books about that girl. Throughout my career as I writer I have written both scripts and novels.
3. Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
I definitely use my childhood as inspiration for the setting of my books. I grew up in small town in Vermont. My fondest childhood memories were of being independent – playing in a neighbor’s farm fields, walking in the woods, and riding my bike. The characters in my books are independent and often live in a small town. I remember my childhood very well and continually borrow situations from that time. I also see some part of myself in all of the characters I create.
4. What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
I read all the NANCY DREW mysteries when I was a kid. Every book I write for children has a “mystery” in it or problem to be solved. When I was growing up there weren't as many books for children and young adults as there are these days. One of my big motivations as a writer is to write books I wished I had read as a child or that I would be happy to have my the children I know read.
As an adult one of my influences has been Garrison Keillor and his radio show “Prairie Home Companion.” His stories are well organized, funny, and touching. All qualities I want my work to have.
5. What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
I draw and paint. I particularly like to paint out-of-doors. I also like to bring my sketch pad and ink pens to live musical events and draw the musicians as they play. Other hobbies are gardening, tap dancing, and biking. I started tap dancing when I was in first grade. I also like to play with my young granddaughters. We do art projects and play make believe. One day my granddaughter wanted me to put on a play with her for company. My part was “the wicked witch who isn't really wicked.” My costume was the hat from a bee costume, a much too small tutu over my jeans, fairy wings, and a magic wand. I was wicked all right. Wicked funny.
6. Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about their work that inspires and interests you?
Mo Willems is terrific. I especially love his Knuffle Bunny stories and the books about the Pigeon. The Nate the Great books by Marjorie Weinman are big favorites of mine. I especially love Marc Simont’s artwork for that series. I am also a big fan of Beverly Cleary. One of the biggest compliments I had as a beginning children’s book author was when a bookstore salesperson said to me: “I tell shoppers that if they like Beverly Cleary they will like your book.” I also admire and enjoy Jacqueline Woodson’s work. She has a great range and creates multi-dimensional characters. You feel like you really know the people you meet in her books.
7. What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
One word? Revise. Revise, revise. And lastly, revise one more time.
8. What is your favorite book and/or favorite author?
I have a lot of favorite authors of adult fiction: E.M. Forster, Rosina Lippi, Ursula Hegi, J. M. Coetzee, V.S. Naipal. I feel like I’m not being fair to all of them if I just name one. Among my favorite children’s book authors are Judy Blume, Anne Martin, Madeline L'Engle, and Mary Pope Osborne. Often I will pick an author and if I like their work will read more than one book by them. Since I am dyslexic, I read very slowly, hearing every word in my head as I read. I am a big fan of audio books and love to be read to. As I am editing my own work I often read it aloud to myself.
9. Where else can we find you on the Web?
You can find me on: