When I was four years old, my family returned from a two–year stay in Aschaffenberg, Germany, where my father had been stationed in the army. My sister Peggie and I had attended preschool on the army base there, and we had some English–speaking friends. But when we moved back to New York to our family and then to the town of Fairfield, Connecticut, three wonderful things happened. First of all, everyone spoke English. Second, I learned to read. Third, my mother discovered the Fairfield Children’s Library at 1333 Post Road a little brick building all to itself, next door to the adult library. The world seemed suddenly rich and full of words I could understand. I fell in love with children’s books. From a very young age I knew I wanted to be an author and illustrator.
I grew up during the sixties, the time when the civil rights movement, peace movement, and women’s movement were in the headlines constantly. It’s an atmosphere that led me to think about what mattered most to me: My family and friends, the ocean and exploration, writing and reading and books, but also the idea that all people should have equal rights and opportunities these are the things I’m passionate about.
Fairfield was full of wonderful things besides the library. The most important places, along with the library and the studio of my art teacher, Linda Hall, were the beach and the Mill River, which ran near my house. My sisters and I explored these places endlessly, and when I was in fourth grade I became a Mill River Ranger. The Rangers were a group led by my neighbor Joy Shaw, who took us from the rocky place up in the hills where the river began all the way to Long Island Sound. My first stories and pictures were set along the river and the beach. Of course I had to write about the library, too, because I practically grew up there. When I ‘graduated’ to the adult library at high school age, I quickly turned around and began volunteering at the children’s library, where they put me in charge of picture books and novels. I had to read them and keep them all in order. Pretty soon Mr. Bass, one of the librarians, got me involved in selecting books for the library to buy; I got to read all the new Judy Blumes, E.L. Konigsburgs, Roald Dahls, and so much more. It was GREAT. In my 4th grade class photo, above, I'm the one with loafers on my feet and a big smile on my face, on the left. My teacher is Ms. Gogol. She’s the first teacher who ever told me I was a good writer. She read my story out loud. I love her, don’t you? P.S. My nephew Matt, who is 30 years younger than me, had Ms Gogol for 4th grade too.
In high school I did a lot more artwork, thanks to work producing plays with Fran Kondziela and Roger Mudre, art classes, and extra studio time in my homeroom, which, fortunately, was the ceramics studio. I went to college at Syracuse University, studying teaching and English and spending hours and hours hanging around the studios of my artist friends Barbara, Elise, and Noonie.
Writing took me to New York City , where I worked at Scholastic News, the classroom magazine. I wrote about science for magazines and books like Cricket, National Geographic World, and the Guinness Book of World Records before beginning to write my own science books and novels. In 2004 research on a new ocean book, Across the Wide Ocean, led me to get involved in the Extreme research journey the University of Delaware takes to the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. I went to sea for a month on R/V Atlantis, a beautiful ship owned by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and had the most amazing experience of my life; a dive to the bottom of the ocean in the little submarine Alvin. The other amazing thing that happened to me in 2004 was illustration. I had done little diagrams for articles, and even did the sketches at the start of each chapter in my novel Outside In. Now I had the job of doing all the artwork for Across the Wide Ocean, as well as the writing. I began taking classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York . We’ll see how it comes out! I’m also working on new novels and a book about the gay civil rights movement, The Rainbow Timeline.
I live in Connecticut near a pond full of frogs and woods with owls and foxes. My husband Mark is a writer and producer for television. We live with our three children, dogs, and cats. Someday I hope to live near the ocean again…to go to sea again, maybe on a trip to the Arctic or Antarctic…but mostly to go on making books.
These are our dogs, Rosie (top) and Yogi (bottom). They are the best.
Thanks for reading!
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