As a writer for young readers, I sometimes feel like the oddball. I’m not a former teacher or librarian as are many of my fellow children’s writers. And it sure is a smart path to take to becoming a children’s writer. Experience in the classroom really helps you know what kids love and what they are ready for.
The other things that I often feel singles me out is that I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer. I grew up reading. And I read everything. Even when I was too young to read, I paged through nonfiction and looked at the images in my father’s books on the desert, my mother’s family medical guide, and my grandparents’ travel books. Absolutely everyone learned that they had to beat me to the National Geographic or I’d disappear with that one for hours.
When I did learn to read, I spent hours re-imagining my favorite stories. Sometimes I put myself in them. Sometimes I made them better. Sometimes I simply continued them, deciding what happened next.
And I loved school. I devoured every book my teachers gave me. I jumped into social studies projects and wrote a picture book for creative writing and drama. In geography, I memorized locations of countries and colored page after page of maps. History, geometry, chemistry, biology, music and art. I would have been hard pressed to come up with a single favorite class.
Part way through earning a master’s in history, I called my mom to tell her that I was going to be a writer. “It’s about time you figured it out.” I may not have wanted to be a writer way back in grade school, but my mom saw the signs.
The photo? The as of yet clueless but budding author in first grade. That’s me in the center row, 3rd from the teacher.