Where Ideas Come From
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the town of Lloyd Harbor in Long Island, New York. My backyard was surrounded by woods and marshland, perfect for exploring nature. I remember the hollow crunching sound walking on soggy marsh grass, and skating on frozen ponds in the winter. There was also a history to this area - a Big Oak tree that dated back to Revolutionary times, and old estates with stables and carriage houses when horses were used for transportation. My friends and I would play horse masters in an abandoned stable, pretending our bikes were horses and catching air riding over piles of dirt and straw.
What were your favorite books growing up?
Animal Stories: Charlotte’s Web by, E.B.White; The Wind in the Willows by, Kenneth Grahame; Doctor Doolittle by, Hugh Lofting;
Adventure: Island of the Blue Dolphins by, Scott O’Dell; The Secret Garden by, Frances Hodgson Burnett; My Father’s Dragon by, Ruth Stiles Gannet
Historical Fiction: Johnny Tremain by, Esther Forbes; Blue Willow by, Doris Gates,
Fantasy and Folktale: Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by, Betty MacDonald; Pippi Longstocking books and the Children of Noisy Village books by, Astrid Lindgren; and Grimms’ Tales.
When did you first start writing? Did you dream of being a writer?
I wrote my first story in third grade, a mystery play we acted out in class called Murder By Death. I remember one of the boys in class having to fall off a ladder and pretend to play dead, but when we acted it out in front of an audience, he forgot to break his fall and landed on his nose instead. In fifth grade, I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Robinson who had us write rhyming poetry using colors, and stories that we wrote and illustrated ourselves. My aunt, Betty Vaudrin worked at Oxford University Press. With Mrs. Robinson’s encouragement, I submitted my story to that publisher and received a letter back that said please resubmit to us when you are older. That, and someday being a teacher like Mrs. Robinson, became my dream.
Do you have favorite pet story?
My first dog was a strong, lovable Labrador Retriever named Babe. My dad would call the family to dinner by holding a metal pot up to her wagging tail. I was a sleep walker when I was young. One night, I got up while I was asleep and walked out the front door. My parents had guests for dinner and didn’t hear me leave. But Babe did. She followed me down the driveway and then blocked my way so that I could not walk into the street. Her barking alerted my parents. They ran down to find me standing at the end of the driveway with Babe. I was still asleep!