Once upon a time, I was a baby. My hobbies were sleeping, yawning, crying, and drinking from a bottle.
And then I grew.
I lived on a country road named Swamp Road, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
When I was growing up in the 1970s, I thought that maybe I wanted to be a rock star or a Roller Derby Queen, but I've now found something even more fun! What's cool about being a writer? We work in our pajamas, we eat lunch (and chocolate) whenever we're hungry, and we can take a nap if we feel like it! We don't have to brush our teeth or comb our hair or get dressed, but most of us do it anyway, especially if we have to leave our house for something. Some of us run when the UPS man arrives, because we don't want to frighten him.
As a kid, some of my favorite things were: chocolate, Tastykakes, The Wizard of Oz, Nancy Drew books, Harry Chapin music, horses, dogs, Santa Claus, swimming, the ocean, chocolate, monkeys, Archie comic books, MAD Magazine, Quisp cereal, The Philadelphia Flyers, The Partridge Family (especially Keith), The Brady Bunch, Dark Shadows (These were TV shows, kids!), the color purple, my red electric Epiphone guitar, my yellow 1969 Mustang, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. I also loved corn on the cob, and once I broke the World's Record (at our house) for eating the most ears of corn: something like 9 at a time.
I loved Halloween.
My brother Randy and I used to make the best haunted house in our basement, and our relatives came to take the scary tour. We didn't charge admission, but now we think we should have. I still love Halloween, and I always have a special haunted dinner for the holiday. I play the spooky sounds CD, dress up in a costume (usually with a pink wig), and serve mysterious foods by candlelight. My Witches' Brew - Sprite soda with sizzling Pop Rocks and an ice cube shaped like a frozen hand - is a huge hit. Sometimes I also make Brains On A Plate or Skeleton Salad.
I have just one brother: Randy. Randy loves Bugs Bunny and Shania Twain. He's afraid of outhouses, because I told him that killer chickens live under outside bathrooms, and they peck you if you dare to sit on the wooden seats. Randy's now in his 40s, but he still believes what I told him about outhouses. He swears that there really are strange chickens under outhouses.
Before becoming a writer, I worked at various jobs, including being a waitress, a lifeguard, and a secretary. Being a secretary meant that I had to wear pantyhose (ugh), high heels (double ugh), and behave in a serious manner (triple ugh). I also had to type a lot, file boring papers, and make coffee for the boss.
Being a lifeguard was okay, because I had a good tan, but I never got to rescue anybody.
I was a good waitress, except for the night that I was very tired and forgot to give a customer a roll to go along with his hot dog.
I also worked as an exercise attendant at a place called Slender You, where I helped the obese and elderly from table to table.
Oh, and I also worked at a Turkey Hill Minit Market, where I met lots of interesting characters, including Ralph. Ralph wore a raccoon-skin hat and claimed that his dying dog said "Mama" before it passed.
As I worked at all of these unique places, meeting unique characters, I saved people and experiences and conversations in my head. I knew that someday I'd use some of this stuff in my writing. Writers are spies. We eavesdrop. We collect characters. We watch you. We listen to you. We smell you. We put you on paper. Beware, people. We are The Spies of the Universe. We're the ones sitting on the boardwalk bench, watching you throw Cheetos to the seagulls, breaking the laws of the beach police.
Writing is magic. It's a miracle. Think about it: With just 26 letters of the alphabet, a zillion different books may be written! Books can carry you like magic carpets, to other worlds and into other people's lives. You can become a cowgirl in a sparkly hat or a girl detective or Catwoman. You can be a Roller Derby Queen or a wizard or King of the World. If I were Queen of the World, everybody would have an ocean, lots of good food to eat, a warm house, tons of love, and a room full of books.
A turning point in my writing career came in 1993, when I won a scholarship to attend the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshops at Chautauqua. I'm forever grateful to the John Crane Memorial Scholarship. Also, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is a great resource.
I'm no longer the only writer in my house: my son Zach, who's now 32, had a poem in the book "Dream Makers" published in September of 2003 by Boyds Mills Press. The book is illustrated by the illustrious Neil Waldman.
Proceeds from the book helped kids through the Childrens' Aid Society in New York City. Zach's poem began like this:
"My perfect world -
My place of dreams -
will have a monkey driving
my limousines . . ."
Zach's photo is on the left (it's REALLY old, but I love it). Sadly, Zach now struggles with some very serious illnesses, which is heartbreaking. Looking for a positive, though, I believe that the experience has given me more empathy towards all. We humans are fragile creatures, and everybody carries some pain.
I played in a basement band for a few years with a bunch of fun guys: Pierre and Perry and Clark and Rob. Clark flew away to play with the angels a few years ago, and he now jams with Jerry Garcia. (An old dead rock star, kids.) I played for a short time with an all-woman band. It was fun. I got to be a rock star for a little bit. I'm hoping to someday form a band of children's book writers & illustrators. I think we'll call ourselves the Fuzzy Bunny Slippers or something like that. Perhaps we'll throw out books instead of guitar picks. We'll have our pictures on the cover of the Rolling Stone. Groupies will follow us. Oprah and Katie Couric will call, but maybe we'll be too busy.
Okay, back to the Land of Reality:
We live in the little town Bowmansville, Pennsylvania. We have a dog named Sasha.
Connor (and his parents) and The Grands
My son Justin is grown up, and he lives nearby. Justin's ex-wife Christine modeled (as the grown-up diving-horse girl) for my book "The Girl on the High-Diving Horse." Justin & Christine made me a grandmother ("M'Mere") on May 18th, 2004!!!!!
I love being M'Mere. (That's the French word for Grandmother. I'm not French, but I like the way it sounds.) We now have a gang of Grands, some biological and some not. In September of 2014, a 1-year-old angel named Harper Blaine flew into our lives. Now 4, she's our sunshine, lighting up our house quite often.
What I Love
I have a fun life. I like my life. It's a wonderful life. I get to be alone a lot, but I also get to travel sometimes. I like learning new things. Zach and I learned to ski when he was a teen. I'm not good at it, but I try! During the pandemic, I got back to bicycling and started kayaking and hiking. (See, something positive came from something bad.) I swam with dolphins for the first time in the summer of '04. It was magical and mystical.
I can be silly and crazy, because people expect writers to be a little bit weird and eccentric. I haven't worn pantyhose or high heels for years. I can wear Chuck Taylor sneakers or Doc Marten boots or purple Uggs, and it's ok. I can wear my fairy-hem skirts and nobody blinks an eye. (Hey, I dressed like Stevie Nicks before Stevie dressed like Stevie Nicks! She's a cool old rock star, for you kids who are too young to remember Fleetwood Mac.)
I love being a Mom, and I'd give my life for my children. I didn't know how to change a diaper when I had Justin, but I figured it out. Justin got his head stuck in the back of a chair one time, but I got him out. Zach got his shoe stuck in the "V" of a tree while climbing at the age of 5, but I rescued him. I felt like SuperMom. It was almost as good as being Catwoman.
I haven't fallen into a toilet in many years.
I've met lots of great people in my writing journey. Kent Brown of Boyds Mills Press/Highlights For Children has been a wonderful Great Encourager. My editors are awesome.
In July of 2010, I graduated from Vermont College with my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Yay! In 2012, I was honored in England with the Sunday Times EFG Short Story award, and I got to stay at Oxford University. It was like being in a Harry Potter book. Writing can take you places you'd never go otherwise.
Sometimes you just have to kick off your shoes, put your hair in cornrows, and DANCE!!! Left to right: Robin, Me, Sharon, Patsy (my cousins & sister-in-law)