I started my first career as a ballerina dancing with the National Ballet, New York City Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, and the Danny Diamond Dance Theatre. I also served as alignist and choreographer for the U.S Figure Skating Team in preparation for the Pan American Games (1973), and for the 1976 Olympic Gymnastics team. In 1980 I became too ill with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) to continue dancing. Because I had done a lot of children's theatre and children's dance, and I have always enjoyed children's literature, I turned to writing children's books for my creative outlet.
But my writing career actually began much earlier than 1980. When I was a young girl, I had two older brothers who took great joy in teasing me.
When I was in the fourth grade, I began keeping journals of the silly things they would say and do. Then I began adding things my pets did. Finally, I began to write down everything I saw and heard every day.
When I was in my early twenties, my mother found my journals and I turned the stories into my first book called, Happy Apple Told Me. But, I learned a very hard lesson writing that first book. I learned that you don't just write a book; you rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite a book. Thirty years later, I am still learning.
My passionate advocacy for children continually molds my writing style and subject matter. I have taken my one-woman educational program, The Writing Penn, into schools, libraries, and children's hospitals, where I shape and refine my story ideas in partnership with kids.
My favorite part about being a children's author is meeting my readers when I speak at a school or at a store. I get so many wonderful ideas from you, and you, and you. So, thank you for your inspired ideas, and letters, and emails. Now, it's your turn to keep a journal.
I live with my husband, my youngest daughter (who inspired The Kissing Hand), and two dogs in Olney, Maryland. We have three children and one foster child.