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Wordy Girls

Thoughts on writing for children - the good, the bad, and the utterly ridiculous

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Who are these 4 writers anyway?

I like a bit of chaos and lots of time to think and dream in my life. One of my earliest dreams—to be a writer—came true. But before I published my first book, I went to college—twice. I have a degree in Psychology and a degree in English/Creative Writing. I've worked picking fruit, made ski goggles, was a waitress, store clerk, substitute teacher, hotel maid, typist, photographer, journalist, editor and corporate communications manager. Along the way, I met a wonderful man in the vitamin aisle of a grocery store, got married and had two wonderful children.

It took a long time for my dream of writing books to come true, but it’s been worth the wait. I’ve had the fun of being a hungry crocodile, a lazy ant and a lizard with an artistic soul—much better than writing annual reports! I can't wait to see what I get to be next!

Some of my books include An Ant's Day Off, My Brother the Robot, The Christmas Crocodile and Holbrook, A Lizard's Tale.

As a kid, I devoured books. My big sisters, Gail, Patty, and Janet, taught me to read when I was 4, and I read voraciously throughout my childhood. My parents constantly ordered me to "Go outside and get some fresh air!" So I would take my books outside and read in the fresh air.

As an adult, I’ve worked a mind-boggling variety of jobs, almost all involving juggling words. Currently, I work for the website of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and for Winding Oak. In addition, I speak at writers’ conferences and school visits.

And I write. I’m absolutely thrilled to say that my first poetry book will be coming out from Clarion. And I’ve published more than 25 children’s books for the educational market as well as some stories and poems for magazines, anthologies, and websites. I like to write all sorts of things, but poetry has been my number one love for at least five years.

Some of my books include Do Turtles Sleep in Treetops?: A Book About Animal Homes, Phillis Wheatley: Colonial American Poet, and Taking the Plunge: A Teen's Guide to Independence.

I was born in a very small town in New Jersey.

CHORUS: How small was it?

It was so small that, while I was growing up, people as close as the next town over had never heard of it! I know it seems hard to believe but it's true.

I went to a Catholic grammar school, an all-girls Catholic high school, a state college for my bachelor's degree (literature and psych double major), and City College of New York for my master's (creative writing). After that I worked in an office on another type of creative writing -- direct mail ad copy, also known as junk mail.

I sold my first children's book, One Hungry Monster, in 1987 and it appeared in 1989. In 1988, with a great deal of hope and so much ignorance it was scary, I left my job to become a fulltime freelance writer. Though it was one of the biggest risks in my life, my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner.

Fourteen years later, I decided to crawl out of my cave, stop freelancing, and return to a 9 to 5 job (having to pay college tuition will do that to a person!). I was lucky enough to be hired by a publishing company, so I'm still surrounded by books. It's a medium-sized house, and I wear several hats there.

Some of my books include One Hungry Monster, Love Me, Love You, Death by Eggplant and My Life and Death by Alexandra Canarsie.

I'm an only child and I share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. That should tell you a lot about me! I'm a full-blown introvert who has learned how to fake being an extrovert when I need to and my moods can change from up to down and back again before you know it.

My biggest challenge is juggling my work week with my writing. Since my writing isn't self-supporting, I have to work at a more conventional job during the week, and squeeze my writing in whenever I can. I'd have plenty of time to do everything I want if I didn't need to sleep. For a time I also had to squeeze in going to college because for many years my biggest regret was that I didn't go to college right after high school. But in September of 2000 I finally got my college degree. I have a passion for medieval history, am a confirmed chocoholic (with a definite weakness for Reese's peanut butter cups and Mr. Goodbars), and believe it is nearly impossible to digest food unless you are reading while you eat.

I've served on the faculty for the Highlights Foundation Chautauqua Conference and was the Writer-in-Residence for San Jose Community School. I'm a former newspaper columnist for the New Orleans Times Picayune and past instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature.

Some of my books include, Can I Pray With My Eyes Open?, Oliver's Must-do List, Robert Smalls Sails to Freedom and Hugging the Rock.