I was born in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1952 and grew up nearby in Circleville. By the time I was twelve, I had decided to be a writer. My plan (influenced by my admiration for Flannery O’Connor) was to become a short story writer. For some reason, that never happened. Instead, in college at Vassar, I began writing poetry seriously. This has led to my publishing four collections of poetry for adults (Globe, Swan’s Island, Annonciade, and Worldling). My daughter, Celia, who is seven, defined poetry one day (very appropriately, I thought) as “playing with words.” I have “played with words,” I believe, in my writing for children: in two books of riddles, With One White Wing and Riddle Road, and, of course, in The Mouse of Amherst. Ever since I was a girl, I have admired and loved Emily Dickinson’s poetry. I have memorized many of her poems, and recently wrote a short piece on my first encounter with Dickinson for The Bulletin of the Poetry Society of America. Although I didn’t analyze my reasons for writing The Mouse of Amherst while I was writing it, I think now that I wanted to express the depth and complexity of poetic inspiration, friendship, and apprenticeship. That’s thinking of it purely in adult terms. But I hope children will identify with Emmaline, the novice poet, and perhaps be inspired to write some poems themselves . . . for no reason other than the sheer joy of expressing themselves when they feel an emotion or idea bubbling up inside them. Ideally, I hope my writing for children will lead them somewhere they have never been imaginatively, and that it will help them believe and delight in the power of words and language! Elizabeth Spires' work includes The Mouse of Amherst (1999), A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the year, I Am Arachne (2001), and her latest novel, I Heard God Talking to Me (2009)
Elizabeth Spires; Illustrated by Claire A. Nivola
FSG Books for Young Readers
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
A mouse's-eye-view of Emily Dickinson
When a mouse named Emmaline takes up residence behind the wainscoting of Emily Dickinson's bedroom, she wonders what it is that keeps Emily scribbling...