Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas are all around! For me, they come from a hodge-podge of experiences: my large family and love of comics (Aunt CeeCee, Aunt Belle, and Mama's Surprise), current home in the city (Underground Train, A Year on My Street, the Jackson Jones books, family tales and holidays (Sparks Fly High, The Shine Man), pets (Jazz, Pizzazz, and the Silver Threads), and country childhood (Grover G. Graham and Me). My husband's adventures as a child magician inspired The Magic Squad and the Dog of Great Potential.
Where and when do you write?
At a cluttered, cozy table at home. Because ideas can hit any time, though, my pockets usually hold scraps of paper with scribbled notes. I love to write and try to do it every day. Since I'm also working and being a mom, that can mean fitting the creative writing in at odd times. Luckily, I love getting up early (around 4 or 5 a.m.) and writing when everyone else is asleep, even the birds.
How do you write?
I like to take notes and write the first draft in longhand and then revise as I type it all on the computer. This can take a long time with novels but is worth it! I've found that writing slowly by hand gives me a better sense of my story and characters. I like to use a blue ink pilot pen with extra-fine tip and yellow legal pad and my trusty laptop computer. I'm very picky!
Do you ever get tired while writing?
Yes! Writing is challenging work. Short (or long) rests can bring fresh ideas and energy. I also like to read, take walks, visit family and friends, garden, and play the harmonica.
King George, Virginia.
Current Home: Washington, DC.
Dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, turtles, horses, ducks.
The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va.
Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns, 1994.
Number of Books: 15
Favorite childhood book:
Misty of Chincoteague
Popcorn, peanut butter (crunchy), pizza, peaches
My father used to recite nursery rhymes to my brothers and sisters and me when we were little, right before bedtime. We each could choose one rhyme, and I asked for "Hickory Dickory Dock" night after night. When Dad finished and turned out the lights, I would snuggle down and repeat that poem softly, loving those "ck" sounds and making up new activities for that busy mouse.
Since then I've been fascinated with sounds. In rural Virginia where I grew up, there was the bobwhite call of the quail, the whicker of horses, the pit-pat of rain against our tin roof. Now that I live in a city--Washington, D.C.--I listen to the beep-beep of horns, the tromp of shoes on sidewalks, the murmur of many voices.
As the oldest child in the family, I often read aloud to my six siblings. We loved Curious George and Amelia Bedelia. Every two weeks we visited the nearest public library and checked out so many books we had to lug them to the car in a clothes basket. These treasures inspired our games of mustang and a series of tiny illustrated books about a girl and her donkey, based on Billy and Blaze.
As an adult, I've had lots of different experiences and jobs. I studied language development and psychology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia and received a Masters degree in English from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. I've worked as a theme park waitress, 18th century taven wench for Colonial Williamsburg, poetry instructor, and director of a writing and family folklore program for older adults. As a medical writer for a children's hospital, I first became interested in writing for kids. There my husband Christopher David (a former kid magician) and I led a weekly volunteer project that combined magic and poetry to entertain sick kids and encourage their writing. So playful, solemn, and moving were their stories and poems that they triggered my desire to write for a young, creative audience.
Writing for young readers continues to be a wonderful challenge. I try to listen carefully to the world (to others this might look like daydreaming) and bring a sense of different voices and rhythms to the page. The people, pets, and happenings of childhood and my current neighborhood are lively muses.
I also write frequently for the Washington Post and various magazines, teach creative writing, and enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter.