More About the Author
I was born in Boston, Massachusetts on December 21, 1946 -- so close to Christmas that my parents sent my birth announcement as their Christmas card.
I grew up around the country -- first in Auburndale, Massachusetts, then in Newport News, Virginia, and finally in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. (I set the Eagle Eye Ernie mysteries in White Bear Lake. And she's just moved there from Newport News, too.)
Moving around was sometimes lonely. All my aunts and uncles and cousins didn't move with us, of course, and with each move, I got a little shyer. But we stayed put in Minnesota, and I graduated from high school and college there. I also learned how to ski (very badly) and canoe.
After college, I joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). I wanted to be part of the civil rights movement. I played only a miniscule part in the fight for civil rights, but I learned some enormous lessons about justice vs injustice, wealth vs poverty, and real truth vs political "truth," and I made some lifelong friends.
In 1970 I headed for New York City. I wanted to write, even illustrate, children's books, and I figured New York was the best place to do that since it was home to most of the big publishers. I duly schlepped my "portfolio" around town, but no publishers jumped at the chance to publish my first book, IF I WERE A CIRCLE. (No one has wanted to publish it since, either.) But one publisher was interested in hiring me as an editorial assistant. I went to work for The Viking Press, which was then a small, privately owned publisher on Madison Avenue. Very classy address--I was impressed! And what an incredible list of authors and illustrators--Robert McCloskey, Don Freeman, Betsy Byers, William Pêne du Bois, Munro Leaf, Ludwig Bemelmans, Astrid Lindgren, Marjorie Flack, on and on and on.
In those days, one of the main jobs of an editorial assistant was to read the "slush pile"--the pile of manuscripts sent in by unpublished writers who hoped to be published. I must have read thousands of slush pile manuscripts, and though every now and again there was a gem, most of them were absolutely dreadful. But I learned an invaluable lesson from them, one I would have taken years to learn on my own: I learned what NOT to do in my own manuscripts.
My next job was as Assistant Editor at The Dial Press Books for Young Readers, where I stayed for seven years, working my way up the editorial staircase--Associate Editor, Editor, Senior Editor. It was at Dial that I put what I'd learned from the slush pile to use and wrote my first (published) book, Izzie.
Since then I've written more than 35 children's books. I took some time off from writing while I was Editor-in-Chief of Carolrhoda Books and later of Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, but now that I'm no longer so busy editing, I'm writing more than ever. These days inspiration has been coming from the backyard garden (which has plenty of slugs and bugs), and from behind the garden, acres and acres of woods (through which an old logging road leads me to magical places).