I have always loved to read. My favorite books as a child were Harry and the Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach, Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber, Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, and Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish. I had a hard time transitioning from picture books to novels, until I read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was an illustrated version, so I had my pictures, but they weren't on every page so it was up to the text to draw me in. And it did. It opened a whole new set of books to me, and I searched for more worlds to explore.
English and Math were my best subjects in school. By the time I'd gotten to high school, I'd tested out of grammar classes and was put into literature. Nothing but reading stories and writing papers...ahhhh, I was in heaven. When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher gave us a terrifying assignment: write a poem. A poem? I'd never written anything except essays, and didn't really like poetry. So how was I supposed to write a poem? Still, it was my assignment and I had to do it, even though I was certain I would fail. So I sat down and scribbled a few things on a sheet of paper. I wasn't paying attention at first, just writing whatever popped into my head, but then something emerged...turns out I had something to say, and was shocked and thrilled when my poem earned an A. Thus began my writing career.
When I went to college, I had a hard time deciding between Math and English as my major. Math won, and I got my Math/Computer Science degree from the University of Illinois. My parents didn't have the money to pay for tuition and books, so I got Pell Grants. I went to school full time and worked three part time jobs in order to keep a roof over my head and food on my table. I squeezed in creative writing classes where I could (I had the best teacher ever, and owe many thanks to his constant pushing). I managed to graduate somewhere in the middle of my class, and then wanted to collapse in a heap. But I couldn't, of course, because I still needed a place to live and food to eat. So, I found a job testing software.
Through it all, I kept up with my writing. I'd intended to go to grad school to get my master's degree in English and make a career of writing, but I was completely burned out on school (the Computer Science program at the UofI is not easy). I considered writing short stories, but I'm not very good at that. Writing a novel was so daunting that I never tried. Plus, writing novels for adults never interested me. So I wrote poems for twelve years, never attempted to get published (my creative writing teacher would be very mad at me if he found out about this), and thought this was just my life. Then, I read Harry Potter.
I had, of course, heard of the Harry Potter phenomenon and resisted reading the books. I was afraid all the hype was just that - hype. I'm not one for mainstream, anyway. But my best friend badgered me until I relented and borrowed her books. I was hooked after the first book...and then the universe reached out and slapped me upside the head. I could write for kids! My favorite books have always been middle grade and young adult books. I'd be writing for a very interesting audience, and it presented a good challenge - if anyone thinks writing for kids is easy, that person has never done it.
I rummaged for some paper and a pen and scribbled away. Two months later, I had a finished novel. But it was terrible. Some aspects were good, but it was clear I didn't know what I was doing. So I signed up for classes at the Institute of Children's Literature. These classes were a turning point for me. During this time, I'd gotten married and had two kids, yet the classes kept my writing dream alive.
Currently, I'm represented by the fabulous Andrea Cascardi of Transatlantic Literary Agency. I write every day, and I can't imagine life without my characters scampering across the pages in front of me. Speaking of, I think it's time to visit them...