I was lucky enough to be born to parents who read every kind of written material with interest and enthusiasm, and let me do the same. From the start I searched for books that let me fall in love…with the story and with the boy. For most of my childhood I divided my devotion between Almanzo Wilder from The Little House books, C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian and Tom in Louisa May Alcott’s An Old Fashioned Girl.
I figured out early that stories were what made sense of the world when it was confusing and made the best moments permanent. I was shy and nearsighted but good at anything that involved reading and imagining, so quickly decided the only logical career to pursue was writing. To this end my father gave me a typewriter (it was a long time ago), a package of Lucky Strike cigarettes, a bottle of Scotch and a note advising me to “Be Bold, Be Bold, Be Bold.” For my tenth birthday.
I passed on the scotch and the smokes, but kept writing. My first completed story involved a family with twenty children who lived by the ocean. The parents were twenty-two. Some things have never changed for me: my love of family, beaches, and my shaky grasp of math.
The small seaside town in Connecticut where I grew up was so safe you could leave your bike downtown with your wallet in the basket and they’d both still be there days later. Yes, I know this because I did it. More than once.
Through my childhood and teenage years I kept a journal showcasing my conversations with boys I liked that went on for twenty-pages, including such phrases as “Pause. Silence. Much audible blushing.” Back then, the journals mostly served to torture my friends as I forced them to listen to the entire entry and analyze every comment. Now they help me remember all the paradoxical emotions involved in first love and true love. Sometimes we get lucky and they’re the same thing.
In college I majored in Shakespeare with a minor in daydreaming. Sometimes I still wonder what I was thinking of concentrating on Literature instead of say, law, medicine, finance. Then I remember my father who said, “College isn’t a trade school. Learn about what you love and follow that. It will take you everywhere you need to go.” Here’s what I believe: every answer to every deep question can be found in Shakespeare. Or any other writing that speaks to you: Huckleberry Finn, Little Women, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Matilda. Listen to the writing that captures your heart and it will help you find your way, true as a compass. Honest.
After college I had a lot of family struggles and lost my faith in writing, coming to believe I could only read and critique. Madeleine L’Engle, the author of Wrinkle in Time, changed my life when I took a course of hers and she read a short story of mine and said “You are a writer. So write!” Although I spent some time after that being a waitress, a caterer, a minion to a publicist, a bartender, an assistant at an accounting firm, an editor of romance novels, part owner of a café, and, much more happily, and I hope competently, a wife and a mother, my love of writing and reading about young adults never waned. Fifteen years after she gave it, I finally took Madeline’s advice.
Now I live on the coast of Massachusetts with my six remarkable and eccentric children and encouraging husband, all of whom put up with me holding up my hand traffic-cop-style, saying, “I just have to get this down” and dashing to my computer. Or pulling over on the shoulder of the road to jot a note in lipstick on the back of an atm receipt. They also let me pick their brains on what is currently cool and what always matters. We have three cats, a dog who believes he’s a cat, and a ferret. In addition to all this, I have an email address. I’d love to hear from you.