Thank you for coming to visit! I'm going to tell you a little bit about me here, but you can also check out the Kids' Frequently Asked Questions section for more information. Click here to email me.
Books, books, books! How I've always loved them and the wondrous places they've taken me since I learned to read. To places far away, to moments long ago—where else could I have experienced such adventures? And all the marvelous characters and fabulous animals I've gotten to know.
Never could I imagine that some day I might grow up and write stories and even draw the pictures, too!
For as far back as I can remember I loved to draw. Creating pictures gave me great satisfaction as a child. In college, I studied art and design. For a number of years, I worked as a graphic designer and art director in advertising. But when I was in my late twenties everything I loved most came together—children, books and art. That's when I started writing stories and drawing pictures again just as I'd done as a child.
I took classes in writing and poetry to improve my skills and continued to do so for many years. My ideas for stories derive from my interests—especially American History, animals, trees, other cultures, etc. I always say that writing and illustrating children's books implores me to look at the world with wonderment. There are so many interesting and fascinating subjects to explore and learn about. From this exploration I develop feelings and even a passion for a subject, and then have a strong desire to express those feelings through my words and pictures.
I enjoy writing stories about history. Events that happened a long time ago often seem to repeat themselves in familiar ways today. So there are lessons to be drawn and things to be learned from what happened a long time ago. I try to understand what the story I'm telling is really about—what is the truth of my story? I call this the subtext. I think so much of writing is trying to get at a basic truth about the human condition. And in picture books, that has to be done in only 32 pages! An author, Mem Fox, said that writing a picture book "is like writing War and Peace in haiku."
My three wonderful sons are all grown now. But living in
my household while they were growing up must have influenced
me to write stories about girl heroines. I guess I wanted
to show my boys that girls are important, too! Also, my
husband and I have six dogs, two goldfish and many tropical
fish. Being around animals, watching them play and show
affection helps me to appreciate the importance of all of
life's small moments. I'm the President of the Los Angeles
Zoo Commission and every so often I've had the opportunity
to feed carrots to the elephants or give a bottle to a baby
giraffe. (I had to stand on my tiptoes!)
Kids' Frequently Asked Questions
How do you decide what to write about?
Writing children's books keeps me alive to the world around me. Ideas for stories are everywhere but the ideas for my books derive from my own interests and passions. I'm especially interested in history, animals, and children's lives. In choosing what to write about, I often search to find some truth about the human condition.
How long does it take to make a book?
The books that I've done with historical themes take longer, usually about three years from the time I begin research until I finish the last painting. All my stories take research, but stories from history take a lot more detective work to uncover the facts.
What are you writing now?
I'm beginning work on the paintings for a new picture book, Lucy's Cave, about Lucy McRae, a real young girl who lived in Vicksburg, Mississippi during the Civil War. Also, I've been writing a chapter book and revising several picture book manuscripts.
Do you like writing stories or writing poems best?
I most enjoy writing picture books but in writing them I often use some tools of poetry—rhyme, repetition, alliteration, simile and metaphor. There is a great deal about picture book writing that is like writing a poem. In fact, one of my books, Barn Sneeze, is actually a poem.
Is it easy to write a book?
Writing a picture book takes a lot of concentration, hard work and patience. But it's also fun to do. It's gratifying to research and explore and then write about something I care about. But it doesn't always go smoothly. Sometimes there is too much I need to say and not enough space. There are moments when I can't express something the way I'd hoped to or other times I haven't pushed the drama enough. Always, I rewrite and rewrite—sometimes 25, sometimes even 50 times. One thing I've learned, however, is that if I stick with it and don't give up, I can get over those bumps.
If I want to be a writer, what should I do?
First: write, write, write. Just as in sports, if you want to do something well, practice. Also, read everything that interests you. Ask yourself why some writing appeals to you more than others? Pay attention to everything around you—observe. And listen, to the sounds and cadence of people's speech and so on. Details help to make an author's work come alive.
Do you have any pets?
I love animals. Right now I have six dogs—Annie, Betty, Coco, Gracie, Rosie and Sammy. I also have two goldfish and an assortment of tropical fish. My dogs are my good friends and they teach me a lot. One of my dogs, Betty, is blind. I've learned about dealing with adversity from seeing her positive attitude and how she adjusts to new situations. My dogs help me to appreciate each moment. They keep me company while I write which is very special.
Is it fun to be a writer?
I'm grateful to be doing something I love. It's fun to write and paint but it also takes hard work and patience. It's also very special to research something that interests me and then to be able to express my feelings about what I've learned through my story and pictures.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
I work in a wonderful room with lots of light and a computer to write and a drawing board and easel to draw and paint. Best of all, there are books and more books, some for research, some for inspiration. Most days while I work, my dogs sit or play nearby.
What was your favorite subject in school?
Three subjects were my favorites— Art, English and History. And all three have a place in what I do today.
What were your favorite books as a child?
Most of all, I loved Charlotte's Web. Even today when I see a spider I think it might be one of Charlotte's progeny. And I've always liked pigs since getting to know Wilbur. They are smart animals and deserve our respect as all animals do. Another favorite was Ferdinand, the story of a peaceful bull in Spain bitten by a bee. I loved reading it aloud. Others included The Secret Garden and Little Women.
For more information, please email me.