Thank you for reading my books! Are you curious to know more about my childhood, my writing, my family...or my cat who has his own website? Here are the answers to some of the author questions I’m asked most often. If you have a question you'd like to ask, feel free to email it to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where do you find your ideas?
I’m kind of an obsessive “idea collector.” Whether I’m traveling, or reading, or just driving around town — I’m constantly looking for odd and interesting things to write about. Here are a few of the recent "ideas" I've spotted in my travels. Feel free to invent your own stories for them!
How do you choose what topic to write about?
I’m never predictable as a writer, that’s for sure. I like to choose topics that challenge me. I’m definitely drawn to journeys — real journeys and emotional journeys. Because I spend a year or two (or more) writing a book, characters have to speak to my heart. They need to have deeper layers and some surprises below the surface. Sometimes, I don’t even know what all of those surprises will be!
How did you get started as a writer?
It all started when my first grade teacher let me write a story on the other side of a math worksheet after I finished it early. Then I couldn’t WAIT to finish math. (And that also explains why I am better at writing than long division today!) When I was in 3rd and 4th grade, I often wrote scripts for my friends based on the books we were reading. Check out our Little House on the Prairie photo.
Why do you like writing historical stories?
I grew up with a lot of history. My great-great grandpa was a Civil War veteran. My great-grandpa fought in World War I, and I have other ancestors who were early Iowa pioneers. In high school, I competed in National History Day contests (check out www.nhd.org). As a college student, I had the chance to live and work in Colonial Williamsburg for eight months, which was so cool!
What advice would you give to kids who want to write?
Write and read a lot! It sounds simple, but it is the only way to learn the craft. Put away the technology, and observe, eavesdrop, daydream… Be courageous with your words and persistent in reaching for your dream despite what others think.
If you are interested in writing contests and opportunities, check out this page.
What do you do for fun?
When I’m not writing, I like to read, travel, swim, go to art museums, catch a play at a local theater, watch some football, listen to 80’s rock bands, and spend time with my family. My family includes my British husband Mike, stepson Ethan, and our cat Charlie. Charlie has his own website which you can visit HERE.
Do you have any favorite children’s books?
When I was growing up, I read everything–even cereal boxes at breakfast. My favorite books were mysteries, The Borrowers series, Victoria Holt romances, and The Chronicles of Narnia series. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson made the biggest impact on me, as a young reader and writer.
What things would people be surprised to know about you?
Okay, I'm not a mermaid. But I love having fun and performing on stage. Although I never get nervous talking to large groups, I'm actually a shy person in real life. I have a few quirks...such as...I will only set my alarm clock to even numbers. “Worm days” (worms on the sidewalk) in the spring, freak me out. I’ve always dreamed of singing on Broadway…but unfortunately, I can’t carry a tune. At all.
More Strange (But True) Facts for Book Reports
I was born in 1966, the same year Star Trek started and Quaker Instant Oatmeal was invented.
My family lived in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio called Parma which was known for pink flamingo lawn ornaments. My family didn’t have one.
As a child, I used to write in my bedroom closet.
When I was thirteen, I sent my first “book” to New York publishers. It was rejected, but a famous editor sent a note to me, encouraging me to keep writing (see on the right).
In high school, I competed in National History Day where I placed second at Nationals in Washington, D.C. twice.
I've collected shells as a hobby since I was a kid—and I own more than two hundred specimens from around the world. Today, I still enjoy searching for empty shells on the beach.
My first letter from an editor (at age 13)