I’ve always loved stories: reading them, listening to them, and telling them. In fact, my poor younger brother’s first memory turns out to be a far-fetched tale I once told in which I, his heroic big sister, was bouncing around our basement on my blue Hop 66 ball but rushed over to catch him and, presumably, save his life after an elderly visitor dropped him down the stairs.
Despite my love of books and propensity for making things up, it didn’t occur to me that I might try to write fiction until after my first year of teaching middle school English. In getting to know my students, I reconnected with the middle-school version of myself, who read Judy Blume’s Just as Long as We’re Together and Irene Berg’s Up a Road Slowly over and over, and who wanted to experience the world through other people’s eyes and to know that other people felt some of the same things I did.
The summer after my first year of teaching middle school, I started to work on a novel of my own, and the summer before my tenth year of teaching middle school, I got my first book deal. During all those years in between, I did a whole lot of writing and reading and learning, especially during the two years I spent earning an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at a magical place called Vermont College of Fine Arts. And I am still writing and reading and learning today.
While I was at Vermont College, I read a collection of lectures and essays by the legendary children’s author Katherine Paterson. In one lecture, entitled “The Invisible Child,” Paterson explained what she believes that young readers want writers to do: they want us “to look at them as they really are and assure them that it’s okay for them to be who they are.”
That’s exactly what good books have always done for me; they’ve helped me to see deep inside characters who have some of the same fears, insecurities, and defense mechanisms I have, and they’ve helped me to believe that these characters are lovable and deserving of happy things, so I am, too. I hope that my books can do this for readers.