My Growing Up Years

“When I was a child my family and I lived in a house by the sea...”

I was born in Hollywood, Florida on July 16th. My mother loved the ocean more than anything. When she was pregnant with me, she would walk down to the beach every day to swim in the ocean, look for seashells and lie in the sun. With each passing month, her belly got bigger and bigger. My father dug a deeper and deeper hole so she could lie on her stomach. When she went into labor with me, she was swimming in the ocean. I think that's why I have always wanted to be a mermaid. Or a frog. For a short time when I was in second grade, I thought being a frog would be a wonderful thing to be when I grew up!

I was a shy, quiet child who worried about many things. When I was about five, I woke up my parents in the wee hours of the morning with this question: “When I die, will everything else die too?” My parents very patiently told me that, no, everything was fine. I had very patient parents! My older sister, Lori, was much more carefree than I. She had a great imagination and made up lots of stories and games.

Everyone in my family loved animals. We always had a dog who was very much a part of the family. We made frequent trips to the zoo. My favorites were (and still are) the giraffes. I also wanted very much to be a cowgirl!

My other great love—besides the ocean and animals—was reading. My father and I started reading the newspaper comics together before I started kindergarten. The first book I read on my own was Casey, the Utterly Impossible Horse,by Anita Feagles. I still have a copy of that book! My father died suddenly when I was almost seven. Books became even more important to me after that. They not only provided a bit of an escape, they also helped me make sense of the world, and to not feel so alone. They still do!

I devoured all the Pippi Longstocking books, the Black Stallion series, and just about any book about animals. In fourth grade, I read A Season of Ponies so many times, the school librarian had to start a brand new check out card just for me! By the time I was nine, I wanted very much to be an author when I grew up. I tried to write a book about a brother and sister who run away from home and go live with a bunch of wild ponies. I gave up by page thirty-two because my hand hurt from writing. That's when I discovered that writing is hard!

My life took many twists and turns before I finally realized that dream at age nine, and became a published author. First, I went to college and got degrees in psychology and anthropology. For a time, I was a singer in a rock and roll band. Then I went back to college and got a degree to work as a librarian. I've worked as a librarian now for over twenty-five years. Finally, six years ago, I sat down and wrote my first novel. I didn't stop this time at page thirty-two, even though I still found writing to be hard. But I couldn't not write, so I kept going. In October of 2009 that book was published!

A Room of My Own

I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful room in my house where I can create. I have everything a writer could want in that room: my favorite books, music, dogs, and a view from my window. Out that window I watch the aspen leaves turn from green to gold. I watch the snow fall in the winter. And always, I watch the apple tree my stepchildren gave me for my birthday several years ago. On the bulletin board next to my desk, I have things that inspire and encourage me: a photo of “my boys” (Brian, Todd, and Shay), a card with a photograph of an old mill in North Carolina (a setting in A Dog’s Way Home), a poem about dogs I particularly love, a lovely note my agent sent me after I signed with her, a card that reminds me to be willing to take risks, and a photograph of a young Russian boy who was the inspiration for my book, THE DOGS OF WINTER (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic). I wish I could say I write every day from sunup to sun down. But, alas, I’m not that disciplined! Often, the room is left, waiting….

Ten Things You Don't Know About Me:

  • I once stuck a piece of popcorn up my nose (because I didn't like the babysitter) and never got it out!
  • My sister, mother, and I lived for two weeks on The Queen Elizabeth II, a very famous and historic ocean liner.
  • My great-great-great aunt is Harriot Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
  • My favorite word is “wilderness”
  • I've never ridden a roller coaster
  • Given a choice, I'd rather have popcorn than chocolate
  • I cannot for the life of me whistle
  • The town where I live, Park City, is at an elevation of 7,000 feet!
  • Some of the more unusual jobs I've had are: dog trainer, gladiola harvester, wilderness education instructor
  • I have never ever changed a diaper